October 2, 2003  |  Share

Sean John Setisa Report


October 2003

Click here to read an update on the SETISA case - Major turnaround at the factory

To read the testimony of a worker from this factory, click here.

Southeast Textiles, S.A. (SETISA)

Zip San Miguel (also referred to as Zoli Zip Honduras)
Building #14
Choloma, Cortes

Phone: (504) 669-0777 / 0992 / 0998
Fax: (504) 669-0995
E-mail: [email protected]


- U.S. owner: Steve Hawkins
- General Manager: Victor Darden
- Chiefs of Production: Delia Cruz and Perla Tamaran

Production: T-Shirts (majority of current production), Sweatshirts, Shorts, Industrial Laundry.
Number of Workers: Approximately 380 to 400
Structure: Southeast Textiles is composed of two buildings, with the "old plant" housing four industrial laundry machines, 17 dryers as well as the cutting, packing and warehouse departments. The "new plant" contains all of the facility's 15 production lines, with 15 to 18 sewers each.


Current production is for Sean John (Sean "P. Diddy" Combs clothing line) and Rocawear (co-founded by rap-artist Jay-Z). In September through early October 2003, approximately 80 percent of total factory production was for the Sean John label, which were multi-colored red, yellow and gray sweatshirts (SJ6 Ski Division). The sweatshirts, which retail for $50, should begin appearing in outlets like Bloomingdales in the first week in November. The remaining 20 percent of production, long-sleeved t-shirts, is for

Production for Nautica and Timberland is scheduled to begin in late October.

Prior to September, the Sean John label was being sewn on five production lines, accounting for some 33 percent of total factory production, the largest percentage of any label. Men's sweatshirts and t-shirts were being sewn. Following Sean John, GAP's Old Navy label was being sewn on four assembly lines, accounting for 27 percent of total production. Old Navy's production also consisted of men's t-shirts and sweatshirts invarious colors. Polo Sport was being sewn on three lines, Nautica on two and Gear on one. In the past, it appears that the SETISA factory also produced collegiate logo apparel for Smith College.


 Sean John label  
Rocawear label
 Sean John label  
Sean John label
 Sean John label  Sean John labels


Rocawear label



(In August, auditors for Timberland toured the plant and certified the SETISA factory as meeting all the standards contained in Timberland's corporate Code of Conduct. For some unknown reason, Timberland's auditors failed to notice the filthy drinking water, the locked bathrooms, mandatory overtime, the harsh and abusive treatment by supervisors, mandatory pregnancy tests, the blatant, illegal failure to inscribe workers in the national Social Security healthcare system, and the complete denial of freedom of association and the right to organize.)

SETISA Workers Ask for Solidarity
""here we are, as if trapped by those people (the American owners)
" all we are doing is defending our rights.
We ask that the American people listen to the plea of the Hondurans."

When you complain, they grab you like this by the shoulder and they yell into your ear. And they tell you that you cannot complain because we have our rights and you just shut up...

We are alone, really, we have no support.

We're hoping you will support us.

All the people do is work there. If they make a demand what the supervisor or manager of production tells you is that there are the gates, wide open. They don't tell you that you will be compensated.

If you could say something to, say, the students at Smith College in the United States — you make some clothing at this factory, you make t-shirts that go to college students at Smith College — what would you like to say back to those students, what would you like to, would you like to ask for help?

Well, what we ask for, what we ask of the students that use the t-shirts is that they give us some support because in Honduras there have been abuses, factory closures, firing workers without rights to anything. What we ask of them is that they give us benefits, that they not leave us without rights to anything because of the suffering that we have experienced at the maquila — they leave us without rights. We only ask them that — all we are doing is defending our rights — we ask that they listen to the plea of the Hondurans.

So you would ask them to put pressure on the companies to respect their rights?


Anyone else want to say something?

Well, we ask the students that are buying our products that they support us because the truth is that we are very much affected in regard to the companies because they are being closed and the truth is that we need their support because without their support we will not be able to move forward and be in a better position.

So, would you want us to put pressure on the company from the United States?

Yes. Of course we do. We need all the support. Those of us who are fired and not inside the company, we need support, since the very support that we are getting needs to be spread to other parks so that we can get work in other parks. The same ten that are fired are not working in another company because we are waiting for our rights - that we go look for work in other companies and that they give us work, that they not blacklist us so that we are not given work because of the union.

Is there anything you want to say to the students or the American people?

That we wait for a positive response on their part towards us.

That they support us because here we are as if trapped by those people. What we want is that they support us, help us because we need their help.

