An Open Letter to the Apparel Ten: Step Up In Our Moment of Need
Our families are in need. We are seeing our children travel thousands of miles purely on hope that there will be more opportunity to live a dig- nified life in the country to the North.
The lives that they leave behind are violent and were created by forces outside of their control; they are collateral damage to a social and economic environment they have little control over.
Our governments, both here in the US and in our home countries, have created these conditions by enacting damaging policies like the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Your industry has benefited the most since CAFTA went into effect ten years ago–about half of the products imported from the region are ap- parel sold in U.S. retail stores. The Textile and Apparel industry closed 565 textile plants in the United States to employ more than 220,000 workers in Central America, earning 1/10th of the salary of their U.S. counterparts.
And our families back home perceive that your industry get more attention from their governments; they build you roads and canals to expedite shipment of goods, they add turbines to dams so you can have uninterrupted flow of electricity, and they construct water treatment plants to supply fresh water to the gleaming factories where thousands of our community members sweat to eke out a living. All this so you can manufacture goods cheaply, have a quicker production schedule to meet market demands, and import everything duty-free.
CAFTA has forced our families to move—from rural towns to urban centers to compete for jobs at your factories, and from our countries to trek through deserts and ride atop trains to come to the United States. The mass migration of unaccompanied minors at the border represent a clear indictment of the conditions that have been festering in our countries for decades worsened by CAFTA.
As companies of the industry who have benefited the most from CAFTA, you have the responsibility to step up in our moment of need. Imme- diately, our children cannot be separated from us again; they need competent legal representation to make their asylum claims. Your industry’s supply chain employs hundreds of thousands of families in our home countries.
In partnership with our governments, you can raise the standard of living of those you depend on so that migration becomes an option and not a necessity for survival. For the long-term sustainability of our communities, your industry can play a critical, positive role as well. You can start that by participating in an evaluation of CAFTA’s impact in its first 10 years.
We, the Central American community and allies living in the US, are demanding the following:
1) The Apparel 10 allocate 1% of their pretax profits* since 2005 to help address the humanitarian crisis
that is happening in the region.
2) Ensure that the working conditions of these families who have not left are up to, and eventually exceed,
3) Participate in an independent third party evaluation of CAFTA and its effects on the region over the course of its implementation in these countries.
These demands are just the start in being able to address urgent needs and future issues that will plague the Central American community, both that have been forced to leave and those who have stayed.
We urge you to take part in bringing a just and sustainable solution.
National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean
SHARE-El Salvador (Berkeley)
Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (St. Louis)
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador-CISPES
Central American Resource Center-CARECEN
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El SalvadorCISPES
Centro Presente (Boston)
Trabajo Cultural Caminante (San Francisco) Families for Freedom (New Y ork)
Latin American Solidarity Committee (Milwaukee)
Central American Resource Center-CARECEN
Nicaragua Center for Community Action- NICCA (Berkeley)
Unión Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios-USEU
School of the Americas Watch (Washington DC)
Chicago Religious Leadership on Latin America-CRLN (Chicago)
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (Portland)
Alliance for Global Justice (Tucson)
La Voz de los de Abajo (Chicago)
United Food and Commercial Workers– UFCW Local 540 (Dallas)
Task Force on the Americas (Larkspur)
Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action– TIGRA (Oakland)