A FEW OF OUR PARTNERS:
Ever since 1999, when Maggie's President, Bená Burda helped a group of hurricane victims form a worker-owned sewing cooperative in Nicaragua (The Fair Trade Zone), she had hoped to one day bring the idea home, where so many US apparel workers have lost their livelihood. In the summer of 2007, while presenting at a workshop in Asheville, Bená met the folks from SACCO (Southern Appalachian Center for Cooperative Ownership/ Ownership Appalachia), and they agreed to help her turn Maggie's dream of a domestic sewing cooperative into a reality.
Molly Hemstreet of SACCO made the connection with the workers, all from Morganton, North Carolina, one of the many towns in the Southeast with boarded up apparel mills and talented workers. Maggie's took thousands of pairs of extra socks, partnered with SACCO and the motivated workers, and through many design incarnations, came up with Maggie's Sock Monkeys.
The Sock Monkeys, designed and made from our slightly irregular Crew socks, were an immediate hit, and so a "Maggie's Menagerie" line began to grow. Penguins were next, as we had an abundance of off-spec Lounge Pants (in Black) and Baby Bodysuits (in Natural). Our wildly popular Tie Dye Legwarmers make the perfect Penguin cap. The animal line has continued to grow: The Barnyard Series launched in summer 2009, with Chickens, Sheep, Cows, and Pigs - all adorable and creatively designed by the working members of Opportunity Threads. More new animals are on their way, and private label is available.
The worker/members are the real story here. They are talented, committed, and are putting it all on the line every day for the chance to build their own business. We are more impressed each day with their creativity and ability to rise to each new challenge. There is much left to do to make this project a success, but it continues to be a source of pride for us all. They have aptly named their new business Opportunity Threads, and we are proud to be their partner.
For more information: http://www.opportunity threads.com
The VG Kids - Ypsilanti, MI
Less than 3 miles from Maggie's headquarters is VG Kids, a screen printing shop that offers products and services including custom designed t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters, CD covers, buttons, and banners. VG Kids prints many of our garments using soft, crisp water-based inks. Owner James Marks illustrated the art used for several of our unique products including our award-winning Baby Bodysuit and Cap sets, and worked with our designers to create our printed scarf line. VG Kids' creativity and imagination has become an integral part of Maggie's success.
For more information : http://www.vgkids.com
CIA Textiles – San Jose, Costa Rica
We have worked with CIA Textiles in Costa Rica for nearly 5 years now, first as our fabric knitter and dyer, and later as our cutter and sewer. CIA began in 1956 by Israel Nowalski, a Polish immigrant to Costa Rica. Mr. Nowalski, now 91 years old and still coming to work every day, is a true pioneer, both as a producer and as a social entrepreneur.
Mr. Nowalski started a worker association at CIA long before national protection for Costa Rican workers began, donating an additional 5% of each workers gross salary into a fund for worker benefits. This fund, now financed by Costa Rica’s national social programs, still provides a clinic with out-of-the ordinary health care, and has built a special building in a national park across the street where CIA workers and the community at large takes swimming lessons and learns about Costa Rica’s amazing plant and animal species. In an association-managed program, a total of 60 CIA employees were able to purchase home-building lots at very low prices, and have built houses for their families with low-interest loans from the association. We visited some of these homes, and spoke to workers and their families who have now lived in them for decades, adding on second stories as their families grew, creating gardens, sending their children to private schools, and more.
One of the most amazing parts of visiting CIA is speaking with employees, mainly heads of households, who have worked there for over 30years. CIA pays a minimum of 15% more than the average wage for the apparel sector in Costa Rica (currently $2.40 per hour), and continues to provide many additional benefits as well. CIA now pays 8% into social security, pays into a retirement fund for all workers, pays a 13th month salary to all workers, and provides a minimum of 15 days paid vacation per year. The worker association at CIA is not a union, but is independent of CIA management, and operates healthcare, wellness clinics and a variety of clinics and special programs.
Coopcostura - San Jose, Costa Rica
Coopcostura was formed in 1988 as the result of a factory owner who abandoned his building, machinery, and unpaid workers. The workers were able to take control of the plant and turn it into a thriving business. The Coop's partnership with Maggie's is their first opportunity to work directly with a client.
Daycare and school bonuses for Coopcostura's workers were provided for over ten years, until it became financially impossible to continue these programs. Through our partnership, Coopcostura placed a large part of their Maggie's earnings into an account for the education and well-being of the workers and their families. Starting in February of 2008, Coopcostura's enabled them to give monetary assistance to workers with school age children, the first of what we hope will be many worker-chosen programs. We hope to work more with Coopcostura in the future.
The Fair Trade Zone - Nueva Vida, Nicaragua
In an effort to uphold a commitment to social responsibility, Maggie's Organics is proud to have played a critical role in the creation and development of The Fair Trade Zone, a sewing cooperative in a highly impoverished area of Nicaragua. Ravished by Hurricane Mitch and a series of other natural disasters, the inhabitants of Nueva Vida, Nicaragua, found themselves forced to work in sweatshops if they found employment at all. A partnership with Maggie's Organics and an NGO, Jubilee House, has helped them build a dream - The Fair Trade Zone. The Fair Trade Zone is now a successful and independent business, which is 100% owned by its workers.
The members of the coop literally built the plant from the ground up with their own hands. They installed donated equipment, educated each other about what it means to make garments with organic cotton, and learned to fulfill the special requirements for production with organic goods. These women have spent nights sleeping in the sewing facility to guard their equipment; they have survived on pooling their food resources, even eating the avocados grown on the nearby trees. They have gone through the hardships of starting a business and all the challenges of owning a business.
The Fair Trade Zone has become the world's first and only 100% worker-owned free trade zone. This status allows the cooperative to compete with foreign-owned free trade zones enjoying the same tax and export benefits, while keeping the profits in their own community. "We hope this project will serve as a model of social responsibility for companies doing business in developing countries," said Maggie's President Bená Burda.
For more information: http://www.jhc-cdca.org/ (please select "Garment Workers" from the left hand selection bar)
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