Reports

October 7, 2006  |  Share

Harvest Rich


Child Labor is Back:
Children Are Again Sewing Clothing for Major U.S. Companies


An estimated 200 to 300 children, some 11 years old or even younger, are sewing clothing for Hanes, Puma, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart at the Harvest Rich plant in Bangladesh.
 
The children report being slapped and beaten, sometimes falling down from exhaustion, forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, and even some all-night 19 or 20-hour shifts, and often working seven days a week, for wages as low as 6½ cents an hour.
 
 
Halima
 

An eleven-year-old girl told us, "Yesterday, I was beaten. The work I did was wrong.  I left some threads. [I was] slapped, hard, strong I cried. It was the supervisor, a man.  He slapped me and he instructed me to do better.  I feel hurt."

 

Click here to read the interview with Priya (13) and Beauty (13)

A thirteen-year-old girl told us that in mid-September, she was kept at the factory 95 hours a week, including being forced to work four grueling all night 19 to 20-hour shifts. She was also beaten: "Yesterday I was sick and could not make the target"The supervisor, a big man, slapped [me] hard, violently."

 



A 13-year old girl relates:  "I was also beaten Wednesday, last Wednesday.  One hundred and twenty pieces [an hour] was the target.  I made 100 pieces.  The supervisor slapped me hard.  I am swollen."
 
 
 
 

A thirteen-year-old boy said:  "Sometimes they slap and sometimes they give a punishment of sitting on a chair and holding your ears for half an hour in the middle of the workers. We feel very hurt.  Because it is punishment. Then I feel it is better to die than living in this world."

 

 


One fourteen-year-old told us, after being forced to work 19 hours straight from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. the following morning, "This is not a life at all.  We have no dreams.  There is no future."

 

WATCH INTERVIEW
Click here to read the interview with "Male Worker" (18)


A teenaged worker explained that the U.S. clothing "is made of the tears of children and the sweat of the workers."

 




 

Table of Contents:

 

Click here for a printable PDF version of this report

Resumen en Espanol 

Read a comment by Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop 

Read an update on the sitution as of November 28, 2006

Urgent Action Required, Write the U.S. Companies, Back to main Harvest Rich page



Other Bangladeshi Factories Producing for the U.S. and Europe are Also Using Child Workers:

Evince Group

 

 

 

 


 

In 1996, after the National Labor Committee revealed that Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line for Wal-Mart was being made by teenaged children—as young as 12 and 13 years old—in Honduras, the resulting scandal and publicity was enough to virtually wipe out child labor in garment factories around the world producing for export to the U.S.  Child labor became the third rail that U.S. apparel companies and retailers would not touch. 

kathie lee label from old campaign

A decade later, child labor is coming back, and it must be stopped.

 

What the U.S. Companies Must Do:

Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney and any other U.S. companies involved must not cut and run, pulling their production from the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh.  This would only lead to the mass firing of these 200 to 300 children, who would be thrown out on the street with nothing.  The U.S. companies owe these children better.  The companies must provide these children with wage stipends to replace their lost salaries and also a modest education stipend so these kids can return to school where they belong.  It will cost the giant U.S. companies less than $70 a month per child to do the right thing.  For such large companies, this is just pocket change.

The U.S. companies should demand that their contractor, the Harvest Rich factory, hire the parents or older brothers and sisters of these child workers, and pay them a wage that will allow these families at least to climb out of misery and into poverty.  According to the workers, if they earned just 36 cents an hour, they could live with a modicum of decency.  Surely Hanes, Puma and Wal-Mart could afford to do this.

This would be the right way to end child labor once and for all.  

 

Hanes Label

Harvest Rich Ltd.

Harvest Rich Industrial Park
Dhaka-Narshingdi Road
Vulta, Rupganj
Narayanganj District
Bangladesh

Managing Director: Mr. M. A. Bari
Phone:   880-2-811-2790
Mobile:  880-1-711-533449
Email:   [email protected]

Production:   Harvest Rich sews clothing for Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and, according to their factory brochure, other clients include Target, Reebok & Motherswork. (We also recently learned that J.C.Penney's St. John's Bay label is being sewn in what the workers call the woven department.)

Shipping records based on U.S. Customs department documents show Wal-Mart receiving a shipment from the Harvest Rich factory on July 5, 2006 of "men's 100 percent cotton woven pants" worth $421,174.

On June 4, 2006, Sara Lee Underwear in Winston Salem, North Carolina received a shipment worth $111,495 from the Harvest Rich factory containing men's briefs.  At least two departments in the Harvest Rich factory—the Underwear unit and the Orange unit—produce exclusively for Hanes/Sara Lee.

European labels being sewn at the Harvest Rich factory include Tesco, Mark & Spencer and Charter House from the United Kingdom, Carrefour of France, and Puma and Tchibo of Germany.

Number of Workers: We estimate that the factory has approximately 2,500 workers in total.

Harvest Rich factory at night

 


  

Executive Summary:  

 

Illegal and Abusive Conditions at the
Harvest Rich Factory
 
 Child Labor:  An estimated 200 to 300 under-aged children, some 11 years old or even younger, are working at the Harvest Rich factory.
Routine Beatings: The children report being routinely beaten, slapped and cursed at for falling behind on their production goals, making mistakes, taking too long in the bathroom, or for being absent for a day due to sickness.
Forced Overtime:

The standard shift is 11 to 14 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or more frequently, to 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.  However, before clothing shipments must leave for the U.S., there are also frequent, mandatory 19-to-20-hour all-night shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following day.  After sleeping for two or three hours on the factory floor, the workers must start their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning.

The Harvest Rich factory often operates seven days a week.  In the month of September, the workers had just one day off.

When it is busy the workers are typically at the factory over 80 hours, or even up to 110 hours, a week. All overtime is strictly mandatory.

Cheated of their wages:  Wages at the Harvest Rich factory are set well below subsistence levels, with child helpers earning just 6 ½ cents an hour and 53 cents a day, while sewing operators earn just 17 cents an hour and $1.35 a day.  The workers are also routinely cheated on their overtime pay.Many of the child workers report cleaning their teeth with their finger and ashes from the fire, since they cannot afford a toothbrush or toothpaste.
Phony Timecards:

No matter how long the workers are kept at the factory, their timecards are always marked out at 7:00 p.m.  It does not matter if they are working until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., or even an all-night shift until 4:00 a.m.—their  timecards are always marked out at 7:00.  It is the same with Fridays.  Even when the workers are required to work seven days their timecards show Friday marked "Off." Mandatory overtime past 7:00 p.m., which is routine, is not paid for;  nor are the workers paid for toiling on Friday, which is supposed to be their day off.

There is not a single worker at the Harvest Rich factory who is being paid their proper, legal overtime pay.  Some workers are being shortchanged of up to half the wages due them.  Anyone daring to ask for their wages will be fired.

Excessive Production Goals:  Daily production goals are arbitrarily set by management, and are excessive.  For example, the child workers are allowed just 24 seconds to clean each pair of Hanes underwear, using scissors to cut off any loose threads.  They are paid just one twenty-third of a cent for each operation.
Filthy Bathrooms:  The workers must receive permission to use the bathroom and are limited to two, or at most three, visits per day.  The bathrooms are filthy, lacking toilet paper, soap and towels.  Sometimes—on average about two days a week—the bathrooms even lack running water.  Anyone spending too much time in the bathroom will be slapped.
Talking Prohibited Speaking during working hours is strictly forbidden and workers who get caught are punished.
Unsafe Drinking Water

The workers say that the factory drinking water is not purified and sometimes makes them sick.

