Alerts

Interview with a Male Worker

September, 12 2006 Share

Interview With an 18-Year-Old Worker

Sewing Clothing for Hanes and PUMA

9/12/06

Watch a clip of this interview

Worker  holding Hanes underwear

Back to the Harvest Rich report

Click here for a printable version of this transcript.

NLC: We're not going to use your name and we are not showing your face. Why are we doing it like this? Why do we need to film you from the back? What would happen if the factory managers saw your face?

MALE WORKER: They would beat me and I would be fired.

NLC Hidden Camera Footage: Unknown Harvest Rich workers, September 2006

Hidden camera footage

NLC: So we have to film you from the back.

NLC: What factory do you work at?

MALE WORKER: The name of the factory is Harvest Rich Limited.

NLC: In what particular floor or division?

MALE WORKER: I work in *** floor

NLC: What time did you work to last night?

MALE WORKER: Last night I worked until 11:30 at night.

NLC: What time did you get home?

MALE WORKER: It was around 1 or 1:10 in the morning

NLC: What label were you working on yesterday?

MALE WORKER: I was working on the Hanes label.

NLC: What is your job?

MALE WORKER: I am an operator. I run the machines.

NLC: Did you have any problems yesterday or was it an easy day?

MALE WORKER: Yesterday, we had a huge production target. It was stressful and it was very bad. The supervisor shouted at us and called us names and beat workers.

NLC: Were you beaten yesterday or yelled at?

MALE WORKER nods

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: What happened?

MALE WORKER: The target was to make 120 pieces an hour but I could only make 90 pieces and the line chief took me to the [inaudible] and the line chief beat me with note paper.

NLC: With a rolled up notebook?

MALE WORKER: The notebook was a production [inaudible].

NLC: It sounds like it didn't hurt.

MALE WORKER: He hit me very strongly.

NLC: Where, on the back?

MALE WORKER: The arm.

MALE WORKER indicates his left arm.

NLC: They did it just once?

MALE WORKER: Twice.

NLC: What were they saying?

MALE WORKER: They called names, [and said] like 'I f-- your mother, you could not make the target'

NLC: Is this common or is this very rare that the workers are hit?

MALE WORKER: It is very common, practically every day the workers are beaten.

NLC: In your division, your floor, how many lines are making Hanes?

MALE WORKER: 4 lines on that floor make Hanes products.

NLC: Can you describe exactly what the Hanes product is that you are making?

MALE WORKER: Trousers. Some type of flexible [inaudible].

NLC: Is it long, is it full length?

MALE WORKER: It is long, from the waist to the toes.

NLC: And does it have a belt or is it a string or what?

This sample of Hanes sleeping pants was smuggled out of the factory by workers, Septmeber 2006.

Sample of Hanes Pants  Smuggled out of Factory

MALE WORKER: Elastic. And there are two ropes.

NLC: Does it have pockets?

MALE WORKER: 2 pockets, both sides.

NLC: What color is it?

MALE WORKER: Gray. There are some flowers on it.

NLC: Is it very soft, very light?

MALE WORKER: Very soft.

NLC: It sounds like pajamas.

MALE WORKER: Some sort of garment that people wear for sleeping.

NLC: Are there any children, underage workers working on the line, on the Hanes?

MALE WORKER: nods 

MALE WORKER: Yes, there are.

NLC: How many children are working on your floor?

MALE WORKER: Around 50 or 60 child workers

NLC: What ages are these workers?

MALE WORKER: 10, 11, 12, 13.

NLC: And did they also stay last night until 11:30 or did they go home early at like 4:00?

MALE WORKER: They worked until 11:30.

NLC: The kids?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: We won't mention her name but we met a 13-year old worker 2 days ago who worked on your floor. Was she also working last night, the 13-year old, until 11:30?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: Do they also beat the children and yell at them or are they treated much nicer with more gentleness?

MALE WORKER: All are equal, the way they are treated. There is no distinction. They don't give any sympathy to the child workers. All are treated equally.

NLC: So they also hit the children?

MALE WORKER: Yes, they beat the child workers.

NLC: Are you preparing for a shipment, like why are you working so many hours?

MALE WORKER: So now is very critical for production. The stated target is 1,500 but we could only make 1,200 a day, maximum so in order to make the production target with such limited time, we have to work very hard.

