Alerts

Child Labor Alert: Update on the Harvest Rich Factory

November, 17 2006 Share

Please help end the exploitation of children in the global apparel industry before it begins to spread. Especially on the eve of the holiday season, urge Hanes, Wal-mart and J.C. Penney to do the right thing - to send the children at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh, who sewed their clothing, back to school where they belong.


 

  • Harvest Rich management says the under-aged workers only look like children, but are actually malnourished adults.
  • Scores of children have been fired, while at the same time company thugs have fanned out across worker neighborhoods threatening the children and their parents to lie about their ages. One parent told us that they fear for their lives.
  • Local labor rights activists supporting the workers receive death threats from Harvest Rich general manager.
  • Corporate representatives—finally visiting the Harvest Rich factory late at night, as we have always urged—found Wal-Mart boys' Faded Glory jeans being sewn at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday by workers 16 ½ hours into what would have been a 19-to-20-hour all-night shift, stretching straight through from 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following day.

 

Click here to watch video of the labor activists in Bangladesh describing their ordeal.

Click here to read the original report on the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh.

 

For years, the giant U.S. clothing companies sourcing production at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh—including Hanes, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and Puma-U.S.A—claimed they could not find any of the estimated 200 to 300 children, some as young as 11, who were sewing their garments. Nor could the corporate monitors uncover the routine beatings, mandatory 12 to 14-hour shifts, often seven days a week, and the fact that the workers were systematically cheated of their overtime pay.

Even after Channel Four in England broadcast hidden camera footage showing children working at the Harvest Rich factory and the National Labor Committee issued its in-depth report, the companies still said they could not find the children or the violations.

Given that the companies could not find the child workers, we decided to bring the children to the companies. A meeting was set for Monday, November 6, in Dhaka and the companies were invited.

All Hell broke loose when Harvest Rich management found out about the meeting. Scores of child workers were fired and company thugs fanned out across the worker neighborhoods to threaten the children, and their parents, to lie about their ages. One parent told us they fear for their lives.

Just how far Harvest Rich management would go was demonstrated late Saturday night when three well-known labor rights activists were stopped and detained by Harvest Rich general manager Raton Roy, who threatened that he would have them "hung" with the help of the very powerful Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Export Association (BGMEA). Ms. Kalpona Akther and Mr. Babul Akter, both leaders of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and Rafiq Alam, a human rights expert long associated with the prestigious Institute for Integrated Rural Development, were visiting the workers' homes to inform them of the important meeting with the companies which was set for the following afternoon. It was 10:30 p.m. when their car was suddenly blocked by two vehicles which pulled up in front and behind them. The Harvest Rich general manager jumped out of one of the cars shouting at and threatening the activists. He then called the police, urging them when they arrived to take the activists to prison and have them beaten and tortured for harming his factory's image. Thankfully the police acted responsibly. No one was imprisoned, and the activists were freed a little after 1:00 a.m. Especially at the beginning though, it was terrifying for the labor activists, who felt certain that they would be badly beaten.

The same day that Harvest Rich's general manager was terrorizing the labor activists, Westerners visiting the Harvest Rich factory at 12:30 a.m. early on Sunday found workers sewing Faded Glory boy's jeans for Wal-Mart. Having started at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, they were 16 ½ hours into what would have been a mandatory all-night shift extending 19 to 20 hours. Had the workers not been sent home at 12:30 a.m. because of the Westerners' visit, they would have worked until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and then slept on the factory floor for a few hours before beginning their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning. For years the NLC has been demanding that company auditors conduct unannounced factory visits late at night if they cared at all about finding the truth. Finally it was done, and they found exactly what we said they would.

Reportedly, a recent Wal-Mart audit also cited Harvest Rich for mandatory seven-day workweeks with no days off from the beginning of October through the first week in November. 

If Harvest Rich management is willing to detain and threaten internationally recogn ized labor rights leaders, it becomes all too clear how they must terrorize the workers, who have no one to turn to for help.

Now Harvest Rich is claiming that what we thought were child workers, are actually malnourished adults.

Meanwhile, the companies seem confused and paralyzed as to what to do next. We have no intention of abandoning these children. It is the moral responsibility of the companies to guarantee that these child workers receive a stipend to return to school where they belong. The Harvest Rich factory must be cleaned up and brought into compliance with all Bangladeshi labor law and international worker rights standards, so that the legal rights of the workers are finally respected.

The situation remains threatening and volatile.

Immediate action is necessary.

 

Click the links below to send an email to the company.

Model Letter

We encourage you to either write your own letter or to personalize the model letter below.

Click here to see an example of a personalized letter written by Rev. William Somplatsky-Jarman of the Presbyterian Church.

I am deeply disturbed that children are being exploited to sew your company's clothing at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh. I hope you agree that children belong in school and not locked in sweatshops where they are beaten, forced to work grueling hours and paid just pennies. I expect your company to immediately provide stipends sufficient to replace the highest wages these children earned—so that they and their families do not suffer further—while also covering their basic school costs, including uniforms, shoes, text books and educational supplies, so that these children can return to school where they belong.

Cutting and running, and pulling production from the factory is not the answer. In fact, it is the worst thing you could do, since it would only further punish the workers, who have already suffered enough. Rather, your company should stay at the factory and work together with your contractor to guarantee that the legal rights of the workers are finally respected.

The Bangladeshi workers' demands are so extremely modest. The workers say that if they could earn just 36 cents an hour, they and their families could climb out of misery and into poverty where they could exist with a modicum of dignity. Surely your company could afford this. Will Hanes pay at least 36 cents an hour to workers in Bangladesh who are sewing your garments? If not—why?

Finally, I urge your company to release the names and addresses of the factories you use around the world to make the goods you expect us to purchase. This single act of transparency and good faith will go a long way to restore consumer confidence that you are not trying to hide child labor and abusive sweatshop conditions at other factories.

Some companies send out generalized form letters in response to their customers' concerns. Please, I ask you not to do this. I find that practice offensive. The exploitation of children and the gross violation of fundamental human, women's and workers' rights standards are serious matters and demand an equally serious and concrete response from you.

Thank you,

Hanes
Wal-Mart
 J.C. Penney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fax a Letter

Hanes

Click here to download a model letter to Hanes in a Word Document.

Mr. Lee Chaden, Executive Chairman Hanesbrands, Inc.
1000 East Hanes Mill Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Fax: 336-519-4667   

Wal-Mart

Click here to download a model letter to Wal-Mart in a Word Document

Mr. Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, AK 72716
Fax: 479-277-1830

JCPenney

Click here to download a model letter to JCPenney in a Word Document.

Mr. Myron Ullman, Chairman and CEO
J C Penney Corporation, Inc.
6501 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 75024-3698
Fax: 972-431-1944

Click here to read a previous update on the Harvest Rich factory.