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Just Garments Workers Speak Out

April 26, 2007  |  Share


"But it's all a lie, in two years we saw nothing."
Case of Idalia Jeannet López Nieto 
(Worked 2 years at Just Garments, January 2005-February 12, 2007)

You worked 2 years at Just Garments, how was your experience? Just Garment said they paid more and that workers were well treated?

Idalia: The truth is that what Gilberto says is a lie, because I worked 2 years there, and the only truth is about the chairs [ergonomic chairs].  But that he paid more, no. He didn't even paid the Social Security, Pension Funds, he didn't gave us the Christmas Bonus. He always treated us well, there was no maltreatment, but in paying the wages, vacation he never paid. I was pregnant and every day I went to the office to ask my Social Security stub because they never give it. I had my baby, yes in the Social Security [hospital].  But I didn't receive my maternity leave when I was supposed to.  They didn't pay me the maternity leave until November 29, and the child was born in June, and they didn't pay me until November 29.

Which year are you speaking?

Idalia: Last year.

And the other years you received Christmas bonus?


Only one year?

Idalia: Yes, 2 Christmases I was there. One year we received it.  Supposedly a woman named Claudia, she gave the money and she was around there and made us a party.  But that was the only year.  They even say that she got angry with him because she sent money for our pay and he didn't pay us.

And what about what they are saying, that you controlled and were in command of the factory and that the union controlled the factory? Could you explain to me if you had power decision in the factory?

Idalia:  The truth is that I belonged to the union but they never took us into account; furthermore a workmate who belonged to the union, she left because when they made meetings, Sonia Diaz, Elena and Joaquin would always go, and the others of the union weren't take in consideration. I can't say that I took decisions there because they didn't take us in consideration. Who took decisions were Sonia Diaz, Elena y Joaquin.

Where they [the union leaders] workers in the factory?  Were they on the machines?

Idalia:  No, they were from the union, the union that is so mentioned so much. In the factory when you start they say to you "listen this factory is going to make progress because we are unionists.  Look this is unique.  This is going to be history in all the countries"  That was a lie and maybe that was the reason we put up with it, because we believed in him, and the truth is that everything was a lie.

Case of Jackelyn Abigail Calderón Escamilla
(Worked in Just Garments two years, January 2005 — February 12, 2007)

You Jackelyn Abigail worked 2 years.  What was your experience there? Was it a good experience?  We've also heard that sometimes you got paid like $2 or $3 the day.  But we've only heard about it.  Can you tell us about that?

Jackelyn: Sometimes on the pay day they disappeared and when it was time to get out, we went to the offices and they were already closed. They were gone.  That was on Friday, and on Monday when we arrived they gave us $2.  Even one payday, they gave us $1, and when we didn't show up, because we didn't had money for bus fare, they deducted the day and the seventh. We never had a normal pay — they always gave us $5, or $10 or so.

So in fact how much did you earn?

Jackelyn: Well supposedly in fact they gave us $60, the minimum.

Every what? A week?

Jackely: No every two weeks, $60 for two weeks.

But you know that's not the legal minimum?

Jackelyn: Yes, we knew.

And what did they tell you when you asked explanations?

Jackelyn: They didn't tell nothing.  When we asked meetings with Gilberto he never showed up.  He only came when something had already happened to tell us that we should continue,  that in that moment he couldn't pay us but he was going to pay us.  But that never came about because he never paid us completely, he owes a lot of months, like 3 months more or less.

I've been told that a lot of people came to see the factory, Germans and from other countries, they told me thy spoke with workers and that the workers were happy to work there, how was that possible?

Jackelyn:  Before they arrived Gilberto organized meetings. He would tell us that he was going to pay us one day that week.  He fixed things so we would say yes, that it was true, that he was going to give us money. He would also choose the people that spoke with those people.  Because the ones who were of the union he gave them more money than us, but only to them, the ones who helped him, because when somebody placed a suit, he would bring certain people to say that it was lies—but because he gave them money, not because they were happy.

If you were asked to return to work to that factory you would return?

Jackelyn: No, because we had so many violations to our rights. He didn't paid us Social Security, Pension Fund, the wage we never received it complete.  And because we believed in him we stood it, well I for 2 years.  But it's all a lie, in 2 years we saw nothing.

But the treatments in the factory, apart form the violations you mentioned, were correct, the supervisors?

Jackelyn:  One supervisor was excellent, but the other one shout us, and would say us "that's why we are paying you."  And in reality they weren't paying us complete or anything.  But yes, at the beginning it was good, but after that it wasn't. The supervisor that treated us well before, after she would throw the product at us.  Maybe we hadn't made the things bad and someone else made the things bad, and she accumulated the work to us, saying that we were the ones.

Because we, when we stood up saying that we needed the money because it was ours, then they didn't look well on us, and they maltreated us.

And what explanation did they give you to tell you why they couldn't pay you?

Jackelyn: because they said they had rent expenses, electricity, and things like that, and they told us to be patient. That's all they ever said, that we should have patience.


[José Alvaro Campos Martinez worked in Just Garments, November 2005-February 12, 2007]

How long did you work in the factory?  [to Alvaro]

Alvaro: I worked 15 months for Just Garments but regrettably that company only told us lies, and we got to the extreme that the factory is supposedly closed; but right now we are not so sure if the factory really has closed.

"but in fact we have been fired, they owe us wages, severance, Christmas bonus and vacations. Until now we've not seen anything because Gilberto has lied to us too much, he's even come to give us a date, but till now we still haven't seen anything.

What was your work there?

Alvaro: I worked as a sewing operator.

All of you worked as sewing operators?




[Maràa Rosa Beltrán worked 9 months in Just Garments, until February 12, 2007]

How was your experience there, Maria Rosa, although you only worked 9 months?

