Year Published:  1983
Resource Type:  Organization
Cx Number:  CX2871

MODISTAS (Portugese for "dressmakers") is a government assisted, shared capital corporation whose members, the workers, own equal shares of the company. Decisions are made collectively, and the workers have decided to create a setting where human needs are paramount. MODISTAS is determined to combine decent working conditions with pragmatic business practice.

Located in the heart of Toronto's garment industry, MODISTAS is very different from the area's "sweatshops". There is no clock to punmch, no foreman watching. Instead of piecework, each dressmaker can choose which style of dress to work on, make suggestions about the design, select the fabric, and work on the dress from beginning to end, without supervision. As well as being more creative and satisfying, this approach enables these workers to maintain their dressmaking skills which otherwise tend to be lost in the tedium of piecework. Wages are comparable to those of other garment workers.

MODISTAS grew out of a small Saturday project sponsored by the Working Women Community Centre. Portugese-speaking dressmakers who had quit their factory jobs because of such problems as eye strain and backaches met to produce custom-made dresses. Increased demand led to the establishment of a fulltime operation. The workers initially spent several hours per week learning English and business administration in order to be able to take part in running the business.

The board of directors is comprised to an equal number of women workers and business advisors. MODISTAS expects to break even by 1986; with the profits the collective "can decide to increase salaries,"
pay bonuses, or put it back into the business." MODISTAS is a "statement about the possibility of operating a factory in a non-exploitative way.

This organization no longer exists.
This abstract was published in the Connexions Digest in 1983.
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