  • Hours: Mandatory 11 to 12 hour daily shifts, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. five and six days a week / No overtime pay / At the extreme, workers could be at the factory 61 to 69 1/2 hours a week.
  • Wages: Sewers earn 75 to 98 cents an hour, or $33.15 to $50.18, for an average 51-hour workweek.
  • Excessively high production goals: A worker must sew 36.4 Sean John sweatshirts each day, or 4.2 per hour, and one every 14.4 minutes. Each worker must sew 57.4 long-sleeved Sean John or Rocawear t-shirts each day, or 6.53 per hour, and one every 9.18 minutes. For short-sleeved t-shirts carrying various labels, a worker must sew 160 t-Shirts a day, or 18.29 per hour, completing one t-shirt every 3 1/4 minutes. Workers cannot leave the factory until their production goal is completed. Supervisors stand over the workers, screaming and cursing at them to go faster. Workers can be suspended for three days or more, without pay, for failing to reach their production goal.
  • Workers earn just 24 cents for each $50 Sean John sweatshirt they sew; 15 cents for each $40 long sleeved t-shirt they sew for Sean John or Rocawear, and just five cents for each short-sleeved t-shirt they sew. Wages amount to less than one-half of one percent of the retail price.
  • Mandatory pregnancy tests, women testing positive are immediately fired.
  • In what is an extremely serious violation, the SETISA company has not inscribed its employees in the country's Social Security Health Care system, which is mandatory for all companies.
  • Workers need permission to use the bathroom, and must present a 'toilet pass' stamped by a supervisor to the security guard at the toilet.
  • Body searches: Guards search the workers when they enter or leave the factory.
  • Speaking is prohibited.
  • Drinking water is filthy, containing fecal matter. Also, access to drinking water is
    monitored and limited: Workers drinking "too much" water are called to the office and given a warning. If repeated, they will be punished.
  • Workers report suffering from repetitive motion wrist and back injuries.
  • Corporate audits a farce: Visits are known in advance. The factory is cleaned. Soap and toilet paper are put in the bathrooms. Workers are coached and threatened to lie, instructed to tell the auditors that factory conditions and treatment are good and that all their benefits are paid. Anyone saying negative things regarding factory conditions will be fired. 
  • Denial of freedom of association/atmosphere of intimidation and fear: The plant's production manager, Delia Cruz, constantly threatens the workers that if they dare attempt to organize, "the Company will close, we'll go out of the country, and you will be left with nothing." In June and August, 15 workers suspected by the company of organizing were fired. The reason given was a drop in orders. However, the company immediately hired new people—this time temps, who lack any legal rights, hired for just two months at a time. Workers in the plant are frightened. They want their rights, but they cannot afford to be fired and blacklisted with impunity.

The workers feel they have no voice and are in a trap.

Human Rights Ombudsman of Honduras
Dr. Ramon Custodio
Speaks about the injustices at the SETISA factory

Charles Kernaghan: In the Setisa factory, the workers are not inscribed in the Social Security Health Care System. This has been going on for two years. Is this illegal?

Dr. Ramon Custodio: This is illegal, a violation of the law because every worker should
have the protection of Social Security. Since the workers have the right to Social Security anywhere they work, there should not be any exception. The owners of any factory, or installation where the workers do not have a guarantee to their Social Security, is operating under illegal conditions.

Kernaghan: This is a t-shirt made in the Setisa Factory, which retails in the U.S. for
$29.50, yet the workers are paid just five cents to make it.

Dr.Custodio: Well that is another one of the situations that we should pay attention to
because the workers should be better paid, to have a better living, and a better chance of education and for their families to live better. And this violates our constitution because everyone should have a salary according to what he or she produces. If this t-shirt has such a big value, almost $30, that means that their salaries should be proportional to the price.

This is how you build up rich people on the poverty of the majority.

Kernaghan: The maquila workers in Honduras told us that their lives have not improved over the past four or five years. "No", they say, "we're at the same place we were five years ago".

Dr. Custodio: The standard of living for the workers is really deteriorating and it is one
of the things that our governments do — to negotiate in order to make it cheaper and cheaper for the one who is getting the best part of the pie.

Kernaghan: Would you comment on the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas?

Dr. Custodio: Yes, it seems to me, that in this game the owners of the plants have all
the rights and the workers have non. That has to be corrected. It is a matter of justice and fairness.

Kernaghan: The workers showed us what they call "toilet passes," because they need
permission to use the bathroom.

Dr. Custodio: That means that the human physiology has to be submissive to the
authoritarian, and I will say, illegal mandate of anyone who is the supervisor.

Kernaghan: Do you see a role that the people in the U.S. can play as consumers, as
supporters of human rights?

Dr. Custodio: We come back to the point that those consumers in the U.S. should
demand ethical conditions for the workers who produce the clothing you wear, so that these garments are clean of exploitation, and the humiliation where the owners demand silence and no kind of protest is allowed from the workers. At the high price of these garments is included the poverty and the misery of the workers that produced them.

Kernaghan: The workers in Honduras told us that their factory managers are now
saying to them that: "You're going to have to work harder and longer for lower wages because there are 1,000 workers in China ready to take each of your jobs".

Dr. Custodio: Well, it seems to me that they are using the poor people in China against the poor people in Latin America and by that game, which is unethical, they are earning more than ever before. So, in order for the investors and owners of those factories to get richer and richer the people of the poor developing countries have to become poorer and poorer, and more miserable.

SETISA workers report working from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
every day—with no overtime pay.

And what are your hours?

From 7:00 to 4:45" You get in at 7:00. A recess of 15 minutes at 8:45. Lunch time at 12:45. You get off at 12 and until 12:45.

And any break in the afternoon?

In the afternoon, one gets out from Monday to Thursday at 4:45.

But is there a break in the afternoon?


And Fridays?

On Fridays to 3:45.

And do you always get out at 4:45?

When there is no production that is the normal hour. But when there is production you always get out at least around 6:30.

And what does that mean? You have to stay to meet your quota or you have to do extra work?

No. Meeting the quota.

So you can work from 7 o'clock in the morning to 6:30 p.m. to reach the quota?


And you are not paid overtime?


And how often does this happen? Once a week?

No, daily.

And what about on Saturdays? Do you work on Saturdays ever?


Workers Without A Voice And Trapped

On May 17, one of the sewing operators tried to ask the plant's production manager, Ms. Delia Cruz, a question regarding their wages. Her production line felt they were working at 100 percent efficiency, and reaching their production goal, and yet they were still just earning the base wage. She wanted to know why. Delia Cruz grabbed the woman by the throat, shaking her and screaming that she was the boss here"that the workers had no right to ask any questions. She was the boss and would pay what she wanted. (Steve Hawkins, the owner, has brought people from the Philippines to staff many of the supervisory positions, including that of production chief, Delia Cruz.)