NLC: And when is the shipment going out?

MALE WORKER: The shipment is supposed to go out on the 24th or 25th but management wants to make it before the shipment so that they can feel comfortable.

NLC: So do they explain to the workers that you are going to have to work overtime until (until what time at night will they have to work?) until the shipment goes out?

MALE WORKER: The supervisor says, 'Because there is a shipment, don't think about when you will get out of the factory. Until the production target is made, you cannot ask us to get out of the factory, because of the shipment.'

NLC: What time, for example tomorrow night and the next night, what time do you think you will work to?

MALE WORKER: Approximately 10 or 12 at night. There is no guarantee when we will get out of the factory. Anywhere from 10, 11, 12.

NLC: Will you get Fridays off, the weekly holiday?

MALE WORKER: Until the Eid holidays in October, we will not get a single day off.

NLC: So you'll work more than the next month without a single day off?

MALE WORKER: No, we will not get any days off.

NLC: Do you ever work all-night shifts?

MALE WORKER: Yes, I have.

NLC: When was the last time you worked an all-night shift?

MALE WORKER: 2 months ago.

NLC: Were you also working on Hanes then?

This PUMA label was smuggled out of the factoryby workers

Puma label smuggled  out of factory

MALE WORKER: Then we were making PUMA

NLC: And what time did you work to?

MALE WORKER: We worked until 6 a.m.

NLC: So you worked from 8 in the morning straight through to 6 a.m.?

MALE WORKER: Yes, we worked from 8 in the morning straight through to 6 in the morning, then we were paid our salary that morning.

NLC: Did you have to go back to work that same day?

MALE WORKER: That day we worked 2 or 3 hours and then were set free.

NLC: Do you expect, will there be any all night shifts now as you prepare to ship out the Hanes clothing?

MALE WORKER: Yes, the night shift is also going on.

NLC: But not your line?

MALE WORKER: Another line.

NLC: Is it PUMA or Hanes?

MALE WORKER: Hanes.

NLC: Are there children actually working?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: So, in another line, they are working this all-night shift on Hanes?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: When did they do this, yesterday or a few days ago?

MALE WORKER: Last night and the previous night also, some lines were working.

NLC: And they worked from when, from 8 in the morning until when?

MALE WORKER: They started working at 8 in the morning and they worked all night until 7 in the morning.

NLC: They worked until 7 a.m.? They worked 23 hours?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: And then what happened? They could go home?

MALE WORKER: So we get 1 hour break and if we go to the factory bathroom, we shower, if not we don't take the shower we go [inaudible] and we get breakfast and we start working.

NLC: So they get off at 7 in the morning and have to start their next shift again at 8 a.m.?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: This happened last night?

MALE WORKER: I did this 2 months ago.

NLC: In your factory now, on your floor, are you working all-night shifts, now?

MALE WORKER: Not my line, another line.

NLC: For Hanes?

MALE WORKER: Hanes.

NLC: Did that happen last night or the night before?

Hanes label
MALE WORKER: Last night and the previous night.

NLC: And on that line are there any child workers?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: About how many?

MALE WORKER: In the 3 lines that work the all-night shift, 15 to 20 child workers.

NLC: But they didn't have to work all night, the children?

MALE WORKER: They worked.

NLC: Do they also yell at and beat the children?

MALE WORKER: They beat and yell. If they want to wash their faces in the bathroom, then they yell at them.

NLC: If they put water on their faces to wake up, they yell at them?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: In just the last 2 or 3 days there have been lines making the Hanes pants, pajamas where they have worked all night, from 8 a.m. to 6 or 7 a.m. the following day?

MALE WORKER: The Hanes lines, the 3 lines making Hanes product, they worked until 4:30 a.m. last night.

NLC: And then what happens? Do they go home at 4:30 in the morning, what do they do?

MALE WORKER: They remain in the factory and lie down on the floor.

NLC: So there are child workers, 11, 12, 13 years of age who work from 8 in the morning until 4:30 in the morning and then they sleep in the factory?

MALE WORKER: Yes, they sleep on the floor.

...

