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Race, Gender, Globalization and the Apparel Industry

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In recent years, there have been many efforts to enlighten western consumers about the working conditions in the garment industry. As a result, those conditions have increasingly been the subject of international out rage, Both academics and activists have attempted to explore the economic and social realities that have led to the evolution of a transitional labor force relied upon by companies in the apparel industry. Commonly, however, those who depict these horrors rely on the misconceptions about how third world factories operate, ignoring the economic and social dynamics driving the global apparel industry. In her book, Threads, Jane Collins attempts to remedy these misconceptions by giving and account of her experiences with two different apparel firms and their factories in Mexico and the United States, Tultex and Liz Claiborne Inc. By studying these to firms Jane Collins, analyzes the development of the apparel industry. Collins uses the race, gender and inequality to show how leaders of the apparel industry have exploited inequalities in order to increase product volume at minimal coast to increase stock value.

The main goal of any business in the apparel industry is to increase a profit, and the most efficient way to do this is by reducing coast and increasing product volume (pg 5). Race, has come to play an important role in this equation. At first, mangers were hesitant to hire them fearing that it would cause to much disruption in the work place. But after several careful attempts to integrate warehouses, supervisors discovered that they could hire minorities without any disruption to the work place(pg 83) . The regular hiring of minorities is a key part in understanding the devaluing of workers in the apparel industry. This is because as the apparel industry became more modernized and the work more monotonous, skilled and experienced workers attempted to fight for better working conditions, but because the factories were now integrated there was an entire new class of workers who would work for less, in worse conditions because the were at a disadvantage, both socially and academically (pg 36). This is because during this time period civil rights was something to keep up the U.S.'s global image and had not begun to be taken seriously by the government. Therefore factory jobs were easily filled by these groups when others went on strike. Because the jobs were so highly sought after, workers, were easily replicable, and jobs were rare, which also gave employers my leverage to exploit workers biased on race (pg 6&7).

Another factor that shaped the apparel industry is gender, women were placed in to jobs deemed most suitable for them biased on there physical characteristics, such as small hands, and stereo types, such as women not being strong enough to do certain jobs, such as working in dye rooms, in extreme heat and exposure to heavy fumes. Before the apparel industry became industrialized,



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