“Meet Opportunity Threads, School House’s new cut and sew partner. Opportunity Threads is a worker-owned, cut and sew cooperative based in nearby Morganton, NC. Theirs is a company with an emphasis on both fair labor and sustainable environmental practices, buzzwords that here at School House are enough to fill our hearts with joy.
In the not-too-distant past, North Carolina was a powerhouse in the textile and apparel industry. Unfortunately, trends toward outsourcing and a service-based U.S. economy have contributed to an overall decline in North Carolina’s textile and apparel industry, which has traditionally played a fundamental role in providing jobs and revenue for the state.
Enter Opportunity Threads. Founder Molly Hemstreet recognized the need for a new model of labor organizing in the South. Her idea was to take the pieces of this declining infrastructure that has long been a part of North Carolina history and to put the pieces back together in a more sustainable way.
Molly got in touch with worker-ownership pioneer Frank Adams and Maggie’s Functional Organics, a worker-owned sewing cooperative in Nicaragua, to work on the idea of bringing the model of worker-ownership back to the U.S., specifically to an area that has been hit by job loss in the apparel industry. The connection was then made to workers in Morganton, NC, a rural county with high unemployment but two critical resources: manufacturing mills and talented ex-apparel workers.
And so Opportunity Threads was born. Its principles? Dignity for workers, fair wages and worker-ownership, quality and sustainable production. The goal? Not only to recreate textile work in Southern Appalachia in order to change the lives of many workers, but also to build upon this industry by emphasizing fair trade and sustainability.”
[Opportunity Threads previous on American Worker Cooperative]
“Most of our workers are currently Mayan immigrants that now call Morganton home. The Maya of Morganton have a long and vibrant history in our community. Many came during or after civil war wreaked havoc on their native communities in Guatemala. You can read more about this incredible community in the book The Maya of Morganton, by Opportunity Threads friend and supporter Leon Fink.”