Sweating While Working:  The sewers are provided only hard stools without cushions or backs.  If the workers bring their own cushion, management takes it away.  The workers say the factory is very hot and they are constantly sweating while they work.
Denial of Maternity Leave:  According to the workers, Harvest Rich does not respect women workers' legal right to three months maternity leave with full pay.  Pregnant women have to quit and return as new workers.
Punished for Being Late:  For being one minute late, a worker can be punished with loss of their attendance bonus for the full month.
No Government Holidays The workers say they do not receive national public holidays.  Nor are they allowed the legal vacation time due them.
No Daycare Center: There is no daycare center at Harvest Rich.
No Voice and No Rights:  The workers at Harvest Rich have no voice and no rights.  Anyone daring to ask for their proper pay, or that their most basic legal rights be respected, will be attacked and fired.  The rights to freedom of association and to organize are 100 percent denied.
Codes of Conduct not worth the paper they are written on:  Before the U.S. corporate monitors arrive for factory inspections, the children are either sent home, if there is time, or quickly hidden in the dirty bathrooms, the emergency stairwells or on the roof.  Any worker saying one word of truth regarding factory conditions will be fired the moment the corporate monitor walks out of the factory.
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How The Research Was Done:

This report on Harvest Rich and the accompanying video footage is the result of a four-month investigation, beginning in June 2006, into factory conditions, including the exploitation of child workers. National Labor Committee researchers traveled to Bangladesh in early September to personally interview the child workers. From the beginning, this research was a joint collaboration with our longstanding partner, the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, which is an independent human, women's and worker rights organization headquartered in Dhaka. It was only through the secret collaboration of well over a dozen very brave Harvest Rich workers—who will remain unnamed due to the serious risk to themselves if their identities were made public—that this research was possible.

Workers were able to smuggle labels out of the factory and provide detailed and precise descriptions of each garment.  We also relied upon shipping documents based on U.S. Customs data to track shipments from Harvest Rich to U.S. companies.  Harvest Rich's own promotional brochure also names the major U.S. and European companies sourcing production at the company.  On numerous occasions, our researchers observed the factory operating well into the night, and we also filmed and observed child workers entering and leaving the Harvest Rich compound.  Information regarding the abusive and illegal working conditions comes directly from in-depth interviews with Harvest Rich workers, who were—for the first time—able to speak truthfully, since meetings were held in a safe location and always in the company of respected, independent local human and women's rights organizations.  In several cases we also visited the workers' homes and spoke with their parents and siblings.  It has been our long experience over the years that when several groups of workers are interviewed on separate occasions over time, the reliability of their information can be fully trusted.

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Eleven-year-old Halima Works on Hanes Underwear

Click here to read her a transcript of her interview with the NLC.

Halima and Director Charles Kernaghan 

Above: Halima and NLC Director Charles Kernaghan, Bangladesh, September 2006

 

"I feel very bad"I feel tired, exhausted"sometimes while cutting the thread, like last time, I fall down." ".[The supervisor] just tells me to wake up".I am very tired when I get home."

At most, 11-year-old Halima gets just six hours of sleep a night, going to bed around 11:00 p.m. and getting up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for work.

Halima

Halima's Wage
(930 taka a month)

  • 6 ½ cents an hour
  • 53 cents a day
  • $3.20 a week (48 hours)
  • $13.88 a month
  • $166.57 a year

(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)

 

"If I am absent one day, the following day they will beat me and shout at me.  If we make a mistake, they beat us, they scold us"They slap us in the face.  It hurts.  They say 'you made mistakes' and they yell and shout" It happens every day."

Eleven-year-old Halima works as a helper in the underwear department of the Harvest Rich plant, where she cleans the Hanes underwear of any loose threads by clipping them off.  In an interview in Dhaka on September 11, 2006, she told us:  "The whole floor is making this label.  All the products belong to this label, Hanes."

Halima earns just 6 ½ cents an hour, 53 cents a day, $3.20 a week.  She tells us:  "The salary I get is not fair."

For the typical 11-to-14-hour shift, Halima is on her feet all day, standing at a table where she cuts any loose threads from the garment.  She is given a mandatory production goal of cleaning 150 pairs of Hanes underpants per hour, which means she is allowed just 24 seconds to complete each operation. The pace is relentless, and given that she only earns just six and a half cents an hour, Halima is paid less than 1/23 of a cent per piece.

Bangladeshi Law Prohibits Child Labor

No Child Under 14 Years Old Can Work
  • Bangladesh's labor law strictly prohibits factories from hiring children under the age of 14.
  • If a factory hires 14 to 17-year old children and adolescents, they are prohibited from working more than five hours a day and 30 hours a week.
  • Children and adolescents must never, under any circumstances, be obligated to work at night—between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. 

 

If Halima makes a mistake such as missing a loose thread, she is in trouble. "Yesterday, I was beaten," she told us" "The work I did was wrong. I left some of the threads"" I was "slapped, hard"strong"I cried"it was the supervisor, a man. He slapped me and he instructed me to do better. I feel hurt."

Also, when the children fail to meet their production goals, "They [the supervisors] shout at us. They beat us. It happens everyday."

Halima's wages are so wretchedly low, she told us: "I also use my finger to brush my teeth. I don't have a [tooth] brush or toothpaste"I brush my teeth with ashes. I have never bought a [tooth] brush."  

Halima brushes her teeth with ashes

Halima brushes her teeth with ashes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I face much hardship. My father is a rickshaw puller. I earn 930 taka ($13.88 a month). It's too little. With the money I earn, I can't afford to buy a toothbrush. I am getting 930 taka, how can I buy a toothbrush?"

 

Halima cannot afford an umbrella either, so if it rains while she is walking to work she and the others get soaked. "We have to work in the wet clothes," she says.

 

Before large orders have to go out, as was the case with a Hanes shipment scheduled to depart the Harvest Rich factory on September 23, the workers are kept to 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. each night and sometimes to 10:00 p.m. Worse still, as the shipment date approaches, are the grueling all-night 19 to 20-hour shifts, stretching straight through from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following morning. The workers can sleep just two or three hours on the factory floor before they have to get ready for their next shift. Such all-night shifts can occur twice a week, and rotate among different assembly lines that have fallen behind their production goals.

During these rush periods, it is common for the factory to operate on a seven day schedule. Between Friday, September 8th and Friday, September 22nd, when the shipment had to go out, Halima and her co-workers received just one day off. It is not uncommon for the workers to be kept as the factory 95 hours a week.

In July through mid-August, Halima and the others in the underwear department also worked 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

 Typical Daily Shift

12 to 14 hours 

 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

 Work, 4½ hours

 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

 Lunch,  1 hour

 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

 Work, 3½ hours

 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.

 Overtime, 3 to 6 hours

 

When the workers are forced to work on Friday, the Muslim holiday, they are typically allowed out "early" at 5:00 p.m. Even if they worked to just 8:00 p.m. each night, and got out at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, at a minimum the workers are still at the factory 81 hours a week.

Halima holding Hanes

Hanes Underwear,

Made in Bangladesh, bought in New York

Hanes

 

The overtime is "obligatory." Halima tells us, "They will not allow us to go. They [the supervisors] say, 'Sit down, continue to work, complete it, then go home.'"

"If I work overtime, then it's 10:30 at night" when I get home. Further, Halima explains, it is not safe for the children to be going home so late at night: "There are girls like me so we go in a group."

Nor does the Harvest Rich factory pay Halima and the other workers correctly for all the overtime hours they are forced to work. No matter how late the workers are kept, management always marks their time cards out at 7:00 p.m. "If we work up until 9:00 p.m., they will write 7 at night." In this way, the workers are routinely cheated of two or three hours of overtime pay legally due them each day. It is the same when they work on Friday, their weekly holiday. Management marks their time cards "Off," and they do not get paid, despite the fact that they were forced to work eight overtime hours.

NLC Hidden Camera Footage: Harvest Rich Factory, September 2006.

 

And if the workers dare ask to be paid for all the overtime hours they actually work, they will be fired. Halima put it like this: "If anyone dares to say this [that we should be earning more], they will be without any salary."

At the Harvest Rich factory workers need permission, and must receive a card or pass, to use the bathroom which is limited to two to three visits per day. "We cannot go when we want to," Halima explains. Also, the bathroom "is dirty and filthy." Supervisors monitor their absence, and if they are too long, "They beat us."

Halima and many others take their lunch on the roof where there is no proper place to sit. The drinking water in the factory "is dirty." Nor are the children and other workers allowed to speak during working hours and if they are caught, "They [the supervisors] shout at us." Also, the factory is hot, and the workers are always sweating.

Corporate monitoring never works, and in the case of Harvest Rich, it was again a miserable failure.

Halima and the other children never heard of such a thing as a corporate code of conduct. "I don't have any idea," she told us.

Where Halima Lives, September 2006. 

Halima's Neighborhood

 

However, "When buyers come, we [the child workers] are kept in the bathroom." They make us hide "because we are little, because we are kids." The bathroom smells terrible so, "we feel very bad." "Fifteen days back this happened" to us.