The workers at the SETISA factory say they have no voice. The minute you raise a question, the response is always the same: "If you don't like what we do here then the gates are open and you are free to go." If a worker persists, for example, questioning the amount which they received for their 13 th month Christmas bonus, which is mandatory for the company to pay, she is first suspended without pay, and then fired.Supervisors stand over the operators constantly pressuring and yelling at them to work faster, cursing at them: "Bitch" you eat shit" go to hell."

Management discriminates against "older" workers. "Since everything in the factory is based on production," the workers explain, "they want you to produce like a young person, and if you can't, well they manufacture a way to get rid of you."

There are mandatory pregnancy tests when you enter the factory and two months later, and if you test positive you are immediately fired.

Illegally the SETISA workers are not insured in the country's Social Security Health Care System, so they and their children must go without any health care protection.

Workers need permission — they must get a 'toilet pass' — to use the bathroom. Speaking during working hours is prohibited. The drinking water is filthy and unsafe. Workers "wasting too much time" drinking water are called to the office and given a warning.

The production manager Cruz often calls workers to her office. Closing the door behind them, the interrogation begins, questioning anyone she even remotely suspects might be interested in organizing a union. Delia Cruz claims she has "a list" of union people. She tells the workers over and over again, if you form a union: "The company will close, we'll leave the country, and you will be left with nothing."

Sometimes workers are called to her office over the plant's public address system, marking them as 'trouble makers' in front of all the workers.

Then toward the end of June, 10 workers were fired. The company said they had to reduce their workforce due to a drop in orders. However, the company was not losing work, and in fact is right now hiring new workers. The company is bringing in temporary workers, hiring them for two months, and then either getting rid of them, or if they are fast, are re-hiring them for another two months. (In the first two months workers have no legal rights and no benefits.)

The workers suspect they were spied on, since all 10 workers fired were leaders involved in a clandestine organizing effort. Fifty-four workers had decided to join the organizing campaign. Then, in the beginning of August, five more of the leading union activists were fired.

Now the workers are even more intimidated and afraid. As the fired unionists explain: "We workers are afraid. We don't want to lose our jobs. More and more the workers feel like they can't fight back asking for their rights, since all they get is fired, and fired with nothing, no severance, nothing."

The workers feel like they are in a trap. The Ministry of Labor, they say, "does not help the workers, and supports the companies. And besides, there is a lot of corruption." Any way you look at it, it is a catch-22 situation. Ministry of Labor inspectors will not come to the factory without first being paid gas money, which the workers cannot afford. On the other hand, for the worker to go to the Ministry, she needs permission from her boss, which she never gets. When the fired workers went to the Ministry of Labor for a hearing regarding proper payment of their severance, SETISA management simply did not show up, and the case had to be postponed. The company will do this again and again, hoping the workers will give up and leave without the legal severance.

The fired unionists, who are now prohibited from entering the San Miguel Free Trade Zone, fear they will be blacklisted. The companies communicate with one another, and blacklists are in fact common.

The SETISA workers, who have produced collegiate-logo apparel, have never heard of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), or the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), and they have no idea what the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) is. They have no idea whatsoever that any people in the U.S., who purchase the clothing they make, stop for even one second to think of or care about them.

Stories like this one are being replicated dozen of times all across Central America, as the maquila companies unleash a fierce anti-union campaign to rid their factories of unions, and roll back any labor rights gains — and any voice — the workers may have won.

Still, despite everything, the SETISA workers intend to go forward with their struggle for justice and their rights. They would love to receive solidarity and support from the American people.

The workers say they want a union so they can win their right to Social Security healthcare, to be paid correctly for their overtime hours, to end the humiliation of having to ask for "toilet passes," and to have a voice in dealing with the daily problems that arise at the factory, rather than being shouted down and suspended every time they try to raise a point.

In short, the workers explain, "we want respect. We want to be treated as human beings."

U.S. SETISA Company Fired Workers
For Daring to Ask for their Rights.
If workers organize,
the U.S. owner says he will shut the plant down.

Well, I've been working here four years and five months and we decided to form the union for the benefit of all -because knowing the mistreatment that they themselves brought upon us — the Philippinos — here in Honduras because of the bathroom passes, the infirmary passes, the mistreatment, the bad wages — we decided to form a union to give everyone a better standard of living.

And it was like we committed a great error — that they don't allow us to enter the park, they keep us outside. They don't allow us to enter the cafeteria.

"The ten that were fired got fired under Article 118 and 112.

Do you think it is related to the union or is the factory losing work?

Something having to do with the union.

Look, there are people that are not quiet when they are called to human resources and there are certain people that deny everything, but there are other people that talk.

So, that's to say, those that have been fired are the leaders - those on the board. Only the board has been fired - so the union won't be brought in, but I still want to move forward.

And if the workers did have the right to organize at the factory, would most of the workers want to belong to a union or not?


Yes because they fired me and if they were to reinstate me once again at work, I would always be like a leader, like a head of a union so that there would be benefits for all of the employees that are in the factory.

We are forming one.

What is the attitude of the company?

They called me up and told me, they told me that if we acted to introduce a union into the factory they were going to close and leave.

And who told you that?

Well, Delia called me and another human resource manager. That is, they took me behind closed doors and asked me . . . there she told me, she tells me, "Tell me one thing," she says. "Is it true that there is a union?" She tells me. "I don't know," I told her. Later she tells me, "Yes you know," she said, "You are a member of the union." "No." I tell her. "Yes," she says, "we have a list of the members." So I told her, "Show me please," I told her. She told me, "No, I can't." So I tell her, "But if you have a list, who is giving you the information? And if you are asking around, ask the informant because I don't know."

And has that happened to anyone else?

