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Guatemalan factory making Daisy Fuentes` clothing for US department store chain agrees to follow labor laws

Taiwan News  |  July 6, 2007  |  Share  |  Source article

Associated Press
2007-07-06 05:40 AM

A Guatemalan factory that makes some of Hispanic television personality Daisy Fuentes' clothing line for the Kohl's Corp. department store chain has agreed to make changes following allegations it was a sweatshop, a workers' rights group said Thursday.

The National Labor Committee issued a report on the Fribo clothing factory last month, saying workers told a related group that they are humiliated and forced to work unpaid overtime.

Kohl's pulled certain items from Fuentes' line from its stores and online marketer after learning of the allegations. P.A. Group LLC, the company that contracted the factory to make Fuentes' clothing, had said changes needed to be made before it would do business with it again.

After that, the factory in rural Santa Maria Cauque de Sacatepequez agreed to comply with labor laws, the NLC said. P.A. Group will renew its business with the factory and possibly add more once the changes are made, it said.

Fuentes' line of clothing, shoes and sleepwear is sold exclusively by Kohl's.

Kohl's, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, had stressed that it does not oversee production.

Kohl's spokeswoman Vicki Shamion said Thursday that the Fribo factory was not an approved facility but the company would consider it for future business if it came into compliance.

P.A. Group said it had nothing to add to its earlier comment that the allegations were a concern.

The NLC said the factory owner, a South Korean national, has agreed to weekly inspections by CEADEL, the Center for Studies and Support of Labor Development in Guatemala, which told NLC of the workers' complaints.

Workers had said they worked 60 hours or more a week, with up to 10 hours as unpaid overtime. They also said the factory does not pay into the government's social security fund, leaving the workers and their dependents without health care or pensions.

The factory owner also agreed to enroll workers in the social security system, NLC said, and will establish a system to track workers' hours to make sure they are fully paid for overtime and receive vacation benefits.

The factory's 500 workers, roughly 70 percent of whom are women, earn 90 cents to $1.12 an hour, said Charles Kernaghan, NLC's director.

Changes are already being made based on complaints from the 500 workers, the majority of them young women. He said toilet paper and purified water are now readily available, and managers have been warned to stop humiliating workers.

"At least this is a start," Kernaghan said.

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