Halima has no idea where or to what country the clothing she works on goes. She only knows it goes to a "foreign country." She has never heard the expression, the global economy, nor has she heard of the World Trade Organization. Nor does she know the labor laws of Bangladesh. She has never heard of a union, and has no idea what it might be.

Halima does not own a bike. She has never been to a movie theater. Her family does not own a television. She cannot afford to eat an apple and she never plays. On the rare days off, "When I have a little time," Halima explains, "I sit at home and I do household chores."Halima's father and mother confirme that their daughter is 11 years old, telling us, "Someone wrote down when she was born." Her father also confirmed that Halima arrives home at six, or nine, or 11:00 p.m. each night.

Halima and her sister sleep on the plank
 

The room Halima shares with her family, September 2006

 

Halima lives in one small room with her parents and her sister and brother. The only bed, a platform, isn't large enough for the whole family so some family memebers sleep on the floor.

Her father was shocked, and looked on the verge of tears, when he learned his daughter was beaten at the Harvest Rich plant. "I did not have any idea how they treat my daughter in the factory," he told us. "She never told me that she was beaten, and I feel very bad, and if I had known this earlier, I would not have allowed her to go to the factory."

We asked Halima why she had never told her father. "I didn't tell my father about the violations and the beatings because if I did, my father would not allow me to continue to work and my family would suffer not having an income, not having money to shop with."

"I love my family very much," she said.

Halima is incredibly brave, but no child should be placed in this position, and Hanes and the other U.S. companies sourcing production at the Harvest Rich factory must do much better than this.

Halima still has a dream: "I dream that I go to school and that I continue my education"I want to be a doctor."

 

Concern for Halima

Those who are concerned for Halima and the other child workers whose names and faces are identified in this report should know that the National Labor Committee is committed to taking care of these children if the U.S. companies refuse to pay to send them back to school.  We would never let these children down.  Either way, they will received stipends to replace their wages and to pay for school.  That is our commitment.

We call upon Hanes and the other U.S. companies to provide every child worker at the Harvest Rich factory with stipends adequate to replace their wages and to pay for their school uniforms, books, and other basic education costs. These kids belong in school, not locked in a sweatshop.

 

 

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Urgent Action Alert
Monday, October 23, 2006

Please Write Hanes, Puma. J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart

More than 100 Child Workers Fired from Harvest Rich
  • After threatening to sue the National Labor Committee;
  • After stating that Harvest Rich was "free of child labor," that "adhering to company policy, we do not employ anyone below 18" and that "Harvest Rich Ltd. has a...valid WRAP Certification" from the U.S. apparel industry;
  • Harvest Rich fired more than 100 child workers while at the same time threatening that any worker found cooperating with the independent investigation of abusive factory conditions will also be fired.
  • This is the exact opposite of what we asked Harvest Rich and the U.S. companies to do.  Children belong in school, not locked in sweatshops.  We demanded that every child worker be given a monthly stipend sufficient to replace their highest wages—so that they and their families would not have to suffer any further—while also meeting basic school expenses such as uniforms, shoes, textbooks and other necessary supplies.

More than the fate of 100-plus child workers hangs in the balance

After receiving a letter from the National Labor Committee, Harvest Rich seems to be re-evaluating the mass firing of so many child workers.

On Sunday, October 22, Harvest Rich managers held an hour-long meeting with the child workers, telling them that they were not fired and should return to the factory on Saturday, October 28 after the Eid religious holiday.  The children were told that at that time management would decide to go ahead with the mass firings or pay for the children's education.  Harvest Rich's managing director, Mr. M.A. Bari, was also in the plant most of Sunday, October 22, where—according to the workers—the usual threats were made that he would close the factory down if workers continued to speak with "outsiders" in a way that damages the image of the factory.  In other words, if workers dare speak the truth, or even ask that their most basic rights be respected, the factory will close.

On one hand, Harvest Rich's backing off from the firings is a very positive step forward.  Harvest Rich is now tacitly admitting that they did, in fact, hire under-aged children.  If the U.S. companies would only raise their voices, these child workers would be going back to school where they belong.

On the other hand, the question again arises, how Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney could all have failed to notice that children as young as 11 were sewing their clothing—children who were routinely beaten, forced to work 11 to 14 hours a day, often seven days a week, including grueling all-night 19 to 20-hour shifts, for as little as 6 ½ cents an hour.  If the U.S. companies and Harvest Rich are not now compelled to send these child workers to school, then the real message left behind will be a Green Light for corporations to sink to even greater depths of exploitation.  If we cannot successfully address the blatant exploitation of child labor, what issues will we be able to deal with?  Especially coming on the heels of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement's descent—in  broad daylight and over the course of several years—into human trafficking and involuntary servitude, the American people need to draw the line, setting legal human and worker rights standards below which we will not allow the companies to go.

Harvest Rich Denies Child Labor & Threatens to Sue

Harvest Rich director, Ms. Nusrat Asha, wrote on October 10, "we are a child labor free organization audited by all leading third party auditors for all the years we have been in business."

On October 18, another representative of Harvest Rich, Mr. Saad Khaled Bari, wrote to the National Labor Committee threatening to sue.

"We want," Mr. Khaled Bari wrote, "immediate cessation and withdrawal of the false, baseless and fabricated stories... We are now proceeding with the legal action for displaying information about our company which are not true and completely baseless... We are a member of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, BGMEA, and as a member we are bound not to have any child labor.  BGMEA has carried out independent unannounced investigation, Tesco has done unannounced investigation and other customers have done similar audits...and have not found any child working on our premise.  By company policy we do not employ children or employ anyone below 18... Harvest Rich Ltd. has...a valid WRAP certification."

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Two 13-year-old Girls Beaten While Sewing Hanes Pajamas

 

  • At the factory up to 95 hours a week.
  • Forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, and even some all-night 19 to 20-hour shifts, with just a single day off in September, while being paid 6 ½ to 17 cents an hour.

Pria

 

Priya:  "My whole life I am in the dark. There is nothing to say."

Priya is 13 years old and works at the Harvest Rich factory as a junior operator sewing Hanes pajamas. She earns 17 cents an hour and $1.35 per day.

                             

Beauty

Beauty:  "We are so concentrated on the work we have no dreams, we have no time to dream." 

Beauty is also 13 years old and works as a helper in the same Ready Made Garment department as Pria. Beauty earns 6 ½ cents an hour and 53 cents a day.

 

Click here to read the transcript of Pria and Beauty's interview with the NLC.  

 

 

 

Frequent beatings:

Hanes Sleeping Pants, Made in Bangladesh, Bought in New Yrok

Puma Shirt

 

Beauty was beaten on Friday, September 8, which should have been the workers' weekly day off. "Every day," Beauty tells us, "The supervisor calls me names, beats the workers and shouts as the workers." Asked what the supervisor says, Beauty, clearly embarrassed, responds:  "I cannot say".very bad words." A 17-year-old male colleague explains, the supervisors say things like, "I f— your mother. You're a prostitute."  Beauty was beaten because she had fallen behind on her mandatory production goal.

"The supervisors ordered us to make 110 pieces an hour".I have to match numbers [identifying the pieces of fabric] like 30-30 and put them together".Yesterday, I was a bit sick, most of the days I make 110 pieces. Yesterday I was sick and could not make the target".The supervisor, a big man, slapped [me] hard, violently."

Beauty's job is to match the appropriate front and back pieces of the Hanes pajama trouser in preparation for sewing. She is allowed 33 seconds to complete each operation and earns just one cent for every 16 operations she finishes.

Thirteen-year-old Priya told us a similar story:  "I was also beaten".Wednesday, last Wednesday [September 6]. One hundred and twenty pieces an hour was the target. I made 100 pieces. The supervisor slapped me—hard—I am swollen. I cried."  Priya's job is to sew the hem on the fly opening on the Hanes men's pajamas, for which she was allowed just 30 seconds. The pace is relentless and monotonous, since the workers have to repeat the exact same operation 1,200 times in a 10-hour shift. Priya had to work on seven pairs of pajamas to earn just one cent.  

  
The wages low and the hours long:

Child labor is cheap in Bangladesh. As a helper, 13-year-old Beauty is paid just 6 ½ cents an hour and 53 cents a day. Priya, though the same age, earns a little more as a junior sewing operator.