So she told me, she tells me, "You know, you are going to be left begging on the streets." I told her, "No because you cannot do that." So she told me, she says, "Yes, because Mister Steve said that if you introduce a union here, all of us are out, we are all left with nothing." Because she says that Steve does not even have money here in Honduras or nothing. She says that the machinery belongs to the bank, so we cannot confiscate it or anything. [The Honduran government has a legal right to take possession of company assets, like machinery, should a company fail to meet its legal responsibilities towards its workers for back wages, severance pay and other benefits. If a company rents its machinery there is little guarantee that workers will be compensated appropriately.]

And has she said this to anyone else?

Well, to others, to other co-workers, but since they quit . . .

And they pick people and speak to them or even the assistant manager arrives to tell them directly, for example, if I am here and you are there, they tell you, "The manager is calling you," in the ear. And so there is when they tell you. Also, the machinery that the factory has, the major part of it, because being myself I went investigating in some parts about the machines from mechanics that were my friends, right, and the major part of this machinery is loaned — that is, rented.

And the machines that belong to the company are few.

So do you think you'll succeed at the factory with a union? Or what's going to happen?


Of course yes.

We have hope.

There at the factory, there are rumors that Mister Steve that — if we introduce the union what he will do is close the factory and then that's that.


Fired Activists Immediately Replaced by Temporary Workers with No Legal Rights, Who are Fired and Re-hired Every Two Months.

And when you were fired, did they rehire other workers or is the factory actually losing work?


They rehired other workers?


And what kind of a contract did they give those workers?

They give them a contract after they finish two months — if they pass the test.

The most they give them is a month and a half of work.

So they just use them and throw them out after two months?

Yes, they fire them.

And they use that to not pay benefits.

They rehire them for another two months later.

After they get two months, they get another two months.

And what does it mean they don't have to pay benefits? In other words, they don't get vacations or holidays.

Yes, they only work two months and there they have no rights to vacations, nothing.

Yes, because of the way the law is set up that while you don't go over two months on the job, you do not have rights to anything.

And in addition, there is a thing that if an employee enters, for example, on Monday, in four days if they do not want to stay longer than 6 p.m., the hours that they say, they are removed and told that outside there are many people that really want to work.

And they shoo them away, "Get out of here, get out of here! We don't need you! Get out of here! Get out of here!" Like they are an object.

So overtime is obligatory?

Practically. Yes.

There are new workers that enter in the morning, work all day, and they don't pay them anything.

They only pay four days.

If they enter Monday, they do not pay them Monday nor the seventh. Only from then on.

And how many workers in the factory do they know or think are on this temporary two month?

They are always there.

There are many.

Now that the cost of living is high there are many.

Right now, more than the major part of it (the workers) is temporary.

And the Ministry of Labor, can they help, will they help you?


The Honduran labor Ministry is there to support the companies.

The Ministry here, of Honduras, is in favor of the companies, not the employee.

But since here in Honduras there is a need for money, sometimes one notices that they side with the money.

There is a lot of corruption.


SETISA Activists Are Blacklisted

"We are also asking the institutions to help us unify, that when we create a union we commit a benefit that will benefit all working at the factory, but today the abuses are taking place — they fire us and we are being blacklisted so that we cannot get jobs - when you seek a benefit."

"Yes, because that which is filed in the computer, for example, if I go look for work in another factory I am filed, I am blacklisted and they tell me 'yes', but the next day, when I go in for the interview they tell me 'no' because . . . the same, being filed - the company does not allow me to work."

"We the Hondurans need you because we are not going to be able to find employment in any place because they are in communication — the companies. We never intended to form a union to be blacklisted, but to be able to defend our rights. To be able to have benefits so that our children can grow up well."


Hours: 9 3/4 to 12 hour daily shifts, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:45 or 7:00 p.m., five and six days a week / Mandatory overtime without overtime pay.
The regular shift at the SETISA factory is from 7:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., 9 3/4 hours, Monday through Thursday, with an 8 3/4 hour shift on Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. There are two breaks during the day, one for 15 minutes at 8:45 a.m. and another for lunch is 45 minutes, from 12:00 noon to 12:45 p.m. Under this schedule, the workers are at the factory nearly 48 hours a week, while being paid for 44 hours. This fits with the regular legal workweek in Honduras, which is 44 hours.

The workers object to the factory gates being locked at 6:55 a.m. and not 7:00 a.m. Anyone arriving even a minute late will lose two days' wages—the day they were locked out and their Seventh Day attendance bonus.

At the SETISA factory, everything functions according to production. Management sets daily production goals, and it is mandatory that the workers remain until their goal, or target, is met.

In practice then, the actual shift— and the workers say this is "permanent," that is, it happens every day —stretches from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00, 6:30 or 7:00 p.m., making it a mandatory daily shift of 11 to 12 hours. On Fridays, the typical shift is from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or 10 hours, but it is not unheard of to be kept working until 6:30 p.m.

When the weekly production target is still not met, there are mandatory 5-hour shifts on Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. When large orders come in, there are also occasional Sunday shifts from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 or 4:00 p.m.

On average then, the workers are at the factory 56 to 61 hours a week, while being paid for 51 to 55 hours. When there are mandatory Sunday shifts, the workers can be at the factory up to 70 hours a week.

When the workers are forced to work on Saturday and Sunday, the company provides them with a free lunch. However, if they are not reaching their goals, or if there are too many defects, the lunch is taken away.

It is important to note that the seven to 11 hours of mandatory overtime each week are not paid according to the legal overtime rate, but rather as straight time. Whether it is overtime or not, the workers get paid according to the same production standard, a piece rate.

On Fridays the workers are supposed to be paid and let out at 3:45 p.m. One way the company keeps the workers for overtime until they reach their production goal is simply to withhold their pay until the target is reached, at 5:00, 6:00, or 6:30 p.m.

