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no sweat conference report

mark | 26.11.2002 22:06

170 young activists and trade unionists enjoyed the discussions, debates and planning at the recent No Sweat conference, held in London on Saturday 23 November.
Mexican trade unionists Gaby Cabrera and Josefina Ponce were warmly received as they spoke about the battle to throw out a corrupt trade union organisation at the KukDong-Mexmode factory. The largely fermale workforce recently fought a massive and victorious battle to win recognition for their independent union,wage increases and an improvement in the factory food.

y doing so they have organised a maquila (production for export) factory, proving those who said such unionisation was
impossible absolutely wrong. This is a tremendously significant battle - a warning to the bosses of the future that faces them
across Central and Latin America.

Jean Lane and Martin Smith from the GMB union discussed the recent experience of No Sweat in East London where activists
and trade unionists have united to expose sweatshop conditions and pay as low as £3.75 per hour. They have been rewarded
within the last week by massive publicity from the London evening paper, the Standard, who splashed the information they had
unearthed across the front and several inside pages.

Campaign activists from Corporate Watch ran an informal discussion about how to research companies. Celia Mather and
Selma Hayek spoke about the fight in Indonesia and Mick Duncan from No Sweat spoke of the pressing need to build a
massive campaign capable of uniting trade unionists and youth and students to confront the sweatshop bosses.

Debates took place on the significance of the European Social Forum, held recently in Florence, Italy, and on the nature of
globalisation, where Martin Thomas argued that the way forward was international workers unity not a retreat backwards
towards utopian islands where ethical consumption can take place or to narrow nationalist responses to global capitalist

Jane Turner speaking for the co-sponsors of the Mexican workers’ visit, the Central American Womens’ Network (CAWN)
spoke with Mark Osborn from No Sweat about the strategy for campaign activists. Mark argued that the tactics of the
movement should be judged from their ability to promote workers’ self-organisation.

Eric Lee and Laura Muir examined the experience of the mass movement in the US, where the USAS anti-sweatshop initiative
has become the biggest campus initiative since the anti-Vietnam war actions in the 60s and 70s.

Other speakers included members of War on Want, the Simon Jones Campaign and the Student Campaign Forum (SCF).

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