 Beauty's Wage

(530 taka per month)

  Priya's Wage

(2,350 taka a month)

 
  • 6 ½ cents an hour
  • 53 cents a day (8 hours)
  • $3.20 a week (6 days; 48 hours)
  • $13.88 a month
  • $166.57 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)
            
  • 17 cents an hour
  • $1.35 a day (8 hours
  • $8.09 a week (6 days; 48 hours)
  • $35.07 a month
  • $420.90 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)

According to the workers, 45 sewing operators on a line have to complete 1,200 pairs of Hanes pajamas in a 10-hour shift, or 120 pieces an hour. (Management actually set a production goal of completing 150 pairs of Hanes pajamas per hour for each assembly line made up of 45 sewing operators. The goal was excessively high—at most, the workers could complete 120 pieces.) In effect them, each worker had to sew 2.67 pairs of pajamas trousers each hour, or one every 22½ minutes. Given the 17-cent-an-hour wage Priya and most of her co-workers earn, this means that the direct labor cost to sew the Hanes pajama trousers is as little as 6 ½ cents. The wages the workers are paid to sew the $11.32 Hanes pajamas amount to just one half of one percent of the garments' retail price. In other words, the workers wages are insignificant.

At the factory 95 hours a week:

Pria and Beauty

In September, Beauty, Priya and the other workers in the Ready Made Garments Unit One department at Harvest Rich factory were allowed just one day off, which was Friday, September 15. They worked every other day, most often to 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. However, when the real rush was on to complete a large Hanes order for shipment, between September 11 and 22, 13-year-old Beauty also had to work four grueling all-night 19 and 20-hour shifts, while Priya had to work three such shifts. Priya estimates that there are as many as 50 other child workers on her floor. At any rate, we know that Beauty, Priya and other under-aged children were forced to work from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following morning, after which, they would sleep on the factory floor for a few hours before being woken to start their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning.

We estimate that Priya and Beauty were at the factory 95 hours the week of Saturday, September 16 through Friday, September 22. Working just one all-night shift that week, together with being kept at the factory until 10:00 p.m. on three nights and until 8:00 p.m. on two other nights, and getting out "early" at 5:00 p.m. on Friday (their supposed day off), would put them at the factory exactly 95 hours.

Priya takes a bus home from work, Sept. 2006

Pria tired on a bus

 

We followed Priya home the night of Wednesday, September 13, when, as she explained, she was let out "early." "I came out at 8:00 p.m. as the factory closed early." The night before, she had worked to 10:00 p.m., which is more common. It took Priya two hours and ten minutes to get home that night, and she arrived at 10:10 p.m.—and this is what happens when she gets out "early."  By the time she washes and eats supper, Priya cannot get to sleep before 11:00 p.m. or even later"(She must have been very hungry, since she did not take lunch that day, explaining she was "overpressured" and that her supervisor had "shouted at me.")   When she works to 10:00 p.m. she gets home even later, as Priya explains: "sometimes at 12:00 midnight or 1:00 a.m. —Many times at 1:00 a.m."  It is the same for Beauty, who often does not get to eat supper before midnight. (Most workers cannot afford to spend more than 1,200 taka a month on food, which is $17.91 a month, 59 cents a day or just 20 cents per meal. They eat just rice and lentils.)  This is a very long day for a 13-year-old who gets up at 6:00 in the morning. Most nights, Priya is getting less than seven hours of sleep and sometimes as little as four. Priya has to be on the bus at 7:00 a.m. on her way to work, since she enters the factory at 7:40 a.m. If "I am one minute late, they mark it. I would not get the attendance bonus this time."

Even during slow periods, and when the workers do receive one day off a week, they still appear to be at the factory 56 to 57 hours a week. This is the case at this moment, since the workers are let out earlier each day, at 5:00 p.m., in honor of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.

The length of the workday is determined by the production goal that must be met. "We can't leave the factory," Priya says, "until the target is met. We have to shed tears to complete the target".[and] many hours are not treated as overtime." Management's standard practice is to mark the workers timecards "Out" at 7:00 p.m. no matter how late they actually are kept working. It is the same with Fridays. Whether they work or not the workers' time cards are marked "Off". Every single worker we met from the Harvest Rich plant is being cheated on the overtime pay legally due them.

Priya walks home from work late at night, September 2006.

Pria walks home late at night

 

The workers have no choice but to accept this. If they ask for their correct overtime pay, Pria explains, the supervisors become furious, shouting, "What you are getting is better than what you are doing"Is this factory owned by your father?... How do you imagine that you make demands and we will respond to it?  Be satisfied with what you are earning."

We asked Priya what happens when the corporate monitors visit the factory. Her answer:  "They let us go home early or they put us in the bathroom."

This is exactly what happened on October 2 and 4 when corporate auditors—apparently from the English big box discounter Tesco and Puma arrived at the Harvest Rich factory. On October 4, Priya was told to stand in an unused stairway which functions as a fire escape. Other child workers from the underwear department were sent home early.

Alert

Thirteen-year-old Priya was again beaten on Thursday, October 19.  When corporate monitors visited the factory, Pria was instructed to hide in the filthy bathroom.

 

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Are we Going Backward in the Global Economy?

In 1835—171 years ago—child cotton mill workers in the U.S. won a 69 hour workweek, and were paid—in today's dollars—64 cents an hour.

Forced to work 13 ½ hours a day, six days a week for an 81-hour workweek, 2,000 child cotton mill workers aged 10 to 18 went out on a six week strike in Paterson, New Jersey, beginning in July 1835.  The children demanded an 11-hour day, but had to settle for a compromise—12 hours a day Monday through Friday and nine hours on Saturday, for a 69-hour week.  Their pay at the time was $2.00 a week, which in today's dollars would be $44.08, or 64 cents an hour.

As we have seen at the Harvest Rich factory, 171 years later, child garment workers in Bangladesh as young as 11 years old—and some perhaps even younger—are being forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, often seven days a week, with grueling mandatory all-night, 19 to 20-hour shifts before orders must be shipped.  During busy periods, these child workers could be at the factory 80 to 110 hours a week, while earning just 6 ½ cents to 17 cents an hour—just one tenth to one quarter of what the child workers were paid in Paterson, New Jersey back in 1835. 

Also, one can only imagine what would happen to the child and teenaged workers at Harvest Rich if they dared declare a strike.  At best, they would face just beatings and firing.

 

Clipping from Paterson Intelligencer, 1835

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 One Billion Garments from Bangladesh

In terms of volume, Bangladesh is the 3rd largest exporter of apparel to the United States, following only China and Mexico.  If current growth continues, Bangladesh is poised to surpass Mexico in 2007.

In 2005, Bangladeshi factories shipped 786 million garments to the U.S. with a wholesale value of $2.4 billion.  In the first seven months of 2006, Bangladeshi garment exports are up 23 percent over the same period last year.  Bangladesh is on track to ship over one billion garments to the United States this year, which amounts to over three garments for every man, woman and child in America.

There are an estimated 4,100 garment export factories in Bangladesh, with two million workers, of which 80 percent or more are young women 16 to 25 years of age.

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 Sumon is 13 Years Old

"I feel it better to die than living in this world."

 

Sumon

Sumon is a junior machine operator at the Harvest Rich factory where he sews Hanes underwear and pajamas. he is paid just 15 cents an hour -- $1.21 a day.

Sumon: "Yes, I work on this type of underwear ... exactly ... there were many colors

Click here to read the transcript of Sumon's interview

  • 110-hour work week
  • Mandatory 19-to-20-hour shifts

 

In one recent 12-day period in September, before a large order of Hanes underwear and pajamas had to be shipped to the U.S., 13-year-old Sumon was ordered to work seven all-night shifts, from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following morning.

Afterward, Sumon and the others would sleep on the factory floor for a few hours before being awakened to start their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning.  In between the all-night shifts, the standard work day was 13 to 14 hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.  During extreme rush periods like this (September 11-22), Sumon could be at the factory up to 110 hours a week.  However, during busy periods, it is more common for the workers to be kept at the factory 87 hours a week, while working 80 hours.

In the month of September, the Ready Made Garments (RMG) Unit 1, where Sumon works, had just one day off, Friday, September 15.  The other four Fridays, they were required to work.

Up to two months ago, when the workers were kept at the factory to 10:00 p.m., management allowed the workers a short evening break when they were provided a banana and a soda.  But to cut costs, this practice was stopped in July.