Typical Working Hours
(11 1/2 hour shift)
 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., work (1 3/4 hours)
 8:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., break (15 minutes)
 9:00 a.m. to noon, work (3 hours)
 12:00 noon to 12:45 p.m., lunch (45 minutes)
 12:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., work (5 3/4 hours)

Wages: Sewing operators earn 75 to 98 cents an hour, or $33.15 to $50.18, for an average 51-hour workweek.
If the workers reach their high production goals, and have perfect attendance and punctuality, they can earn, at most, approximately 872 lempiras a week, or $50.18. Since, in practice, the average workweek is 51 hours, the wage comes to ninety-eight cents an hour.

When there is not a lot of production, or if a worker cannot stay for the mandatory overtime, then her wage drops back to the base wage of seventy-five cents an hour, or $33.15 a week.

Base Wage
(when there is not a lot of production or
the worker fails to reach their goal)

      75 cents an hour
      $6.03 a day (8 hours)
      $33.15 a week (44 hours)
      $143.66 a month
        $1,723.12 a year

Highest Sewer's Wage
(when production goals are reached every
day, which is quite rare) 
98 cents an hour
$10.29 a day (10 1/2 hours)
$50.18 a week (51 hours)
$217.45 a month
$2,609.36 a year

After reviewing a number of pay stubs, it would appear that the average wage at SETISA is $44.85 a week, or approximately 90 cents an hour. This average wage would include the base wage, overtime work, attendance and production bonuses, as well as a bus allowance. A worker reaching her production goal every day can earn a bonus of up to 300 lempiras a week, or $17.25. However, it is rare that workers reach their goals every day, so the actual production bonus ranges from 100 lempiras, $5.75, up to 300 lempiras. Also the sewers will receive a free lunch on Fridays, that is, if they reach their goals Monday through Thursday. If they miss a single day, the free lunch is taken away, and more importantly, their production bonus, or wage, drops.

As mentioned earlier, the workers do not receive the legal overtime wage. For example, when the workers are forced to work on Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., they are paid just 60 lempiras for the day, or $3.45. This is even below the legal minimum wage of 82.30 lempiras, or $4.73 a day, for regular hours. Under Honduran law, overtime must be paid at least at 25 percent premium above the regular wage. So the SETISA workers should be paid at least 102.88 lempiras, $5.92, for the eight hours of overtime work, and not the $3.45 they received. The workers are being shortchanged $2.46, or 42 percent, of the legal overtime wage owed them.

Average Wage
(includes base wage, overtime, attendance
and production bonuses and bus allowance)

90 cents an hour
$9.45 a day (10 1/2 hours)
45 dollars a week (50 hours)
$195.00 a month
$2,340.00 a year

The company has also started to deduct 4.26 lempiras, or 24 cents, each week from the workers' wages to pay for the small cleaning brushes they use to clean their sewing machines. Normally companies supply these brushes and do not charge the workers.

Fastest SETISA sewers earn an average of 85 to 89 cents an hour

A six-month review of pay stubs, from February through July 2003, for one of the fastest SETISA sewers, shows weekly wages ranging from $25.00 to $52.32. This woman sewed Nautica, Gear, and Gap. Her average wage was $42.06 a week, and 89 cents an hour, for a 47.5-hour workweek. The weekly wages vary according to the size of the orders or amount of production which must be completed; the amount of mandatory overtime demanded; the speed of the worker; and whether a new style is being introduced which is more difficult—certainly at the outset—to sew. At the SETISA factory, when there are large orders, the sewers are forced towork an average of seven unpaid overtime hours a week. Some weeks the workers are forced to work up to 12 hours of unpaid overtime.

Note that these pay stubs, illegally, show no deduction for the National Social Security Health Care System. SETISA has not inscribed its workers into the Social Security System, which is a very serious violation of Honduran law.

A typical pay stub for this woman (worker #1) would be for the week of July 14 — 20, 2003. Her base wage was 59 cents an hour, or $26.03 for the week. However, her Seventh Day's pay, or attendance bonus, added $7.10 to her weekly pay, and 16 cents an hour. This brought her weekly pay to $33.13, and 75 cents an hour. Her production bonus, or incentive, added 236.61 lempiras, or $13.61, to her weekly wage, or approximately 27 cents an hour. This brought her total weekly wage to $46.74. To earn this level wage meant there had to be a great deal of production at the plant, requiring the workers to stay for at least seven hours of overtime. So this woman would have been required to work at least a 51-hour week, while being paid 92 cents an hour. As pointed out above, her average for the six month period was 89 cents an hour, and she was among the highest paid sewers in the factory.


SETISA pay stub



A review of July and August 2003 pay stubs for another very fast sewer shows an average weekly wage of $40.61, and 85 cents an hour, for an average 47.5 hour workweek. This worker also sewed garments for Nautica, and Gear.
(see full list of paystubs at the end of the report)

SETISA Workers Discuss Their Wages
Wages do not meet basic needs/ no one has any saving/ workers must borrow to survive/ no improvement in the last three or four years.

And what are you paid?

The normal wage is 576. ($33.12)

And what do you make with production?

872. ($50.14)

If you make the production?

That is, making quota the five days.

Making quota the five days is impossible . . . but on making it one or two days that does not meet our needs.

So they will pay somewhere less than 872?


And the wages, the U.S. companies say the wages might not sound good for the United States, but for Honduras these wages are good wages. Is that true? Are the wages adequate?

No because the wage that we receive do not meet our needs.

The wage buys only one t-shirt.

The t-shirts are probably sold at a high cost.

Yes, because they pay them in dollars and they give us money in lempiras.

