Located in Choloma, its 1,000 workers produce apparel under oppressive conditions.
Wages are sub-poverty, and at best cover half a family of four's basic necessities.
Work days are long, 11 - 12 hour days, four days a week, and constant pressure to produce.
According to one worker, illness is no excuse for missing work.
Union organizing is forbidden, and those caught or suspected are fired.
One union leader explained how organizers are treated.
In 1998, Dickies fired 80 supporters. In 2003, alleged leaders were fired, then in 2005, 280 workers got legal recognition to form a union.
A month later, a Mexican Ministry of Labor representative and three union officials attempted to deliver official documents to the company.
They were denied entry.
The officials and others were fired, and Dickies stonewalled government summonses to answer for the action.
Other firings followed, and the company refused to recognize a union, bargain collectively with it, or address employee grievances.
Workers nonetheless persisted until the current economic crisis became challenging.
Claiming lack of orders and a need to cut costs, worker dismissals began in December 2008.
By March 2009, 58 were gone, in all cases for supporting a union, in violation of Honduran Labor Law's Article 96 that prohibits employers from "firing or persecuting their workers in any way because of their union affiliation."
China's Genford Shoes
Located in Guangdong Province, its 10,000 employees produce work, exercise, casual, and dress shoes, 80% for Ohio-based Rocky Brands.
According to the company, Genford is independently audited for social compliance, but SFC research found evidence of widespread labor law violations.
Workers are constantly pressured to produce for low pay under poor conditions:
|New employees get no income for their first three days; they also must pay $4 for a physical examination, $10 for housing, and another $10 for ten days' meals in the company cafeteria - in total, around a week's wages.|
|Wages are sub-poverty.|
|No rest days are allowed for an entire month during peak production periods, in violation of Article 38 of China's Labor Law requiring at least one per week.|
|Children as young as 14 work the same hours as adults and are hidden when customers visit the factory.
Article 28 of China's Labor Law prohibits employing children under age 16.
It also protects 16 - 18 year olds from "over-strenuous, poisonous or harmful labor or any dangerous operation."
It requires employers to follow state laws regarding types of jobs, hours worked, and labor intensity for adolescents.|
|Excessive over time is mandatory at below the legal double hourly pay rate for daytime work on weekends.|
|By law, workers can cancel their labor contracts by giving 30 days notice, but are penalized by loss of wages when they do.|
|They live 12 to a room in crowded dorms of around 200 square feet with ten cold showers for 264 workers.|
|Pollution levels are oppressive; workers describe discharged black, foul smelling effluent into the adjacent river.|
Genford employs a complex system of bonuses and fines to achieve output.
|At the end of every work day, body searches are conducted, similar to but not full strip searches.|
City Shirt's employees are also much older than at other factories studied, a sign of greater stability and a contented workforce staying in place, happy to be there, and for many, hoping to stay for the rest of their working lives.
Yet they worry that their jobs may not last because of factors beyond the plant's control forcing layoffs to cut costs and stay viable.
Apparel manufacturing in America is dying.
In addition, the current environment is taking its toll closing factories across America, and City Shirt has had to cut one-third of its workforce in the past 18 months.
The alternative is the global sweatshop as oppressive or worse than the ones described above.
The company's employees hope to reach retirement age before their operation gets outsourced, but making it won't be easy.
In today's global economy, in good times and bad, worker rights are subordinated to greed and private profit, and future prospects look grim.
Job losses are continuing.
Wages are stagnating at best.
Benefits are eroding, and job security is a thing of the past at a time governments, in alliance with business, are indifferent to protecting them.
The result, more and more, is that workers are on their own to endure against very long odds.
It's all the more important for harder struggle because it's the only way they have a chance.
Anti-Sweatshop Legislation in Congress
On January 23, 2007, S. 367: The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act was introduced in the Senate:
"To amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to prohibit the import, export, and sale of goods made with sweatshop labor, and for other purposes."
It was referred to committee but never passed.
On April 23, 2007, HR 1992: The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act was introduced in the House for the same purpose.
It, too, was referred to committee but never passed.
Both bills were introduced in a previous congressional session and failed.
They may be re-introduced later in 2009.
Sweatshop labor takes different forms, some far worse than others.
On February 14, 2007, Charles Kernaghan, Executive Director of the National Labor Committee in Support of Human and Worker Right, testified about the worst kind at a Senate committee hearing on Overseas Sweatshop Abuses, Their Impact on US Workers, and the Need for Anti-Sweatshop Legislation.
Citing the December 2001 US - Jordan Free Trade Agreement, he gave examples of human trafficking and involuntary servitude abuses that followed:
|Jordan's 114 garment factories employ over 36,000 foreign guest workers from Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka and India.|
|Bangladeshi guest workers had to borrow at exorbitant interest rates $1,000 - $3,000 to pay unscrupulous manpower agencies for two-to-three year contracts to obtain work.|
|They were trapped in involuntary servitude at one factory and couldn't leave.|
|They were promised benefits, then reneged on, including free food, housing, medical care, vacations, sick days, and at least one day a week off.|
|On arrival in Jordan, their passports were seized.|
Description of project, *Title: Born to work*
For the last three years I have been working on child labour in Bangladesh.
Child labour is forbidden in Bangladesh since 1992.
In December 2005 I visited a garment factory in Narayanganj, which is the center of the garment industry in Bangladesh.
I took a picture of the owner beating a 12-year-old boy because he had been too slow sewing t-shirts.
According to the UN Children’s Fund report, more than 6.3 million children under 14 are working in Bangladesh.
Many of them work under very bad conditions; some of them even risk their life.
Factory owners pay them about 400 to 700 taka (10 USD) a month while an adult worker earns up to 5,000 taka per month.
Everybody knows this, and for a long time nobody took care.
With my work I want to confront the people with the problem of child labour and motivate the people who begin to think about it in
Bangladesh where children are employed and in the rich countries of the Western world where products are sold that have been produced by children.
Some influential people in my country don’t want me to reinforce the bad image of Bangladesh.
But this is not my intention.
My intention is to start an improvement.
Showing the working conditions of the children doesn’t only mean to create shock-reactions it could be a beginning of a change in
thinking for parents who force their children to work for reasons of poverty as well as the factory owners and also the western consumers.
Once I took a picture of a seven-year-old boy working in a bulb factory.
His job was to check the bulbs by hanging them into an electric wire without any protection.
He had to do this very fast and any small mistake would have killed him.
I only took two pictures before the manager threw me out of the factory.
I didn’t even have the time to ask the boy’s name. Sometimes I just climb over the fence to get into a factory to take pictures; sometimes
like in this case I go there with a friend who pretends to want to talk to the boss while I run into the working place.
My intention is not only to show the children at work as victims of bad bosses exploiting them but I want to show the complexity of the situation:
The parents who send their little boy to work in a factory because they are poor.
The child that has to work to earn a living for the family.
The boss of the factory who is being pushed by big garment company to produce for less money.
And the Western consumers as clients who buy cheap clothes.
I think it is impossible to abolish child labour completely in Bangladesh in a very short time but I am sure it is possible to improve the working
conditions of the children and to bring more children from factory work into the schools.