 Grueling all-night 19-to-20-hour shift

 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

 Work, 5½ hours

 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

 Lunch, 1 hour

 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

 Work, 2½ hours

 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

 Overtime, 3 hours

 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. 

 Supper break. 2 hours

 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.

 Overtime, 5 or 6 hours

 

Note:  The Harvest Rich factory is very large, so lunch periods are staggered to accommodate all the workers.  Halima takes her lunch at 12:30 p.m.  When it is very busy, the lunch period is cut back to 30 minutes.

Hanes

Hanes

Hanes Underwear Made in Bangladesh Bought in New York Hanes Sleeping Pants, Made in Bangladesh, Bought in New York

 

Sumon:  "I start working at 8:00 a.m. and we have lunchtime from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.  Sometimes we stand because there are many workers.  And when we have to work, they give us only a half hour lunch break."

As Sumon explains, all overtime is obligatory at Harvest Rich:  "It is not voluntary.  It is their decision"We have to listen to them.  If they want us to stay, we have to stay.  According to their orders".sometimes we get out at 10:00, 10:30, 12:00 [midnight] and when we cannot make the target, we have to work extra time, but without charging [without pay]" Last Sunday and Monday [September 10-11], I worked until 10:00 p.m". We get home around 11:00 if we work to 10:00 p.m."

 

Even a low-end estimate of hours worked during busy periods puts Sumon at the factory 87 hours a week—working six 13-hour shifts from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and one nine-hour shift on Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  With time off for lunch, Sumon and the others would actually be working 80 hours a week.

Not Only Are the Hours Long, but the Pace of Work is Relentless:

Sumon is assigned a mandatory production goal of sewing 120 pairs of Hanes underwear per hour.  His job is to sew, or "close," the crotch area of the underpants.  He has just 30 seconds to complete each pair.  In a 10-hour shift, he must complete 1200 pieces;  in 11 hours, 1,320 pieces;  in 14 hours, 1,560.

The pressure is constant, repeating the same operation over and over again.   And Sumon has to sew eight pieces to earn just one cent.



Sumon is Beaten.  When He Cries, They Beat Him More:

Suman told us: 

"There are many pressures on us to make [the production goal].  We are to make this product, and if we don't make it, they beat us.  They cut our overtime [pay] and sometimes we have to work until 10:00 [p.m.] or 12:00 [midnight] and they don't give us any food""

"They beat me"last Sunday [September 10]"because I could not make the production target" [Mr. Habib, the supervisor in charge of the floor] slapped my face very strongly.... then he pushed my neck"calling names, like "I f--- your mother."

"It's very often"It happens frequently.  In one week I was beaten twice"when they beat, I cry, even when I ask, 'why are you beating me?' then again, they strongly continue to beat me."

 

There is also another form of punishment, as Sumon explained:  "Sometimes they slap and sometimes they give punishment of sitting in a chair and holding the ears"for half an hour" In the middle of the workers" We feel very hurt, because it is punishment."

 

 

sumon holding his ears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

----------------------------------------------------

Sumon's Wage
(2,100 taka a month) 

  • 15 cents an hour
  • $1.21 a day (eight hours)
  • $7.23 a week (6 days, 48 hours)
  • $31.34 a month
  • $376.12 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)
What the supervisors do to punish the children is to make them perch on top of a chair, squatting on the seat, while with their fingers they pull down on their ear lobes.  In Bangladesh, this is a gesture indicating extreme ugliness and stupidity.  One can only imaging how embarrassing it must be for a young, teenaged boy to be forced to sit like this in front of his friends and co-workers for half an hour.  It must feel worse even than being hit, which is why Sumon said, "Then I feel it is better to die, than living in this world."

 

To sew Hanes underwear, Sumon was paid just 15 cents an hour, and $1.21 a day.  He is also cheated on his overtime pay.

"We start at 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 [p.m.] is general duty.  And we work two more hours from 5:00 until 7:00.  But if we cannot make production, the two hours of overtime, they cut it.  That means we don't get any overtime, although we worked for it"and also, when we work from 7:00 at night until 10:00 at night, three hours, but they don't pay us three hours overtime."

 

 

Even with overtime included, Sumon never makes more than $8.61 a week--$7.23 a week in regular pay and $1.38 in overtime pay.  This means that when Sumon is required to work an 80-hour week, he is being cheated of half of the wages legally owed him.   Even at his very low wages, Sumon should be earning 30 cents an hour for overtime work, and $16.83 for working an 80-hour week.

Sumon's wage is well below even the most minimal subsistence level.  Like his 11-year-old co-worker, Halima, Sumon gets up each morning and cleans his teeth" "with my finger.  I use my finger with ashes from the fire.  I cannot afford to buy toothpaste and a toothbrush."

"They don't allow us to talk to each other while we work,"  Sumon says.  He and his colleagues are allowed to use the bathroom just twice a day, and they have to get permission to do so.  "There is no toilet paper or towels," Sumon says, and "It is very dirty and filthy."

At work, Sumon sits on a hard stool all day —"There is no back.""and no cushion.

At the end of the shift, when Sumon goes home, he is exhausted.  "I feel very bad," he says, "and I feel like some uneasiness, I don't feel comfortable getting back home, because we work so hard the whole day and then feel very tired at home."

When the Harvest Rich factory is actually closed on a Friday and the workers receive their weekly holiday, Sumon spends most of the time sleeping because he is so exhausted.  "When I get a Friday off, I stay at home.  I sleep.  I only sleep when I get a day off.  And I work around the home."

 NLC Hidden Camera Footage: Unkown Harvest Rich WorkerHidden Camera Footage

 

There is nothing must else to do, as Sumon does not own a bike or a television and has "never been to a theater or cinema hall."

Sumon does not know the laws of Bangladesh and has no idea what his legal rights are.  He said no one has tried to help them.  Nor does Sumon know what a union is.  But he does know that:  "Workers never associate together, and we don't protest the violations.  If we do, then the managers will beat us, shout at us and fire us."

Nor has Sumon heard of any such thing as a "Corporate Code of Conduct." What he does know, however, is that "when buyers come, we are told to say we are 18," and also, "they [the management] send the child workers to the roof or somewhere else."

As we were about to leave, we asked Sumon if he would like to say anything else.  He responded:  "What I want to say to the [U.S.] company—give us overtime, salary on time, and legal wages.  These are the words I would like to say."

Sumon and the others might not know the laws of Bangladesh, but they do know that they should not be abused and cheated.

Sumon had the chance to study up to the 5th grade, where his favorite subject was geography.  Now his dream is "to be an engine mechanic, a car mechanic."

Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and the other U.S. companies are responsible to provide stipends to every under-aged child worker at the Harvest Rich plant so they can return to school.  The companies owe these exploited children at least that. 

Alert

Thirteen-year-old Sumon was among the 100-plus child workers who were fired by Harvest Rich management on Thursday, October 19.

 

 

This sample of Hanes sleeping pants was smuggled out of the factory by workers

  Hanes sample smuggled out of factory 

This PUMA label was smuggled out of the factory by workers

       

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U.S. Apparel Industry Monitoring Fails Miserably

The Harvest Rich factory was inspected and awarded a "Certificate of Compliance" by the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production Group (WRAP), guaranteeing that the factory is in "full compliance" with all human and worker rights laws and international standards.  WRAP was started by the American Apparel Manufacturers Association in 2000.

Somehow WRAP and the U.S. apparel industry failed to find:

  • Two hundred to 300 child workers, some as young as 11 years old;
  • Routine beatings of the children and other workers;
  • Wages as low as 6 ½ cents an hour;
  • Forced overtime with routine 12-to-14-hour shifts, often seven days a week, with mandatory all-night 19 and 20-hour shifts before shipments need to leave;
  • Workers cheated of up to half of the overtime pay legally due them;
  • Any worker daring to ask for their most basic legal rights will be immediately attacked, beaten and fired.

 

 

WRAP certificate of compliance to Harvest Rich

 


  

Bangladeshi Garment Workers' Wages
Cut Nearly in Half

—As Exports Soar, Real Wages fall—

The legal minimum wage in Bangladesh has not risen in the last 12 years, since 1994, while the cumulative inflation rate for this same period has reached 87 percent.  In 2006, the real purchasing power of the workers' wages is just a little over half of what it was in 1994. Rather than progressing—despite soaring exports—Bangladesh's garment workers and their families are sinking ever deeper into misery.