So, the wages, are the wages adequate as the U.S. companies say they are for Honduras? Is that true?


It does not meet our needs. The 500 lempiras ($28.75) that we receive per week effectively pay only our food.

And we also have to pay rent. And pay someone to take care of our kids while we work.

What does child-care cost?

150. ($8.63)

200 ($11.50), there are some that charge 200.

For each child. And I have three or four — I don't like it.

What does rent cost?

580 ($33.35) to 800 ($46.00), the least expensive is 550 ($31.63) monthly.

There are some that cost 1000 lempiras ($57.50) per month.

And how many people have savings accounts?


Nobody, are you kidding, it doesn't meet our needs. [The young man tilts back his head and snickers at the question.]

Nobody can save up.

We are lost.

Do you have to borrow money each week to purchase food?


Yes, loaned. Seeing how we are right now, without work, waiting for our money, we are falling into debt — waiting for the money to pay.

Pawning our belongings.

One keeps saying, someday they will give me the money to get out of this situation.

Look, here in Honduras what happens is that the person that earns the most works the least - the people that come from the U.S. to produce — they earn good money or the Philippinos.

They are paid well and we receive the least.Yes, the Philippinos, the mechanics, because they are mechanics and Pearl, the person that manages all of the sections and the quality person - all the Philippinos are paid in dollars. Not in lempiras, but in dollars.

And when they look over the last few years, say, the last three or four years, are you better now, are you better off now working in the factory than you were three or four years ago?

Always the same.

The same. 4 years I have worked. 4 years and 6 months.



Production at the SETISA factory is organized according to assembly lines, or modules. For example, Sean John sweatshirts are produced on an assembly line made up of 33 sewing operators. On the other hand, long-sleeved Sean John and Rocawear t-shirts are produced in a module made up of 21 workers—16 sewers, two manual workers or helpers and three inspectors. Management then sets an arbitrary daily production goal which each line or module must meet. The production goal is not negotiable.

For Sean John sweatshirts, the daily production goal required of each assembly line of 33 workers is 1,200 sweatshirts in the regular 8 3/4 hours of work. (The regular 9 3/4 hour shift from 7:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., minus an hour for lunch and a brief morning break.) In effect, this means that each worker is sewing 36.4 sweatshirts a day, or 4.2 an hour, which amounts to completing one sweatshirt every 14.4 minutes. (1,200 sweatshirts ÷ 33 workers = 36.36 per day; 36.36 ÷ 8.75 hours = 4.155/hour; 60 minutes ÷ 4.155 = 14.4 minutes/sweatshirt.)

The pace is relentless. Supervisors actually stand over the workers, pressuring them to go faster. For even appearing tired, a worker can be taken to the personnel office where she will be 'written-up' and a warning will go into her record.

Supervisors curse at the workers to go faster, shouting at them: "You eat shit," "Bitch," "Go to Hell," "Son-of-a-bitch." The treatment is rude and offensive. Also, everyone knows that they can be suspended without pay for three days for failing to reach their production goals.

On the other hand, despite the relentless pace, a worker must be very careful not to make a mistake. If a piece of clothing is damaged, the company can withhold 100 lempiras, or $5.75, from your pay. If you were earning the base wage, this would be nearly a full day's pay. If it happens again, you will be suspended for three to five days without pay.

Sean John and Rocawear long-sleeved t-shirts are produced in modules with 21 workers each, and their daily production goal is also to sew 1,200 t-shirts in the regular 8.75-hour shift. In effect, each worker must sew 57.14 t-shirts a day, or 6.53 per hour, which means they must complete one long-sleeved t-shirt every 9.188 minutes.

To assemble basic t-shirts, the module is made up of 15 workers. It is only if the particular style calls for an additional top stitch in the neck or other such details, that more workers will be added.

Management sets a daily production goal at 200 dozen, or 2,400 t-shirts, for each module per 8 3/4 hour shift. The 2,400 unit daily production goal remains the same for all the various t-shirt labels.

Some of the steps involved in sewing a t-shirt include: sewing the bottom hem on the shirt, closing the sleeve, sewing the hem on the sleeve, sewing—or closing—the shoulders, attaching the neck, sewing the neck hem, sewing the top stitch and attaching the labels, attaching the arms, attaching the support—or ribbon— inside the shirt, and inspection. Two to three people will be involved in attaching the sleeves, and working on the various neck operations, and for inspection. In total, as noted, there are 15 —and sometimes up to 18—workers involved in assembling the t-shirt.

As each 15-member module must complete 2,400 t-shirts per day, this means, in effect, that each operator must sew 160 t-shirts a day, or 18.29 shirts per hour, finishing one t-shirt every 3 1/4 minutes (3 minutes and 17 seconds).

Workers earn just 24 cents for each $50 Sean John Sweatshirt they sew, and 15 cents for each $40 t-shirt. Workers' wages amount to less than one-half of one percent of the shirts' retail price.

We know that the workers can earn a top wage of 98 cents an hour—that is, if they consistently fulfill their production goals every day of the week. In reality, very few sewers are able to earn this top wage.

However, even assuming this highest wage of 98 cents an hour, we can determine that the workers are paid just 24 cents for each $50 Sean John sweatshirt they sew. We have seen that in effect, each worker must sew 36.4 sweatshirts in the 8.75-hour regular shift, or 4.2 sweatshirts per hour. At 98 cents an hour, this means the workers are paid 24 cents for each sweatshirt they sew. ($0.98 ÷ 4.155 sweatshirts = $0.24 per shirt.) This means the workers' wages amount to a little less than one-half of one percent of the sweatshirts' retail price. ($0.23586 ÷ $50 = 0.0047172)

For the long-sleeved Sean John and Rocawear t-shirts, the workers earn 15 cents for each shirt they sew, which means that here too, their wages amount to only 4/10ths of one percent of the shirts' $40 retail price. ($0.98/hour ÷ 6.53 t-shirts/hour = $0.15; $0.15 ÷ $40 = 0.00375.)

