A Social Labor for Social Dialogue: A Proposal to Improve Working Conditions for Women in the Guatemalan Apparel Industry


The only two independent unions in the Guatemalan apparel industry are suffering a decline in union membership and have become impotent against management bullying. Guatemalan women workers, who make up 80 percent of the apparel industry workforce, face entrenched impediments to their participation in organized labor, effectively preventing them from improving workplace conditions. The underlying reason is that the Guatemalan culture of machismo creates physical and social barriers that deny women the opportunity to develop and exercise their agency in the workplace or in their union. This presents a quandary for legal and social schemes that rely on union-inspired worker activism to improve workplace conditions but that fail to consider the gender context that stunts women’s participation in organized labor. This paper proposes the Trade Fair Label, a social labeling scheme based on worker-manager social
dialogue units, that addresses the shortcomings of oft-utilized corporate social responsibility schemes and that defies the impediments created by the culture of machismo.


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