- Paperback: 221 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (September 3, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226113728
- ISBN-13: 978-0226113722
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Threads: Gender, Labor, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry 1st Edition
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From the Inside Flap
To dispel these misunderstandings, Jane L. Collins visited two very different apparel firms and their factories in the United States and Mexico. Moving from corporate headquarters to factory floors, her study traces the diverse ties that link First and Third World workers and managers, producers and consumers. Collins examines how the transnational economics of the apparel industry allow firms to relocate or subcontract their work anywhere in the world, making it much harder for garment workers in the United States or any other country to demand fair pay and humane working conditions.
Putting a human face on globalization, Threads shows not only how international trade affects local communities but also how workers can organize in this new environment to more effectively demand better treatment from their distant corporate employers.
Top customer reviews
Ms. Collins contends that apparel manufacturing has long been a highly contested economic sector due to its low barriers to entry and low levels of concentration. Ms. Collins briefly recounts the history of apparel production and conflict to demonstrate that workplace conditions were improved as a result of struggle. But as information technology has allowed producers to more easily subcontract production work to offshore locations, Ms. Collins finds that manufacturers are increasingly able to exploit localities where inexperienced and predominantly female workers who often possess little understanding of wage labor, yet alone for which multinational corporation they might ultimately be working for, find themselves to be nearly powerless to bargain for better conditions. Countering the notion that such menial and poorly paid work might offer the host nation with a developmental stepping stone to something better, the author convincingly argues that the practice of subcontracting is specifically intended to erode labor power in order to secure profits for investors.
Ms. Collins' ethnographic study of manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Mexico tests both the mass production model and the idea that the production of "fashion goods", or garments of high value that require skilled tailoring, will necessarily remain close to design centers in Los Angeles and New York. Ms. Collins relates the sad story of the demise of Tultex in Martinsville, VA to illustrate how U.S. wage levels for undifferentiated knitwear products could not be sustained in the face of offshore wage pressure and fierce competition with branded merchandisers. Ms. Collins also explains how the Burlmex plant in Mexico successfully blended Taylorist workplace regimens with statistical process controls to produce both an inexpensive and high-quality product that some critics had contended could not be made outside the U.S.
Importantly, Ms. Collins reveals that the source of this intensified wage competition is U.S.-based multinationals. Ms. Collins discusses the strategic importance of the import quota system and how it favors deep-pocketed businesses who can coordinate relationships with multiple suppliers around the world. As fewer big corporations exert control, subcontractors are squeezed to the point where the prevailing wage has become unliveable for the typical worker. But Ms. Collins finds hope in how some women have organized at the community level in the maquiladoras, bridging work and home issues into their struggle for fair wages and working conditions. The author also points to successful international union solidarity and consumer campaigns as evidence that some mechanisms may exist to challenge capital across borders.
I strongly recommend this well-researched and highly readable book to everyone.