“From two corners of the world, Thailand and Argentina, two groups of workers have joined to make their own common call to arms: no more chains in the garment industry! Dignity Returns in Bangkok and La Alameda in Buenos Aires jointly call upon consumers and activists alike to support decent work in the garment industry – by supporting their global sweat-free brand, No Chains.
Unlike for other famous clothing brands, those who buy No Chains products gives 100% of the reward of the labour to the workers – there is no trade more ‘fair’ than this.
More than fair trade – a fight against continuation of sweatshops
Yet this brand is something more than ‘fair trade’ – it is an invitation to contribute to the never-ending struggle for workers’ rights.
Long hours, low pay, hazardous conditions, abusive bosses, and workers’ repression have remained defining characteristics of the global garment production. In 1911, 146 workers, mostly women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York because of locked exits and poor safety measures.
A century later, chains of subcontract garment production extend beyond New York to cities such as Bangkok and Buenos Aires, and yet the basic slave conditions endured by garment workers remain entirely unchanged.
The workers who formed Thailand’s Dignity Returns cooperative were all unfairly dismissed employees of Bed and Bath, a sweatshop facility that forced members of its production teams to consume amphetamines so that they could work consecutive shifts, while fining workers’ several days wages for sneaking bites of food during long periods when breaks were not permitted.
In Argentina, many Bolivian workers have been rescued by members of the La Alameda cooperative, which has denounced the sweatshop owners for their illegal detention of entire families of migrants that work under slave conditions in clandestine home factories.
With dozens of such migrants dying trapped in a factory fire in 2004 in Buenos Aires, it is clear that Triangle Shirtwaist’s tragedy has only repeated itself at every step along the global chain of subcontract garment production.
Experience clearly shows that no improvement in workers’ conditions can be meaningful and lasting without worker representation, either through genuine unionization or through worker-ownership. The workers of No Chains know this from their own lives.
The No Chains concept is born -links workers in Asia and Latin America
NO CHAINS workers want to share their simple message with the world: it can be done! Production of quality garments can occur without exploitation, with workers controlling their own management and production.
The concept of No Chains was born when two cooperatives met at a 2009 Bangkok labour conference about workers’ responses to economic crisis. Gustavo Vera from La Alameda had been invited to share the experiences of Argentine workers in 2001 who occupied factories when their management left them bankrupt and unpaid.
La Alameda in Argentina and Dignity Returns in Thailand thus agreed to jointly launch a global brand of sweat-free clothes, calling upon both consumers and social movement groups to help end slave labour in the garment industry. Both cooperatives were already well-known for being composed of seasoned workers who had faced forced labour conditions and now fought for the core values of worker self-management, solidarity, and decent work.
Now, the workers form a unique venture between Asia and Latin America. Though they are continents apart, they share common problems of democracy, social inequality, and poverty and exploitation of workers, especially of migrants.”