Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry

Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry

Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry

Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry

Synopsis

The only comprehensive historical analysis of the globalization of the U.S. apparel industry, this book focuses on the reemergence of sweatshops in the United States and the growth of new ones abroad. Ellen Israel Rosen, who has spent more than a decade investigating the problems of America's domestic apparel workers, now probes the shifts in trade policy and global economics that have spawned momentous changes in the international apparel and textile trade. "Making Sweatshops "asks whether the process of globalization can be promoted in ways that blend industrialization and economic development in both poor and rich countries with concerns for social and economic justice--especially for the women who toil in the industry's low-wage sites around the world.

Rosen looks closely at the role trade policy has played in globalization in this industry. She traces the history of current policies toward the textile and apparel trade to cold war politics and the reconstruction of the Pacific Rim economies after World War II. Her narrative takes us through the rise of protectionism and the subsequent dismantling of trade protection during the Reagan era to the passage of NAFTA and the continued push for trade accords through the WTO. Going beyond purely economic factors, this valuable study elaborates the full historical and political context in which the globalization of textiles and apparel has taken place. Rosen takes a critical look at the promises of prosperity, b

Excerpt

Before beginning the research for this book, I spent more than a decade investigating the problems of America's domestic apparel workers—the unionized women employed in New England's men's and women's apparel industry. By the early 1980s, like their male counterparts, the predominantly female workers in a variety of light industries, such as electrical assembly, jewelry making, and apparel production, had begun to lose their jobs. Technological change, deindustrialization, and the growth of competing imports from low-wage countries were beginning to erode manufacturing communities of the region.

Industry and union leaders, workers, and employers recognizing these global trends sought ways to maintain the viability of domestic production. In the apparel industry they looked to scholars, consultants, and other experts who were exploring the potential of new technologies, better human resource management, and new forms of work organization to improve competitiveness. Could industrial restructuring save at least a segment of the U. S. apparel industry and retain some of its jobs? Was it possible to improve, or at least maintain, the deteriorating wages and working conditions in the industry and to halt the trend of deunionization?

While costly efforts were being made to restructure apparel production, a major debate about trade protection for textiles and apparel was taking place in Congress and the White House. Ultimately, apparel producers who pressed for stronger tariffs and quotas to help solve their problems were disappointed, as America's presidents, with support from U. S. clothing retailers, began a major challenge to the Multifibre Arrangement, the managed trade regime that had regulated import levels since 1974. Since the 1980s, America's presidents have pressed for new accords to reduce tariffs . . .

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