 

Year

Inflation

Index

 Cumulative Inflation

(since 1994)

Base

 

100

 

1994-1995*

7.72

107.72

7.72%

1995-1996

6.11

114.3

14.30%

1996-1997

3.96

118.83

18.84%

1997-1998

8.66

129.12

29.12%

1998-1999

7.06

138.23

38.23%

1999-2000

2.79

142.09

42.09%

2000-2001

1.94

144.85

44.85%

2001-2002

2.79

148.89

48.89%

2002-2003

4.38

155.41

55.41%

2003-2004

5.83

164.47

64.47%

2004-2005

6.48

175.13

75.13%

2005-2006

7.17

187.69

87.69%

* Fiscal year, July 1, 1994-June 30, 1995

 


 

Government Proposes New Minimum Wage:

11 ½ ¢ an hour 

Garment manufacturers say this is "too high."

The Bangladeshi government has proposed a new minimum wage of 1,604 taka a month, or $23.94.  This amounts to just 11 ½ cents an hour.  The powerful and wealthy garment factory owners oppose this as "too high."

The proposed increase, in terms of real purchasing power, would not even bring the workers' wages up to the level they were 12 years ago.

Government's Proposed New Minimum Wage:

  • 1,604 taka a month
  • 11 1/2 cents an hour
  • 92 cents a day (8 hours)
  • $5.52 a week (6 days; 48 hours)
  • $23.94 a month
  • $287.28 a year

 

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"This is not a life at all.  We have no dreams" There is no future."

 Mahmoud

 

Mahmoud started working at age 11 and entered the Harvest Rich factory when he was 13 years old. 

Now he is 14 and works as a junior machine operator in the underwear department where he sews underwear and pajamas for Hanes and t-shirts for Puma.  He is paid just 16 cents an hour, $1.26 a day.

Click here to read the transcript of Mahmoud's interview with the NLC. 

A Dozen Children Forced to Work to 3:00 a.m.:

A day before our interview with Mahmoud on September 13, he, along with a dozen or so other under-aged child workers most of whom were girls, was forced to work a 19-hour shift, straight through from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. the following morning.

"We started at 8:00 in the morning," Mahmoud told us, "till 10:00 [p.m.], then a break and then until 3:00 in the morning" Our break was from 8:00 to 10:00 [p.m.]" They don't provide food, but they give us money"twenty taka [30 U.S. cents].  But with 20 taka, what can I buy?... So we eat when we get home in the morning."

"I slept in the factory"on a table" For us, there are no mattresses""  After less than three hours of sleep, Mahmoud got up, "at six in the morning" Then I went home." He was supposed to return to the factory that same day, "to begin work at 8:00 in the morning." He told us, "Since I could not sleep, I was exhausted."

 

Mahmoud with the underwear he sews

Mahmoud's Wage
(2,200 taka a month) 

  • 16 cents an hour
  • $1.26 a day (8 hours)
  • $7.58 a week (6 days / 48 hours)
  • $32.84 a month
  • $394.03 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)

 

Nor was this the first time he and the other children had been required to work such grueling shifts.  Two months before, Mahmoud told us, while sewing Puma t-shirts, they were forced to work at least four all-night shifts, on alternating nights, in order to complete the Puma order in time for shipment.  One night they would work to 3:00 a.m., the next, to 8:00 p.m., and so on.  This would put the workers, including children, at the factory 112 hours that week.

It is standard practice, Mahmoud explains, that they work from "8:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night, and some extra hours after 8:00"sometimes an additional two hours until 10:00 at night." It seems to be that the shifts are evenly split, working half the nights to 8:00 p.m. and the rest to 10:00 p.m.  Nor do they always receive Friday, the weekly holiday, off:  "If we have enough work, then we don't have a day off."

While working on Hanes underwear, Mahmoud's job is to sew the inside seam.  He is given a mandatory production target of completing 100 pieces an hour.  He is allowed just 36 seconds to complete each operation. He tells us, "It's difficult.  It's hard"to reach the goal."

For all that, Mahmoud is paid just 2,200 taka a month, which is $32.84, and just 16 cents an hour.  "I don't feel good working in the factory," he explains, "I think they owe me, I should get more than what I am being paid."

 

"At the end of the month, what they pay us, we have to accept that. —We don't know what we are legally owed."

 

Mahmoud works all day, hunched over his sewing machine sitting on a hard wooden stool.  It is hot, he says, and "we sweat."  The workers are not allowed to talk to each other and must ask permission to use the bathroom.  Taking sick days is strongly discouraged—and they are never paid.  "If I am sick, if I ask to leave, they will tell you to get out of the factory at 8:00 at night."  He says that at the end of the shift—"I feel tired and weak."  When he is let out at 10:00 p.m., he does not arrive home until 11:30 or 12:00 midnight.  Since it is not safe at that late hour, "sometimes we go in a group, sometimes we scatter, because some people leave us because there is not one direction, but different directions." No matter what time he arrives home at night, he still has to get up at 6:00 a.m. in order to be back at the factory at 8:00 a.m. the following day.

Corporate Codes of Conduct Used to Monitor Well-Run Prisons:

Mahmoud may be young, but he is also very smart.  He is one of the few workers we met, under-aged or adult, who had actually heard of a corporate code of conduct.  Mahmoud told us that he was familiar with the Puma code of conduct.  "There are some principles," he said, such as, "there would be no worker under 18, no bad treatment of the workers.  Workers would work 48 hours a week.  After 5:00 [p.m.] there would be no work."

Excited, we asked if Puma's standards were respected and implemented.  "No," fourteen-year-old Mahmoud responded, "It is not useful.  It is hanging on the wall.  Workers have no use for it, it is in English and hanging on the wall.  They don't think that it is useful."

In other words, regarding its impact, the corporate code of conduct is not worth the paper it is written on.

 

Mahmoud holds a PUMA shirt

Puma

Mahmoud holds a PUMA shirt, September 2006.

This Puma shirt was made in Bangladesh and bought in New York

 

Corporate monitors even visit the factory.  But all the workers know better than to ever speak the truth.  "No.  I cannot say the truth," Mahmoud says.  Why?  Because of "punishment"The owner will force me to get out."   Daring to speak one word of truth about the actual and abusive factory conditions always ends up in firing.

When we explained that Hanes also has a code of conduct and that Hanes demands that the factory respect its code, Mahmoud responded, "It is not true.  Hanes is telling lies."

Corporate codes of conduct and private monitoring schemes can never improve respect for fundamental worker rights standards under such circumstances.  Most factory workers across the developing world do not know their legal rights, but what they do know is that if they dare protest against even the most extreme violations, they will be attacked and fired.  When a corporation goes into a circumstance like this with its code of conduct, it is nothing more than monitoring a well-run prison.

The only way to protect worker rights is to strictly enforce local labor laws and internationally recognized worker rights standards, the violation of which will result in sanctions.  But that is not what the corporations are about.  Instead, they use their codes of conduct as cover to relocate production to countries with dismal human and worker rights records.

Mahmoud also agreed that 5,000 taka would be a much fairer wage.  That would amount to just 36 cents an hour.  Maybe the corporations should write into their codes of conduct that any workers making their products should earn at least enough money to climb out of misery and into poverty.

Mahmoud would also like to return to school.  His favorite subject:  English.

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Hanes Underwear

"It is made of the tears of children and the sweat of workers."

Asked what would happen if factorymanagement saw his face, Male Worker responded: "They will beat me and I will be fired."

Though himself still a teenager, Male Worker is a senior operator sewing Hanes and Puma clothing. He earns just 20 cents an hour and $9.82 a week.

 

Click here to read the transcript of Male Worker's interview.

"Last night I worked until 11:30 p.m.," Male Worker tells us, explaining that he did not arrive home until "around 1:00 or 1:10 in the morning." He worked a 15 ½ hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., sewing Hanes pajamas. He too was beaten. "...the line chief beat me with a notebook [rolled up production records]...He hit me very strongly...on the arm...twice... [shouting] you fat s***. You couldn't make the target."

Male Worker tells us, "It is very common... even almost every day the workers are beaten."

This was September 11, in the Ready Made Garments Unit One department. Male Worker actually got off easy, as three nearby production lines—including 15 to 20 children, had to work a 20 ½ hour shift from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 4:30 the following morning.

