Dignity and Daily Bread: New Forms of Economic Organising among Poor Women in the Third World and the First

By Sheila Rowbotham; Swasti Mitter | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Weaving dreams, constructing realities

The Nineteenth of September National Union of Garment Workers in Mexico

Silvia Tirado


ABSTRACT

Alongside the rise of highly technologised flexible units which produce for specialised markets, some industries, particularly clothing in the Third World and in pockets of the First, have continued to use labour-intensive methods. These have had an existence which is often clandestine. During the 1980s these casualised forms of production not only proliferated but were legitimated by economic policies which removed restrictions upon them.

The Nineteenth of September Union arose after the 1985 earthquake had devastated Mexico City. Garment workers in the sweatshops were buried alive under the rubble, Their bodies were found amidst the wreckage.

Silvia Tirado interviewed women workers in sweatshops before the earthquake and has worked closely with the Nineteenth of September Union which was able to unionise unorganised women workers and also gain official recognition for a union independent of state structures.

While tremendous economic and social obstacles have restricted the union's growth and capacity to act, it remains a significant model, being not simply autonomous but raising demands which relate to women 's social needs.

The second half of the 1980s saw the collapse of social policies based on need internationally. This was caused not so much by their theoretical errors as by their mistaken and ineffective implementation. The prevailing belief in a market-oriented approach inspired a global capitalist restructuring with the promise that it would bring renewed productivity, growth and profitability. This restructuring has been marked by regional integration in the international sphere. The emergence of three great trading blocks-Europe, Japan and Asia, and the United States with Canada and Latin America-has forced each country to combine with the others, and to adopt a code of behaviour in accordance with its status within this international division of labour.

The Latin America countries formed a continental trading block. Each country has adopted economic codes imposed by the great financial institutions which include the commitment to modernise by privatising strategic or profitable sectors

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