NLC:  Hanes is a very big North American company and Hanes tells the American people that in factories, such as Harvest Rich, Hanes has a strict corporate code of conduct posted on the wall for all the workers to see and it guarantees the workers that their legal rights will be respected, that they will be treated with dignity, that they will be paid correctly and on time, that they'll be paid their overtime correctly, that there will be no physical abuse, ever, that there will be no child labor, ever. Hanes guarantees the American people that its clothing is made under decent conditions and that they monitor those factories to guarantee that the conditions meet all international standards. What do you say to 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 or on time and we are treated badly by our supervisors, but they don't see that these violations are going on.

NLC: What happens when the corporate monitors come into the factory?

MALE WORKER: When buyers come then the factory management cleans the factory and they tell us, the management tells us to tell lies. If we don't tell the lie, then all the workers are scared of losing their jobs. So, they tell us to say that we are paid correctly, we are paid on time, and they treat us decently. They force us to tell this to the monitors.

NLC: How come the monitors cannot see the child workers?

MALE WORKER: When the buyers come, they don't visit the factory, they just walk. They don't ask any workers how we are treated, if we are beaten, at all. Sometimes they only talk to the management, but the management, sometimes they send the workers back to their homes or they set them aside in another part of the factory.

NLC: You mean the children? They hide the children.

TRANSLATOR: Yes.

NLC: The monitors must be stupid people, because why can't they go to the factory unannounced or why can't they go to the factory at night to see if it is open or why can't they go to the factory on a Friday to see that it is working on the holidays. Why are the monitors so ignorant?

MALE WORKER:  It seems that the corporate code of conduct, that the compliance officers or monitors have a close relationship with the owner. They have some business and meetings and they don't see the workers' side or the treatment of the workers, how they are treated in the factory.

NLC: Does anybody help you, the workers in the factory, to gain your rights?

MALE WORKER: There is nobody.

NLC: What would happen if you went to the labor ministry in Bangladesh and said, 'We are being beaten and we are being cheated of our wages.' Would the ministry of labor come crashing down and demand that the company respect the rights of the workers?

MALE WORKER: Since the workers are not united, we cannot go together.  If we go, the company, the management will see us go to the ministry of labor and they will immediately fire all the workers.  So in order not to lose our jobs, we don't dare.

NLC: So you are in a trap?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: This wage that the workers earn making the Hanes clothing, is it an adequate wage?

MALE WORKER: I don't think the salary that we are getting is fair. In the market now, all the prices are going up. Even the price of rice, which is the main food for the workers, is going up. Our overtime rate is not increasing. Our salary is not increasing. With this salary we cannot compete. We cannot even support ourselves with the money we are earning from working at the Hanes factory.

  NLC: I'm going to show you a pair of underwear. Do you recognize this?

NLC holds up a pair of blue Hanes sport underwear for the worker to inspect.

MALE WORKER: Yes, I recognize this.

NLC: Did you work on this pair of underpants, this exact style?

MALE WORKER: I sewed this area. 

TRANSLATOR points at the crotch.

NLC: How long ago was that?

MALE WORKER:  15 to 20 days ago.

NLC: Were you ever beaten when you were working on this underwear?

MALE WORKER: They don't beat me, but I've seen workers beaten. The worker who worked on the band, he was beaten.

NLC: For what?

MALE WORKER: This work is very hard and sometimes the machine doesn't function. It makes mistakes. It's a hard job. So that is the reason.

NLC: So they beat the worker?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: Also, making this underwear, were children workers also working?

MALE WORKER: Yes, they were.

NLC: What do you want to say to the American people who buy this underwear? Does this underwear have the tears of the Bangladesh workers on it?

MALE WORKER: I would certainly say so. It is made of the tears of children and the sweat of the workers.

NLC: And yet Hanes says everything is fine.

MALE WORKER: No, it's not true.

NLC: Have you ever heard of a company called Wal-Mart?

MALE WORKER: Yes, I have.

NLC: Have your ever produced for Wal-Mart?

MALE WORKER: I have heard that we have had products bought by Wal-Mart. Now the cutting section is cutting pieces and within a couple of weeks we will be working on a Wal-Mart label or a Wal-Mart product. Since we saw the machine involved in cutting. For now we cannot say what label it is.

NLC: Is there anything you would like to say to the American people, to ask them for help or whatever?

MALE WORKER: We work very hard. We sweat in the factory. We would like to make an appeal to the American people — we want to get a salary of around 5,000 or 6,000, including overtime and regular time. Also we only get vacation on Eid days. Apart from that we cannot enjoy any government holidays.