September 11, 2006:  Children as young as 11 years old forced to work a 20 ½ hour shift from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. the following morning:

Male Worker explains that:

[There are] "around 50 or 60 child workers [on his floor, aged] 10, 11, 12, 13...All are equal, the way they treat [them], there is no distinction. They don't give any sympathy to the child workers. All are treated the same... Last night and the previous night also, some lines worked... In the three lines that work[ed] the night shift, [there were] 15 to 20 child workers... The Hanes lines, the three lines making Hanes products, they worked until 4:30 a.m. last night. [Afterward] they remain in the factory and lie down on the floor... They sleep on the floor. [The supervisors] beat and yell if they want to wash their faces in the bathroom. Then they yell at them."

How could the U.S. buyers and corporate monitors miss such serious violations, including the abuse of child workers?

We explained to Male Worker that Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and the other U.S. companies have codes of conduct that are meant to guarantee that the labor rights of any worker making their products will be respected and that they monitor their suppliers to strictly enforce this.

Male Worker: 

"I think Hanes is telling lies. In our factory we are treated harshly. The supervisors beat us, we are cheated on overtime, they don't pay us correctly and on time, and we are badly treated by our supervisors, but they don't see us, that these violations are going on."

"When buyers come, then the factory management cleans the factory and they tell us to tell lies. If we don't tell lies, then every worker is scared of losing their job. So they tell us that we are paid correctly, we are paid on time, that they treat us decently. So they force us to tell this to the monitors." 

"Management sometimes sends [the child workers] back to their homes or they put them aside in another space in the building."

"If buyers interview a worker, the management stares into the eyes of the worker, so that is a signal for what to tell the buyers."  

It should be pointed out that, "The line supervisor always holds a ruler in his hands"—which is quite intimidating, given that the workers have been beaten with such hard wooden rulers.

"When the buyer comes, the factory management provides us with uniforms. They are very thick, and it gets sweaty. We don't feel comfortable in the uniforms."

 

Anyone asking for their legal rights will be immediately fired:

Asked if anyone helps the workers in their struggle to gain their basic rights, Male Worker responds, "There is no one."  The workers are in a trap. The right to organize is strictly prohibited and will be met with immediate mass firing.

 "Since the workers are not united, we cannot go to the Minister of Labor. If we go, the company, the management will see that we go to the Ministry of Labor, and they will immediately fire all the workers. So in order not to lose our jobs, we can't go."

"For example, if four or five workers ask together [ask management for their correct overtime pay], the worker who takes the lead will be forced out. But the others who are submissive, they will be hit. But the workers who take the lead will be forced out of the factory."

Puma ShirtSewing Puma Shirts:

A real test of atheltic endurance --Forced to work for days straight with just two or three hours off

In April, there was a rush to complete Puma's order of long sleeved t-shirts to meet the shipment date. So for four days in a row, the entire floor - including the child workers - were kept for 19 to 21-hour shifts.

  • April 10: 8:00 a.m. to 4;00 a.m. (20 hours)
  • April 11: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. (19 hours)
  • April 12: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. (21 hours)
  • April 13: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. (21 hours)

Forced to work 81 hours in four days, the workers were allowed just two or three hours of sleep each morning - on the factory floor - before beginning their next shift. Also, the workers were only paid a fraction of the overtime pay legally due them.

 

 

More Violations

Male Worker: 

  • "We don't get any overtime except for two hours. But the rest of the overtime we have to work without receiving any money."
  • [The bathroom] is very filthy. If you are barefoot, you cannot enter. Before taking lunch, we cannot go in, because it makes us vomit. If you open the door, the stink comes out and there is no running water... In a week, for two to three days there is no water..."
  • "Management says they pay maternity benefits, but we have not seen any workers who have been paid maternity leave."

Asked if they get their annual vacation, the workers respond, "No never."  And, how about government holidays?  "No. Yesterday was a government holiday, but [we worked]."

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Sleeping Pants
Walmart receipt

 


 

In the Face of Such Abuse, the Workers' Demands Are Still So Extremely Modest:

1. A call to the American people to end child labor and sent the children to school:

Male Worker:

"Since we sweat and we make this product, we would lilke to say to the Americanpeople,the child workers who are working in the factory now, their wish is to go to school. But for their families, they ahve to work, but I ask the American people and the company to take these workers out and send them to school, because in the school, they can have a better time to build their future. So I ask them to get rid of the child workers from the factory."

2. Willing to work for 11 to 12 hours a day, six days a week:

Male worker:

"Better would be if we worked form 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and overtime shoud be limited to two hours. Because if we work two hours, it's good, no problem, but beyond that, our body, our mind cannot take exercise ... So, it's better to only work two hours [overtime] which means we can make some money, but it is tolerant labor."

These Bangladeshi workers are not slackers. Quite the opposite: they are some of the hardes workers anywhere in the world, and they are more than willing to work an 11-hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., six days a week.

Working a regular 12-hour shift would be their limit.

"If paid correctly, then we would work, but not past 8:00 [p.m.] We can at maximum work until 8:00. Our body punishes us if we work past 8:00."

3. Give us one day off a week:

Male Worker:

"Yes, we want a day off in a week. If we continue to work, we may feel sick and feel uneasy. Our body needs some rest, so if we take one day off, we can have enough rest to work for the next week."

4. Stop beating us and pay our overtime correctly:

Male Worker:

"Overtime should be legally paid and the company should stop beating us, shouting at us, calling us names ... We don't want to work without getting any money."

5. A Dream -- To earn enough to climb out of misery and into poverty:

Male Worker:

"The inflation rate is increasing. But our salaries are decreasing. The rent is increasing, the rent of the house, rice, the cost of living. The price of everything is oging up, but the salary is not .. the prices are going up. After some time we will have to go without food... We cannot support our lives with the money we are earning at the Hanes [Harvest Rich] factory."

In fact, there has not been an increase in the minimum wage in Bangladesh for the last 12 years, since 1994, while over the same period, the compounded inflation rate has reached 87 percent. The workers' real wages are seriously falling, sinking them ever deeper into misery.

Among the workers there is a consensus that, "if we can make 5,000 to 6,000 taka [a month], we can live decently ... have a decent life ... I could support my family and we could live better ... That would be good."

"We work very hard, we sweat in the factory, and we would like to make an appeal to the American people that we want to get a salary around 5,000 or 6,000 taka, including overtime and regular time."

What is 5,000 taka a month? it is just $74.63 a month -- 36 cents an hour! Even 6,000 taka is just $87.55 a month, 43 cents an hour. Would paying a wage of 6 cents an hour, or even 43 cents, break the backs of Hanes, Puma or Wal-Mart?

These workers are not asking for $1.00 or $2.00 or $3.00 an hour. They would settle for 36 cents an hour. Why must such a modest demand remain an impossible dream in the global economy? Where is the moral compass of our companies?

Male Worker:

"I hope. But in reality, I don't see any future, because if the company, the management did not think over this issue, so how could we have a dream at all?"

The missing link here is the American people. If we raised our voices, surely we could embarrass Hanes, Puma and Wal-Mart into demanding that the Harvest Rich factory pay at least 36 cents an hour. It would be that simple.

 

 The Workers' Dream
  • 36 to 43 cents an hour
  • $2.87 to $3.44 a day (8 hours)
  • $17.22 to $20.67 a week (48 hours; 6 days)
  • $74 to $89.55 a month
  • $895.52 to $1,074.64 a year

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What the U.S. companies must do

Hanes—Puma—Wal-Mart—J.C. Penney
  1. Send every under aged child worker to school:

Children belong in school, not locked in sweatshops. Hanes, Puma and Wal-Mart must take responsibility to see to it that every under aged child worker at the Harvest Rich factory is sent to school. To do this correctly, the companies must provide monthly stipends sufficient to replace the highest wages earned by the children—this is critical so that their families do not suffer further—as well as to meet basic educational expenses such as uniforms, textbooks, and other basic school supplies. Initial estimates place the cost per child as low as $70 per month, which is mere pocket change for these huge corporations. The companies must also move quickly, before factory management secretly terrorizes and fires as many of its child workers as they think they can get away with.

