Previously published in Examiner
Part 9 of the Horrendous sweatshops series
Montreal women and immigrants have shared the same history as their American sisters, with the advent of sweatshops.
The clothing textile industry centered on Chabanel Street is infamous for the mistreatment of its workers. This examiner knows some women who were not even part of the factory workers, they were secretaries and still they were sexually harrassed. One was a 17 year girl at the time who was told she wore too much clothing and she should dress sexier.
In February 2010, Centre des Travailleurs et Travailleuses Immigrants / Immigrant Workers Centre (CTI-IWC) launched a campaign against the horrendous mistreatment of textile workers.
According to Quebec Statistics these victims of the needle trade are mostly women, immigrants and elderly . The motive for the conditions boils down to squeezing out as much profit as the companies can muster, while doing it on the backs of the employees.
Present conditions and the failing needle trade in Montreal has largely to do with the NAFTA agreement when our industry was destroyed due to the fact that we as Canadians could not compete in the large American market.
There were no protectionism policies put in place for Canadian products in this area of the North American Free trade Agreement and because of that the Montreal and Canadian clothing industry was practically wiped out.
Instead of taking a protectionist political and economic standpoint, Canada lowered its tariffs and opened its borders to cheaper exports from across the world. No protection was considered for Canadian made clothing and our industry suffered as a consequence of this shortsighted Mulroney Conservative administration policy.
In the few short years of 2002-2005 the Montreal needle trade shrank by 25 percent and caused massivelayoffs of thousands of Montreal employees, mainly women. During this time, the industry leaders farmed out work to China and other third world countries where labour is cheaper and the exploitation of the workers is even higher. They claimed they could not afford the Montreal workforce, when critics maintain that the policy was out of greed and that Montreal companies could afford the workforce, they just wanted to maximize on profits.
To be continued