Similarly, if we once again assume the highest wage of 98 cents an hour, we can conclude that the SETISA workers are paid just five cents for each short-sleeved shirt they sew for the various labels, including Old Navy and Nautica. ($0.98/hour ÷ 18.29 shirts/hour = $0.05358).

For t-shirts selling at retail in the U.S. for $10 to $20, this would mean that the workers' wages amount to only 3/10ths to 5/10ths of one percent of the retail price. (.05/20 = .0025; .05/10 = .005)

The workers feel that their wages are not just. "With the price of just one t-shirt," they explain, "they can pay our whole salary. It is not fair." And, in fact, the workers are right. One t-shirt will retail in the U.S. for at least $10, while the workers in Honduras must sew 160 t-shirts a day just to earn $9.45 for 10 1/2 hours of very strenuous work.

The workers also explain that their wages are not adequate to survive on. Everyone had to borrow money each week in order to survive. No one had any savings. Their rent costs 550 to 600 lempiras a month, or $31.65 to $46.03, which comes to $7.30 to $10.62 a week. Child-care costs 150 to 200 lempiras a week for each child, or $8.63 to $11.56. Basic food necessities cost on average 500 lempiras, or $28.77 a week. Even their very partial expenses total $44.70 to $50.90 a week, and we have not even begun to consider expenses for travel to work, lunch,school fees, clothing, doctors, medicines, etc.

The consensus among the workers was that even after working four, five, or even six years in the maquila factories, nothing in their lives had changed. They had not moved forward. Financially they were trapped in the same poverty and day-to-day, hand to mouth existence that they were in five years ago.

  • Mandatory pregnancy tests: Upon entering the factory, and again after two months, women employees must undergo mandatory pregnancy tests. If they test positive, they are immediately fired. Men are also tested for HIV, anemia, diabetes, etc. and are fired if they test positive.
  • Illegally, workers are not inscribed in the Social Security Health Care System: The SETISA workers are not inscribed in the country's Social Security Health Care System, which means that neither they nor their children can use the free Social Security clinics. It is unclear how the SETISA management can openly get away with such a serious and blatant violation of Honduras' law.

For the last three years, beginning in 2000, the SETISA factory has not paid any of the mandatory fees, required by law, which it owes to the National Security Institute. Nor has the company deducted the Social Security fee from the workers' wages. In 1999, the workers were inscribed in the Social Security Institute Health Care System.

The factory does have a small clinic, with a doctor present from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. each morning. A nurse is present for the rest of the day, although oddly enough, after 3:00 p.m., she relocates to the personnel office where workers are afraid to go. If the factory clinic prescribes medicines, unlike the social security system, the workers have to purchase them, which is often prohibitively expensive.

If a worker's child gets sick, she has no option but to borrow money to go to the doctor.

Workers charged for damaged fabric

And is it hard work? Or is it easy to reach the quota?

No, it is difficult because sometimes the cloth comes with too many oil stains and all that, so we can't finish.

There are other problems with the factory. Like when one is producing at 100%, at times, one can damage a piece (of fabric) and they charge you for it.

If you damage a piece, they charge you for it?

Yes, they charge you.

For example, if you damage a sleeve, how much do they charge you?

They charge you a percentage as punishment. The punishment is that you end up earning 202 lempiras ($11.62) for the two days and that is the damage that they inflict on us.

Three days of punishment.

For some others, they take off 100 weekly from the pay.


100 weekly. They adjust your pay when you cut pieces (of fabric) during production.

They discount 100 in the week?

Yes, they discount it from the pay.

When you damage a piece?

When you damage a piece.


SETISA Workers Are Illegally Denied Social Security Health Care

And you said something about social security, social security, by law the companies have to belong to the social security healthcare system.


And you don't have it?


The former owners of the factory left without paying thousands and the owner right now has not paid it. And because of him there is no security. He should have paid all of the money. The name of the previous factory was Organic.



So you cannot go to a social security hospital or clinic?

No. If we get a medical order not to work they do not want to pay it there.

So if a doctor says that you need to take two days off for strep throat or sickness, you don't get paid by the company?

No, it's a constant struggle. If you go to the infirmary it is the same with the pain — they always give the same pill.

There is an infirmary in the factory?

Yes. And to go to the infirmary one has to ask the supervisor for a pass. So that they can give you one pill, nothing more.

And do they have medicines at the infirmary?

No. Sometimes. The doctor only gives you a prescription and if you do not have money one has to go look elsewhere. Because the factory does not want to make a good price.

And medicine, can you afford the medicine? Or is it too expensive?

They are too expensive. That depends on the prescription. They are expensive because when my pressure went down, I fainted from the heat, and they gave me a prescription and it cost 97 lempiras ($5.58).



SETISA bathroom pass


  • Need permission to use the bathroom: Workers need to receive a 'toilet pass' from their supervisors, which they must present to the security guard at the bathroom. Without it, they cannot enter the toilet. The guards also search the workers before they enter the toilet. This means that when the supervisor is away from the line at a meeting, no one can use the toilet. The guard is also in charge of disbursing toilet paper, which the workers comment, is never enough.
 Worker needs a "toilet pass" to use the bathroom.
Security guards refuse to provide adequate toilet paper.

So you need permission to use the bathroom?

To go to the bathroom one has to ask for a pass and if you don't have the pass they don't let you enter.

But if you don't take the pass who is the one that prevents you from entering?

The guard.

And who do you get the pass from?