Rosa: I started in May (2006), well, like my compañera was saying it was more or less good, because when I started the first two weeks they only owed me $10 (laughs!), but in the second one they started reducing the amount, they only gave me $30, afterwards $20, $10, it was slowly reducing, in some occasions they gave $1 or $2 and sometimes nothing. What they said is that the money was not enough to divide it between everybody and that we had to be patient, that we should borrow where we lived to continue coming. And if you were absent because of bus fare, they deducted the day and the seventh.

Do you all have pay stubs?

Idalia: Not many, because in fact we almost never received pay stubs. We were like blind people there.  Sometimes they came with a pay stub and one said "they're going to pay us" and maybe it was a paystub of two months ago. They told us, look this is the pay stub that we paid you this much, little by little.

You couldn't keep a calculation?  

Idalia:  Not any more.  [By then] we couldn't.

For example, you who worked 2 years, did you work overtime and did you get paid overtime as law says, double the ordinary hour?

Idalia: In fact we don't know if they paid them or not, In the pay stub it said yes, but to know how much we got paid when they gave us $1, $2 or $5, we lost track.

Jackelyn: At the end they didn't gave us overtime.  Rather, they said that those were "compensatory hours" and they were going to give us the time afterwards. But they didn't give us the time. They told us yes, they were are going to give us a day [off] but they didn't gave us the day because they argued there was too much work. They said they couldn't afford to give us the day because it was bad for them, but yes we worked those hours.

Sometimes we worked until 7 or 8 in the evening, once I worked until 8 in the evening and they told me those hours were to be "compensated" and they didn't even note them down.

Not paid, but instead compensated with time?

Jackelyn: Yes, compensated, but they didn't even give us the time of the hours we worked.

What did the union do?  You were members of the union.  What did it do?

Jackelyn:  In my case, it was never give.  They were the ones that messed us up the most, because they were the ones who told us that the factory rising up, depended in our conscious, that we must support it —and for supporting it, look how we are left.

Idalia:  Yes.  I wanted just to say that the union is a lie. It's just a policy of the company.  Because I belonged to the union, from inside, in the so-called [Maquila] Table. I asked in the Ministry of Labor, and I don't know why I have a credential if I don't appear in the Ministry of Labor.  I said I'm blacklisted, I'm blacklisted, and I don't appear in the Ministry of Labor and I have a credential and the members don't appear.

When you started 2 years ago, I want to establish, how many workers were there?  Or was it that they changing and getting rid of people? 

Jackelyn:  Yes, there people always came and went, that is, when they saw that they weren't paying them. Some people didn't believe what he said, but we believed what he said. But there were people that only worked a week, and came back to ask their wage, and the people got bored of going and asking for their money because they didn't pay them.

How many were more or less permanent when you started working?

Jackelyn:  The most permanent were about 30 to 40 people.

Idalia:  There weren't many people.  There were like 60:  there was cutting, packing"but afterwards the people got disillusioned because we were 2 months without receiving even five cents.

When was that?

Idalia: An exact date I can't tell you, but it was when I was about 6 months pregnant, when that happened.  We made a work stoppage.  I don't know what date it was but we hadn't been paid in 2 months. On June 24 I had my baby, so it was around March-April 2006, we made the work stoppage, and a lot people left because of it.  Left, and you know what disgusts me the most about Gilberto, is that when people go and ask their money—there are still people who are going to ask for their money—Gilberto would say to them that if there was any extra, he would give it to them"if when you came there asking him..look if something remains you pay me or I'll come to work for free. No, no I didn't came like that. If I work is because I have a need. And he was like that with people:  Look, come, if I have extra I'll pay you. No, no it's not fair.  With him making himself famous saying that he defends the rights of the workers, and he's the one that has most screwed us in a horrible way. That's the only thing I can tell you.

When the factory was closed in April 2 how many people were still working?

Idalia: when they closed there were 15 people.

The majority quit in January and March, of those that were left?  So, how many were there still working in January more or less?

Idalia:  In January the number decreased.  The people couldn't stand it any more, and there were few of us left. We were like 40 people. And with those 40 people they even made a vote. Gilberto came to speak as if we were children in kindergarten.  With a blackboard—that so-and-so was going to give this much aid.  Look, let's vote.  If we get out of this one, if the containers go out (of customs) we are going to pay you; 20 percent of the profits as you want, 20 percent of the profits.  Should we distribute it by [who makes] goals or should we give everybody 20 percent?  And we believing it all.  Yes, he made fools of us, he has made fools of us.  That's what he did.  Tell us those lies, and so we believed, and so we bore two years, believing:  I will make my 20% I said, and it was a lie.

The conditions inside the factory, apart from the treatment, and the overtime—was it well ventilated?  Were the bathrooms clean?  Was there paper?  Were there towels?  Was there soap?  How was it?

In the bathrooms there was never paper.  When there was a guy there, who was a trade unionist named Ruben, he was careful in seeing us, even just twice a day.  He used to  clean the bathrooms, because even the people who cleaned the bathrooms left.  Then he left,   After that weeks passed [without[ cleaning and you couldn't even go in.  They didn't clean them. 

How come visitors came and they told me they were clean?

Jackelyn:  Because they would mobilize.  Some girls who were friends of the union.  They would came in the mornings to clean the bathrooms.  But when nobody [no visitors] was coming —I was close to the bathrooms, in the afternoon you couldn't stand it. We spoke with them, but they answered they couldn't do anything because there was nobody to clean.

Original Transcript
Transcripcion en Español

 April 26, 2007

Conducted by: Mirla Caraval, lawyer for IDHUCA
Human Rights Institute of the University of Central America


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