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Interview with Mahmoud

September 13, 2006  |  Share

Interview With Mahmoud

14 Year Old Worker

Sews Clothing for Hanes and PUMA


Watch a clip of this interview


Back to the Harvest Rich report

Click here for a printable version of this transcript.

NLC: What is your name?

MAHMOUD: Mahmoud.

NLC: How old are you?

MAHMOUD: I am 13 years old.

NLC: Where do you work?

MAHMOUD: Harvest Rich Limited.

NLC: Which floor?

MAHMOUD: Underwear.

NLC: Do you recognize this underwear? Did you ever work on this?

Hands him underwear.


NLC: What is your job?

MAHMOUD: Inseam.

NLC: What do you sew, what piece?

MAHMOUD points to the piece he sews

NLC: So you are a sewing operator?

NLC: What is your target?

MAHMOUD: 100 pieces an hour.

NLC: Can you make it? Is it easy.

MAHMOUD: No, it's difficult. It's hard.

NLC: So do you remember actually sewing these pair of underwear?


Boy with  underwear

NLC: The color is very familiar, the label is very familiar?


NLC: How long did you work on that?

MAHMOUD: 2 or 3 months.

NLC: How long did you work on that pair of underwear? Was it in the factory for 1 month, or..?

MAHMOUD: 2 or 3 months continuously.

NLC: What were the hours that you were working?

MAHMOUD: 8 in the morning until 8 at night and some extra hours, past 8.

NLC: Until when?

MAHMOUD: Sometimes an additional 2 hours until 10 at night.

NLC: Did you always get Friday off?


NLC: How many Fridays a month do you get off?

MAHMOUD: If we have enough work, then we don't have a day off.

NLC: So how many nights would you work until 8 and how many nights would you work until 10? Can you say, is it like 3 times to 8 and 2 times to 10?

MAHMOUD: 10 to 15 days until 8.

NLC: About half and half then.


NLC: Did you ever work all-night shifts?

MAHMOUD: Last night.

NLC: What time did you work to last night?

MAHMOUD: 3 in the morning.

NLC: When did you start?

MAHMOUD: We started at 8 in the morning, until 10, then a break and then until 3 in the morning.

NLC: What break did you get at 10?
MAHMOUD: Our break was from 8 to 10.

NLC: Do they feed you in the factory?

MAHMOUD: They provide light meal. They don't provide food but they give us money.

NLC: How much do they give you?

MAHMOUD: 20 taka

NLC: What can you buy with that 20 taka?

MAHMOUD: With 20 taka, what can I buy?

NLC: So what did you eat?

MAHMOUD: We take when we get back home in the morning

NLC: So you didn't even eat at 10:00.


NLC: So you went back to work at 10:00 p.m. and work until when?

MAHMOUD:   3:00 a.m.

NLC: Were you exhausted?

MAHMOUD: Since I could not sleep, I was exhausted.

NLC: How old are you?


NLC: You worked until 3:00 a.m. yesterday?


NLC: Any other child workers also?
MAHMOUD:Yes, there are child workers.

NLC: Was this the whole factory or just your line that worked until 3:00 a.m.?

MAHMOUD: 1 line.

NLC: Were there other child workers on your line? How many?

MAHMOUD: Like me, there are some.

NLC: How many?


NLC: Boys and girls

MAHMOUD:There are more girls.

NLC Hidden Camera Footage: Unknown workers on their way to Harvest Rich factory, September 2006.

girls  working at factory

NLC: How do you get home at 3:00 a.m.?

MAHMOUD: I slept in the factory.

NLC: You slept in the factory last night? Where did you sleep?

MAHMOUD: I slept on the floor.

NLC:  Right by the sewing machines or where?  They have beds for you?

MAHMOUD:  On the table, stools.

NLC:  You slept on the table?  Do you have a mattresses.

MAHMOUD:  For us there are no mattresses.

NLC:  So you slept in the factory on a table.  When did you get up?

MAHMOUD: Six in the morning.

NLC:  Then you went home?

MAHMOUD:  Then I went home.

NLC:  Were you supposed to work today?

MAHMOUD:  Yes, I was supposed to work 8 in the morning.

NLC:  In other words you would work until 3 a.m., sleep in the factory then start again at 8 o'clock?


NLC: What would happen if you wouldn't stay for the overtime and said, "Hey,  I have to go home I am very tired, I have something to do?"

MAHMOUD: There's nothing I can do.

NLC:  Suppose he said" I have to meet my father, I have to go home." What would they do to you?

MAHMOUD:  We don't, sometimes we"., mostly we don't leave.

NLC:  Do they ever hit the childr en workers?

MAHMOUD:  Yes, they do.

NLC:  Have you ever been hit?

MAHMOUD:  I don't get beaten, I saw workers getting beaten.

NLC:  When was that? Yesterday? Recently?

MAHMOUD:  One month back.

NLC:  And does, what is your wage?