    2.   Don't cut and run—stay and fix the problem:

Cutting and running, and pulling production from the factory is the worst thing the companies can do. It does nothing other than further harm the workers, who have already been exploited, as hundreds of workers—including children—are thrown out on the street with nothing. Hanes, Puma, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart should make a commitment to Harvest Rich, to work together with their contractor to clean up the factory, while at the same time implementing concrete structure improvements in factory management that will guarantee that the most fundamental rights of the workers will finally be respected. It is the current 'hear nothing, see nothing, do nothing' relationships that multinationals adopt with their suppliers all across the developing world that is exacerbating the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy.

   3.    Transparency—disclose the names and addresses of supplier factories:

One very simple, concrete and easily doable step that Hanes, Puma, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart should take to restore consumer confidence is to release to the American people just the names and addresses of the factories they use around the world to make the goods we purchase. This single act of transparency would go a long way in reassuring the American people that these companies are not trying to hide other abusive factories. If Hanes, Puma, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart have nothing to hide, then why not publicly release their factories' names and locations.

    4.   Ending child labor by hiring adults and paying them a fair wage:

Ending child labor is very doable. It is not rocket science. Whenever you find the exploitation of child labor you also find high unemployment rates among adults. Hanes, Puma, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart could immediately put an end, once and for all, to child labor in any of their supplier plants by urging their contractors to instead hire the parents and older brothers and sisters of the children, and paying them a way sufficient for them and their families to at least climb out of abject misery and into poverty. In Bangladesh the garment workers tell us that if they could only earn 36 cents an hour—their dream—they could afford to live with a modicum of dignity.

Surely Hanes, Puma, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart cold easily afford this. If these corporations fail to act on such a modest request, they should explain to the American people what the problem is.

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The Label is Protected but Not the Human Being

What sense does that make?
It does not have to be this way.

How is it possible in the United States in the year 2006, that the corporate label is protected by all sorts of enforceable laws backed up by sanctions, while these same companies continue to oppose similar laws meant to protect the basic human rights of the 16-year-old girl who made the garment?

As we have seen repeatedly over the years, voluntary corporate codes of conduct and private monitoring schemes have never worked, and in fact, are leading us down a dead end, namely the privatization of respect for human and worker rights.

We need laws to protect human and worker rights in the global economy which are at least every bit as strong as the laws corporations demanded and won to protect their company trademarks, labels and products.

In 2006, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced anti-sweatshop legislation which for the first time ever will hold corporations accountable to respect internationally recognized fundamental human and worker rights standards. Under the legislation, goods made under sweatshop conditions which violate the core United Nations/International Labor Organization worker rights standards—no child labor, no forced labor, freedom of association, the right to organize and to bargain collectively, and decent working conditions—can no longer be imported, sold, or exported from the U.S.

The bill already has 55 co-sponsors in the House (H.5635) and 4 in the Senate (S.3485).

We have protected the corporate label. Now it is time to protect the 16-year-old girl in Bangladesh who made the garment.

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What Happened

To

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

 

More than anyone else, it was Eleanor Roosevelt's great spirit and dedication that created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. As a country, as a people, we committed ourselves to respect the human rights enshrined in this great declaration [statement].  Yet today, in the global economy, we have allowed multinational corporations to throw the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the ground as if it were a worthless scrap of paper. 

These are our rights and we need to take them back.

 

 

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
 

Article 23:

 

 

Everyone has the right to work"to just and favorable conditions of work"

Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration, ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity"

Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24:

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food, clothing and medical care"

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 


 

 

   Shipping Data Based on U.S. Customs Documents

FROM:
Harvest Rich LTd.
Star Centre, 2A 6th Floor, Block-C
Rd. No. 138, Gushan-1,
Dhaka 1212 BD

TO:
Saralee Underwear
1000 East Hanes Mill Road
Winston Salem, NC 27105 US

CC:
Keith L.Shelley, Customs Import
SaraLee Branded Apparel,
1000 East Hanes mill Road
Winston, Salem NC 27105 US

CC:
UTI United States, Inc.
2001 Old Greenbrier Road
Chesapeake, V 23320
17574246560

 

 Estimated Value:

 $111,495.00

 Exporting From:

 BANGLADESH

 Importing To: 

 Norfolk, Port 1401

 Date of Arrival:

 06/04/2006

 Description: 

 Men's Brief Underwear

 Quantity:

 Quantity:  1,340 Cartons

 


 

Shipping Data Based on U.S. Customs Documents

FROM:
Maersk Logisitics (BD) Ltd., O/B of
Harvest Rich Limited
Star Centre, 2A (6th Floor)

TO: 
Unto the Order o:
Rupali Bank Ltd.
Local Office
34 Dilkusha C/A, Dhaka Bangladesh
479-273-8420

CC: 
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
601 N. Walton Bentonville,
Arkansas 72716-0410, USA

 

 

 Estimated Value:

 $421,174.00 

 Exporting From:

 BANGLADESH

 Importing To: 

 Charleston, Port 160

 Date of Arrival:

 07/05/2006

 Description:

 Men's 100 PCT Cotton Woven Pants

 

 Style No: NB36D001, NB36D001C

 Quantity:

 1,830 Cartons

 

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Summary
Labor Law of Bangladesh

CHILD LABOR:

  • Bangladeshi Law Prohibits Child Labor.  Bangladesh's labor law strictly prohibits factories from hiring children under the age of 14. 
  • If a factory hires children and adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17, they are prohibited from working more than five hours a day and 30 hours a week.
  • Children and adolescents may never under any circumstances be obligated to work at night—between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

HOURS:

  • 8-hour day, 6-day week.
  • 48-hour regular work week.
  •  

OVERTIME:

  • Overtime must be voluntary.
  • Overtime not to exceed 12 hours (for a maximum 60-hour workweek) and should not average more than 8 hours a week (for a 56-hour workweek).
  • Overtimes must be paid at double the standard rate.
  • Women may not work night shifts or past 8:00 p.m.

REST DAY:   

  • There must be one rest day off per week.

MINIMUM WAGE:   

  • 930 taka a month = $14.26 a month (based on a 48-hour workweek).  This comes to 7 cents an hour, 55 cents a day, $3.29 a week and $171.17 a year.

PUNISHMENTS: 

  • All forms of physical punishment are outlawed and punishable under Bangladeshi law.  

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 Letter from H&M

 

Dear Mr. Kenraghan and Dear Barbara [Briggs],

I wanted to let yo know thatH&M with sadness has taken part of your recent report about Harvest Rich.

I first visited Bangladesh in 1992 when I became responsible for H&M's production in the country (based in Hong Kong). I found that child labour was not uncommon in export garment factories (specially in Narayangnaj) and we immediately started a program to stop child labour in all factories producing for H&M. This was several years before we even had a Code of Conduct. Later, in 1999, we also started the vocational Training center for ex-child labourers in Dhaka that you may be aware of.

For the last ten years, child labour in the garment export industry, with few exceptions, largeley seemed to be a problem of the past in Bangladesh. Reading your report gave me a feeling of going back in time again to 1992. I certainly hope that you have found an exceptional case and that child labour is not on its way back in a big way!

I noted that H&M was mentioned in the report as a buyer at Harvest Rich. It is correct that we have been sourcing from Harvest Rich in the past, but we stopped business with them more than a year ago (Last shipment April 2005). In 2001 we actually found three children working in the factory during an audit. Unfortunately we lost track of one child, the other two were placed in schools. The expenses as well as compensation for loss of income to the family were paid by Harvest Rich. I see in your report that you suggest that retailers should pay for this. This is not the policy we have at H&M. It is our supplier who has employed the children, in violation of both the law of the country and in violation against our Code of Conduct that they have signed a commitment that they will comply with. We therefore ask that factories take their responsibility. Our policy is also that if they do that, we are willing to continue business with them as long as it is never again repeated. However, during the next years our relation with the supplier deteriorated and last year we did not longer find it possible to continue business with them. This was not a cut and run situation, but a decision taken after several years of trying to imporve the situation, in vain.

We have recenlty been approached by the supplier with requests to take up business with them again, but we have declined.

We fully support your fight against child labour, and hope that if in the future you suspect child labour in a factory producing for H&M, you contact us as soon as possible so that we can look into the matter and make sure that the children are taken care of. We have a fulltime team of nine people in Dhaka working with compliance in the factories producing for H&M. We have of course alerted them to the fact that child labour may be on its way back and that they should be extra vigilant during audits, especially in Narayanganj.

Best Regards,

Ingrid Schullstrom 

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