Women’s Rights in the Apparel Industry: Ending Violence, Empowering Voices

Date: 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 -
9:30am to 4:00pm

Location: 

American Federation of Teachers, 4th Floor, 555 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

 

Conference convened by the International Labor Rights Forum. Click here for the agenda.

Sponsored by American Federation of Teachers, Berger-Marks Foundation, Solidarity Center, and United Methodist Women.

Co-hosts: AFL-CIO, Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), Coalition of Labor Union Women, Feminist Majority Foundation, Just Associates, Model Alliance, Moriah Fund, Rutgers Center for Women’s Global Leadership,  and United Students Against Sweatshops.

A century after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, similar conditions are plaguing the workers who sew the clothes we wear today.  Most garment workers are still young women. They receive poverty wages for long hours, working all too often in unhealthy and unsafe conditions, enduring sexual harassment and discrimination. The Rana Plaza building collapse that killed at least 1,135 garment workers last April shed unprecedented media attention on the plight of women workers in the apparel industry.  The Rana Plaza tragedy created a moment unlike any other in recent memory to reform the industry and ensure safe and decent working conditions for millions of women worldwide.

Major change is afoot: the anti-sweatshop movement is pushing for – and winning – legally-binding agreements between companies and unions to secure real improvements for garment workers – the vast majority of whom are women. In less than a year, more than 150 companies have signed onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to curb the death toll in garment factories and prevent future disasters. Sadly, however, the thousands of injured workers and families who lost loved ones at Rana Plaza and Tazreen have received minimal compensation and continue to suffer. Some can’t pay their hospital bills. Some have had to pull their kids out of school and send them to work to keep from starving.

On April 29, 2014, the International Labor Rights Forum and co-host organizations will bring together activists from the women’s rights movement and the labor rights movement to strategize on how we will continue to seize this critical moment for driving a new framework for corporate accountability and make a real difference in the lives of women workers globally who sew clothing for multinational corporations. Participants will share ideas for how to strengthen the linkages between the women’s movement and the struggle of women apparel workers seeking to have a voice in society and in the workplace.  Featured speakers will include Evangelina Argueta and Vilma Gómez – two women leaders from the Honduran apparel industry, who will be in Washington to receive ILRF’s Labor Rights Defenders Award for their leadership in securing workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively.

A century ago, middle-class suffragists responded to women strikers after witnessing the Triangle fire and the daily abusive working conditions suffered by mainly immigrant women; their vocal support became critical to building the momentum for workers to gain real power and effect lasting change in women’s lives. Today, women workers’ persistence and determination for change is evident in small daily struggles of resistance, as well as in mass strikes and in their tireless work to use their voices and organize unions amidst intimidation, harassment and even beatings. This conference will engage prominent women’s rights organizations to share experiences and build strategies with women trade unionists and worker advocates from the United States and around the globe, broadening the group of stakeholders demanding change for garment workers worldwide.

Please join us in Washington, DC on April 29th!  Please contact liana [at] ilrf.org with any questions or click here to RSVP online for this free conference.

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