NLC: You don't get government holidays off?

MALE WORKER: No, like some special days in Bengali culture.

NLC: You don't?

MALE WORKER: No. Even on strike days, we have to work. We don't get any government holidays.

NLC: If you make 5,000 to 6,000 taka, you could live on that wage?

MALE WORKER: Yes, then we could have a normal life.

NLC: How many hours a day would it be acceptable to work?

MALE WORKER: It would be better if we worked from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Overtime should be limited to 2 hours. Because if we work 2 hours, it's good, no problem. But beyond that, our bodies, our minds cannot take the [exertion] or stress. So, it's better to only work 2 hours. That means we could make some money, but it is a tolerable [amount of work].

NLC: So you would be willing to work from 8 in the morning until 7 at night?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: And you would be willing to work 6 days a week and get 1 day off?

MALE WORKER: Yes, we want to have a day off in a week. If we continue to work, we may feel sick and feel uneasy. Our bodies need some rest. So if we take 1 day off we will have enough rest to work for the next week.

NLC: So your demands or goals would be 1 day a week off?

MALE WORKER: Of course.

NLC: And to work from 8 o'clock in the morning until 7 o'clock at night?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: And to earn 5,000 to 6,000 taka?

NLC Hidden Camera Footage: Unknown girls going to work at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh.

girls  working at harvest rich

MALE WORKER: Yes, we want that. If we can make 5,000 to 6,000 taka we can live decently.

NLC: What would be the most important things that you could purchase if you made that 5,000 to 6,000 taka? How would it change your lives?

MALE WORKER: First, I would buy some gifts for my parents and I would send my brother to school.

NLC: You have a younger brother?

MALE WORKER: Yes.

NLC: Do you have hope? You are a hard worker. Do you have hope that your job will be better and better, that you will have a better future?

MALE WORKER: I hope, but in reality, I don't see any future because if the company. The management doesn't think about this, so how can we have any dreams at all?

NLC: What would happen if you were turned around facing the camera and your face was shown, what would happen to you?

MALE WORKER: I would be fired and beaten.

NLC: The Hanes clothing, do you know where that clothing goes to, where it is shipped to, what country?

MALE WORKER: It goes to America.

NLC: Have you seen images and pictures of the United States? Do you know what it is like?

MALE WORKER: Sometimes on television, in the news. It seems like a good, nice country.

NLC: Do you think that the people in the United States, when they buy the Hanes products, do you think that the people think about you and your coworkers?

MALE WORKER: I cannot say because I have never met with Americans, I cannot say what they think about us.

NLC: Do you know what wages are in the United States?

MALE WORKER: Most people know that they get much more than we get.

NLC: Do you think it's right that the children work?

MALE WORKER: No, they belong in school. They should not work.

NLC: Does the factory respect the maternity leave with full pay for women?

MALE WORKER: They do not pay the maternity leave. We have heard that they will pay it, but I have never seen a worker getting maternity leave.

NLC: Could you describe to the American people the hardship that is in that pair of underwear that you are sewing for Hanes? In your own words, could you just say how the workers are treated, that there is the tears and blood and sweat of the workers in the garment?

MALE WORKER: Since we sweat and we make this clothing, we would like to say the American people: the child workers who are working in the factory now, their wish is to go to school. But, for their families, they have to work. I ask the American people and the companies to take these workers out and send them to school because in school they can have better time to build their future. So I ask them to get rid of the child workers from the factory.

NLC: The garment industry in Bangladesh is booming so the wages of the workers should be going up. The exports to the U.S. are going up and Bangladesh now has 4,100 garment factories and over 2 million workers. But are the wages of the workers going up?

MALE WORKER: Yes, the export earnings are going up, it's increasing every year, but the salary of the workers is not increasing. We cannot even get a vacation, we cannot go to see our family members. Workers are being exploited.

NLC: Do you have any questions for us?

MALE WORKER: What can I ask, my humble self? I cannot be like"  We should get our salary increased. We should get our overtime paid correctly, according to law. We should get our vacation, sick leave, and government leave so we can enjoy our life. We should have our salary increased. We want one day off, also.

NLC: Thank you.

 


 

Back to the Harvest Rich report

Click here for a printable version of this transcript.