Volume , Number 0
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Ground Zero for Columbus Day
Michael a. de Yoanna
W. michael byrd and linda a. Clayton
ICFTU Global Day of Action â€¦
Miriam ching yoon Louie
Talking About Myths, Heroes, And â€¦
Gay and Lesbian Community Notes
Q & A
Stephen R. Shalom
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Ching Yoon Louie
Cambridge: South End Press, 2001
Review by Mickey Ellinger and Sharon Martinas
Shoppers stared as we picketed Jessica McClintock's San Francisco boutique. About half of us were young white people in jeans and sweatshirts, about half Chinese women in their 30s and 40s, some children, a few Asian men, a few young Asian women with clipboards and bullhorns. Our chants and signs demanded that McClintock pay back wages to the women who, working for subcontractors, had made the prom dresses and wedding gowns in the window. Asian Immigrant Women Advocates brought their members to confront shoppers and store employees, and recruited our Challenging White Supremacy workshop to staff this week's picket line and leaflet passersby.
Miriam Ching Yoon Louie combines analysis, history, and storytelling in Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take on the Global Economy. Louie draws on “the real experts”—the Korean, Chinese, and Mexican women workers whose 12-hour days in the sweatshops of New York, Oakland, San Antonio, El Paso, and Los Angeles produce extraordinary profits for the Gap, DKNY, Jessica McClintock, and other well-known labels. A long-time organizer and educator with the Women of Color Resource Center, she relates today's struggles against sweatshops, runaway shops, and persecution of immigrants to the international movement against global capitalism and to labor, immigrant, and women's organizing. She challenges the anti-globalization movement to learn from these experts and fight for justice for immigrant women and their communities. Some of the organizers Louie interviews are recent immigrants; many of the Mexicans have families on both sides of the border. Most worked in factories before they came to the U.S. Many were activists in student or labor movements. They've founded organizations like the Chinese Staff and Workers Association in New York and the Korean Immigrant Workers Association in LA, led international campaigns against the sweatshop industries, formed multi-purpose centers for women workers, dealt with men in their families who did not support their activism, and traveled the world as organizers.
We learn more from these women than their moving testi- monies. They teach how the two waves of globalization have galvanized resistance. We learn how they overcame their own fears and those of the women they work with, the competition among workers, between documented and undocumented, newcomers, and the more established. Louie quotes an organizer from Fuerza Unida, an organization of workers laid off by Levi Strauss in San Antonio, Texas, when they moved their operations to Costa Rica: “This is the best school you could have, working with people, chairing meetings. We work with Asian, Filipino, African American, Mexican, white. We are part of the same vision, the same movement.” Of a Fuerza Unida delegation to Honduras: “We saw just what Levi's was doing to our sisters in Central America. The place looked just like a prison and workers were treated like prisoners. I saw that with my own eyes.”
The sweatshop warriors have a clear grasp of imperialist expansion; as they say, “We are here because you were there.” Louie's book introduces us to these experts, their democratic wisdom, determination, and humor. She closes with her poem “Sewing Sisterhood,” which ends “Let us join our sister sweatshop warriors design trace cut stitch hem press weave/Wrap each other in a rainbow banner of liberation.” Z
Ellinger and Martinas founded the Challenging White Supremacy workshop in San Francisco in 1993 and are members of its core collective.