MAHMOUD:  2,200 taka.

NLC:  Do they pay the overtime correctly?  Like last night when you worked, will you get paid for all those overtime hours?

MAHMOUD:  At the end of the month, what they pay us we have to accept that - we don't know what we are legally due.

NLC:  Do you think you are paid correctly? Or are you not paid correctly?

MAHMOUD:  I think they owe me, I should get more than what I am being paid.

NLC:  Is the factory a good place to work or is it difficult?

MAHMOUD:  I don't feel good working at the factory.

NLC:  Is there a lot of pressure?


NLC:  Do they yell at the workers?


NLC:  Suppose you want to use the bathroom, can you just get up and use the bathroom?

MAHMOUD:  I have to take permission.

NLC:  How many times can you get that permission?

MAHMOUD:  We can go many times, but not asking the supervisor.

NLC:  What happens if you get caught?

MAHMOUD:  Punishment.

NLC:  Like what?  What would the punishment be?

MAHMOUD:  They want us to sit on a stool and hold our ear.

MAHMOUD demonstrates

NLC:  For how long?

MAHMOUD:  Ten minutes.

NLC:  Is it hot in the factory or well ventilated, is it cool like here?


NLC:  Do you sweat?

MAHMOUD:  We sweat.

NLC:  Can you talk to each other?


NLC:  When you work do you dream about things, do you imagine, do you hope for stuff?

MAHMOUD:  This is not a life at all, we have no dreams.

NLC:  When was the last time you worked on a Friday?

MAHMOUD:  One month back.

NLC:  Have you been told there is going to be a big order and that you are going to be working late to meet that order?


NLC:  Do you have a bench?  Do you have a back on his bench?

MAHMOUD:  A stool.  Wooden stool.

NLC:  When you come out of work, are you tired, or full of energy and want to gome home to play?

MAHMOUD:  I feel tired and weak.

NLC:  When you come out at 10 o'clock what time do you get home?

MAHMOUD:  11:30, 12.

NLC Hidden Camera Footage: Unknown Harvest Rich workers

Hidden Camera Footage

NLC:  It takes that long, it takes an hour and a half to get home?


NLC:  Is it safe for young people at that time to be going home?

MAHMOUD:  Not safe.

NLC:  Do you gather together? How do you protect themselves?

MAHMOUD:  Sometimes we go in a group, sometimes we scatter, because some people leave us because there is not one direction, but different directions.

NLC:  Did you get to go to school?


NLC:  Through what grade?


NLC:  How long have you been working?

MAHMOUD:  3 years.

NLC:  In Harvest Rich or another factory?

MAHMOUD:  One year in Harvest Rich.  Two years in another factory.

NLC:  What was the name of that factory?

MAHMOUD: [inaudible]

NLC:  So you started working at Harvest Rich when you were 13 years of age and you is 14 years old now?


NLC:  Do you have any hope that by working hard you will have a better life?

MAHMOUD:  There is no future.

NLC:  Do you ever think about going back to school? Is that something you would like to do?

MAHMOUD smiles 

MAHMOUD: Yes. I sometimes dream of going to school.

NLC:  Why is there no hope?  If you work hard, shouldn't you be able to improve your life?

MAHMOUD:  There is a security here, in the factory.

NLC:  Do you have brother and sisters?

MAHMOUD:  2 brothers and 2 sisters.

NLC2:  Are they older or younger.

MAHMOUD:  Two sisters are elders.

NLC:  Do they work in the factories?

MAHMOUD:  No, they are married.

NLC:  When was the last time you went to a movie?

MAHMOUD:  One year ago.

NLC:  Do you have friends?  Do you go out and play soccer together or go out on bike rides?

MAHMOUD:  Two years back I went with my parents to cycle, I have no cycle now.

NLC:  Do you have a television in your house?

MAHMOUD:  I don't have, but my father has.

NLC:  What time do you get up?

MAHMOUD:  6 in the morning.

NLC:  And you have to be at work at 8?


NLC:  What do you do when you gets up in the morning?

MAHMOUD:  I brush my teeth, wash my face, take bath.

NLC:  How do you brush your teeth? Toothbrush?

MAHMOUD:  Yeah, I have brush.

NLC:  What do you eat for breakfast?

NLC Hidden Camera Footage: Unknown Harvest Rich Workers

Hidden Camera Footage

MAHMOUD:  Roti. Pita bread.

NLC:  And rice?

Talks with translator

MAHMOUD:  Before I comes to the factory I eat rice.  I take dahl, lentils, mashed potatoes.

NLC:  And for lunch?

MAHMOUD:  Fish.  Regular is lentils, potatoes.

NLC:  What do you think a fair wage would be, a good wage for you?

MAHMOUD:  4,500 to 5,000 taka a month.

NLC:  Have you ever heard of the Hanes corporate code of conduct?

MAHMOUD:  Yes, [inaudible] Puma.