The supervisor. Yes. They give very little toilet paper. Only two turns. The guard is in charge.

This is the paper that they give to go to the bathroom. This. See? [She holds up what
appears to be three or four squares of one-ply toilet paper.] This is what they give us and I brought it. You know what they tell us? You know what they told us when I told them that this paper is too little? That we hassled them too much because I told them that it was not enough So they told me why didn't we buy a roll if we wanted enough.


  • Body searches: Guards search the workers each time they enter or leave the plant. On the way in, they are looking for candy or anything else, which might soil the garment.
  • Speaking is prohibited: Speaking during working hours is prohibited.
  • The drinking water at the SETISA factory is filthy and unsafe: A recent lab test shows the factory's drinking water to be seriously contaminated and not fit for consumption. The water contained bacteria levels 1,500 percent higher than acceptable by Honduran and International standards. The water was also contaminated with fecal matter. (See attached lab analysis.) Moreover, drinking water is monitored. Only sometimes do the workers have access to safe bottled water. Most other times all that is available is tap water, which is often filthy and unsafe as the above lab test showed. Either way, workers are forbidden to get up to drink too often. If the managers determine you are drinking too much water, you are called to the office and given a warning. If it happens again, you are punished.


Setisa water test results 


  • An internal company memo, shown to all new employees, makes it very clear that workers need permission to use the toilet, drink water, or visit the infirmary
Punished for drinking water

Yes, plenty of pressure. They prohibit us from getting water frequently because they
take us to personnel and they punish us.

For drinking water?

They give us warnings also if we get up.


  • Repetitive motion injuries: The workers often complain of back and wrist pains, brought on by the constant, rapid, repetitive operations they must perform all day. At the end of each shift, everyone is exhausted.
Warnings and punishment for not working fast enough

Do the supervisors stand by you and watch how fast you are working?

Yes, that is to say, they notice when we do not work quickly because of machinery problems -they (owners) complain to the supervisors and so they complain to us.

And they start taking time in the back and sometimes, because one is tired, one slows the production down a little so what they say, they touch our arm and say, "Let's go to human resources." And then they take us to give us a warning or punishment.


  • Corporate Codes of Conduct: In the "old plant" there were some codes posted on the shop floor, whereas in the "new plant," there are just a few corporate codes displayed in the manager's office. The workers report seeing codes for Gap, Gear, and Nautica. No worker believes the codes are effective, since nothing ever changes and the systematic violations continue unabated on a daily basis.
  • Corporate audits are a sham: To a large extent, the audits — which are known in advance — are staged events. The preparations before each audit are always the same. The plant is thoroughly cleaned. Disposable cups are placed by the drinking water. Soap, toilet paper — in abundance — and towels suddenly appear in the bathrooms. Managers instruct the workers to behave very well when the auditors arrive. They have to look serious, work hard and pay special attention to perfect quality so as to make a good impression. Workers are prohibited from initiating any conversations with the auditors, but if they are forced to respond to a question, supervisors instruct the workers to say only good and positive things about the factory. They are to say that the treatment is good and all their benefits are paid. If a worker says anything negative they will be fired. It is usual for management to choose the workers who will be interviewed. In this case the workers are called over the factory's public address system and told to come to the office. The company always picks the newest workers, those who have been at the factory less than two months, who are the most timid and afraid, knowing they can easily be fired with no rights whatsoever.

How is that corporate audit after audit over the last three years have all failed to even note that the SETISA factory is illegally failing to insure its worker in the Social Security Health Care Institute? This is not a small issue. Rather, it is one that deeply impacts on the workers and their families, especially regarding the health of their children. Also, it should not be so difficult to document the forced pregnancy tests, mandatory overtime to meet production goals, filthy and unsafe drinking water, monitored and limited bathroom visits, abusive and harsh treatment by supervisors, and the total, and very open, repression of the workers legal right to freedom of association.

It would be very interesting to know just who the auditors were and to read even one of their reports.

Every SETISA worker agrees: Corporate Codes of Conduct meaningless: Workers threatened to lie to monitors or be fired

So the U.S. companies, they say they have corporate codes of conduct which are going to defend, guarantee the rights of the workers in the factory. Is that true? Does it sound like your rights are actually respected?

No, they do not respect them. All the workers agree.

Do visitors come from the United States?

Yes. The buyers.

And what happens before they come?

They begin to clean up the bathrooms. And where the water is they put nice cups. They put soap in the bathroom. They give more toilet paper. But that is only on the day the visitor comes.

Do they treat you better?

The supervisors ask you that when the visitor is there that you not speak. They tell you that so that when the visitor has a look he has a good impression.

Do the visitors from North America ever speak to the workers?

No. They are not allowed to. They do not allow it because they may investigate all of the abuses that are taking place in the factory, so they do not allow us to speak. Sometime they conduct interviews, but they call the new workers in, those with two months.

Does management work with the new workers on what they are going to say? How does that work?

No, I mean, sometimes, sometimes because they are new they know that they will not go speak badly. They fear getting fired. The other time they called me and the manager told me, "Don't go and say anything that will interrupt our work because they have come to give us work. Say that here we treat you well and there are good benefits."


Total Cost of Production: $3.65 per t-shirt

A review of U.S. Shipping records show that in a single month, May 2003, the SETISA factory in Honduras shipped 120,375 t-shirts to National Mills, Inc. in Kansas, with a total combined customs value of $439,331. The average cost per t-shirt was $3.65. This represents the entire cost of production — raw materials, direct and indirect labor, shipping cost, and profit to the SETISA factory. These were 100% cotton children's and adults long and short sleeve t-shirts.

Printable version of Report  

Company Profiles

Pay stubs

Other SETISA labels

Customs Import Data: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

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