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Maine Public Radio: NLC Director Discusses Maintrend Factory in Jordan

July 14, 2006  |  Share

Maine Public Radio

June 26, 2006

Charlie Kernaghan, Director of the National Labor Committee, discusses the Maintrend factory in one of Jordan's free trade zones. Workers from Bangladesh were trafficked into Jordan to work for the factory in abysmal conditions. The factory produces for L.L. Bean and Thalia Sodi.

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) discusses legislation introduced into the House that would outlaw the sale of sweatshop-made goods.


Report Targets Sweatshops in Jordon That Make Products for LL Bean and Other Retailers


The report by the National Labor Committee cites a nine-month investigation into the Main Trend factory in Jordon; a Chinese owned operation that brings in guest workers from China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to sew garments for LL Bean and other companies. National Labor Committee Executive Director Charles Kernaghan said that his group found the company did not meet basic human and labor rights standards.

"Workers would be forced to work fifteen and a half, sixteen and a half hours a day, seven days a week. They could use the toilet in the factory two or three times a shift at most-now this is the entire fifteen, sixteen-hour shift. You got to get permission to use the bathroom. If you spent one minute longer in the bathroom than they wanted you to, you could be fined an hours' wages. If you fell behind your production goal you could be pushed, hit, slapped, yelled at, you could have your wages docked."

Often, Kernaghan says, the people working in the factory were paid well below the minimum wage in Jordon-just one hundred and twenty dollars a month. Workers also reported that the company had confiscated their passports. Kernaghan says that and other conditions amount to human trafficking and involuntary servitude.

"We're looking at this one particular factory over a nine-month period while they were sewing the LL Bean fleece vests and what not. And at some points, conditions had gotten so bad that workers were actually running away. Like slavery. They were leaving their passports with management and running away from the factory, hiding by night, running by day just to get out of the country and cross the border. That's how desperate this situation had become."

Kernaghan says his group has talked with LL Bean about the alleged violations. Company spokesman Rich Donaldson says LL Bean responded immediately with various initiatives.

"Those initiatives included revisiting the site several times with our own inspector sand auditors. We also worked directly with Main Trend and Main Trend management and factory ownership to make sure that they were in compliance with our expectations. And then we also followed this up with the Minister of Labor in Jordan."

Donaldson says the company is still working with the Main Trend factory to produce garments bearing the LL Bean label. Meanwhile, the National Labor Committee's report is making waves in Washington DC, where House and Senate bills were recently presented that would outlaw importing, exporting or selling sweatshop-produced goods in the US. Ohio Democratic Representative Sherrod Brown introduced the House bill earlier this month, and says he plans to ask members of Maine's delegation to support him.

"Both Tom Allen and Mike Michaud have shown strong leadership on social and economic justice trade questions. They have fought against the outsourcing of industrial jobs."

A spokesman for the Maine Congressman Mike Michaud's office says Michaud intends to cosign the legislation. Other members of the Maine delegation say they're still reviewing the bill.

For MPBN News, I'm Sara Nics.

Source: > Radio > Program Schedule > June 26

Click here to read L.L. Bean's response and the NLC's reply

Click here to read the original NLC report on human trafficking

Click here to read about the legislation that has been introduced into the House and Senate banning the sale of sweatshop-made goods

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