NLC:  What does it say?

MAHMOUD:  There are some principles.

NLC:  Do you know any of them?

MAHMOUD:  There would be no worker under 18.  No bad treatment to the workers.  Workers would work 48 hours a week.  After 5 there would be no work, all . . . [inaudible]

NLC:  That's the way it is? Those laws are implemented in the factory?


NLC:  What good is that code of conduct if it is not enforced?

MAHMOUD:  It is not useful.

NLC:  What do the workers think of that piece of paper? Is it hanging on the wall?

MAHMOUD:  It is hanging on the wall.

NLC:  What do they think about it?

MAHMOUD:  Workers have no use for it, it is in English and hanging on the wall.

NLC:  In other words, its not implemented. Do the workers think it is useless?

MAHMOUD:  We don't think that it is useful.

NLC:  Do the monitors ever come to the factory?

MAHMOUD:  Yes, they come.

NLC:  Do they talk to child workers like you?


NLC:  Do they ever ask you to go away when the monitors come in?


NLC:  If the buyer asks you a question, do you tell him the truth, "I worked until 3 a.m. last night?"

MAHMOUD:  No, I cannot say.

NLC:  What would happen if you told the truth?

MAHMOUD:  Punishment.

NLC:  Like what?

MAHMOUD:  The owner will force me to get out.

NLC:  In other words, they will fire you?


NLC:  For telling the truth to the monitors?  How are the bathroom in the factory, are they clean with toilet paper, water, soap, and towels?


NLC:  What is it like?  Is it dirty?

MAHMOUD:  It is dirty.

NLC:  You have a cafeteria where you eat lunch?


NLC:  Tables and chair, where you eat?

MAHMOUD:  Tables.

NLC:  Or do they eat on the floor or roof?

MAHMOUD:  Up on the roof.

NLC:  You often eat on the roof?  Are there tables and chairs on the roof?

MAHMOUD:  There are some.

NLC:  If you take off as sick days, is that OK?

MAHMOUD:  If I am sick, if I ask leave, they will tell us to get out of the factory at 8 at night.  If you are seriously sick then they let you leave.

NLC:  And you get paid for the sick day?


NLC:  So if you say you are sick, they make you wait until 8 o'clock before you can go home.


NLC:  And at work, do they play music and can you talk to each other?


NLC:  Do you know where those pants go to, the pants that you make, the underwear? What country?

MAHMOUD:  It goes to buyer countries, foreign countries.

NLC:  This underwear goes to the United States.

NLC:  Have you ever seen images of the United States?


NLC:  Just one last question. The Hanes company, that underwear, says to the American people that Hanes has a corporate code of conduct that guarantees the legal rights of workers in Bangladesh all of their legal rights, that they will be treated with respect and that they will be paid fairly, and there will be no punishment against the workers, like physical punishment or corporal punishment, they will get Fridays off, they will get the correct overtime and Hanes says they guarantee that because they monitor the factories. They say to the American people, "You can trust us, we have a strict code of conduct to protect human and worker rights and we monitor that."  What do you think about that?  Are they telling the truth?

MAHMOUD:  It is not true.

NLC:  Hanes is not telling the American people the truth?

MAHMOUD:  Hanes is telling lies.

NLC:  Do you recognize this shirt?

NLC hands MAHMOUD a Puma shirt.

boy holds  puma shirt

MAHMOUD:  Two months back.

NLC:  Two months back you made it.  Did you have to work overtime when you were making that shirt two months ago?


NLC:  Like until when?

MAHMOUD:  This product, when the shipment was supposed to go we worked from until 10 at night or 3 in the morning.

NLC:  How often, 2 or 3 times?

MAHMOUD:  4, 5 night shifts.

NLC:  In a row or broken up?

MAHMOUD:  Alternate days.

NLC:  So when you were making that Puma shirt every other day you worked from 8 o'clock in the morning until 3 a.m.  Then you slept in the factory and worked from 8 o'clock until when?

MAHMOUD:  Until 8 at night.

NLC:  And then you would go home and come back and work until 3 a.m.

NLC:  Did you get a day off that week?

MAHMOUD:  Sometimes not, sometimes we got.

NLC:  And how many nights did you say you worked until 3 a.m.? Three, four nights? Four, five nights alternately?

MAHMOUD:  4-5 nights until 3 a.m.

NLC:  Do you have any questions for us?

MAHMOUD:  Our salary and overtime should be paid correctly.

NLC:  That is what we hope to do.  Put pressure on the companies to pay the salary correctly.  If the companies were willing to send you back to school until you were 16 with a stipend to replace your wages would he be excited by that, would he like that?

MAHMOUD:  It would be good for me.

NLC:  Would it be like a dream?


NLC:  What is your favorite subject?

MAHMOUD laughs. 

MAHMOUD: (laughs) English.



Back to the Harvest Rich report

Click here for a printable version of this transcript.

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