Investigation Stalls at Classic Fashion in Jordan: An Open Letter To the Apparel Companies Sourcing Production at Classic

July, 28 2011 Share

Campaign: Classic/Jordan-Sweatshop Abuse, Sexual Predators

DATE:  July 28, 2011 

TO:      Mike Duke, CEO; Rajan Kamalanathan, VP-Ethical Sourcing, Wal-Mart
           Richard A. Noll, CEO; Chris Fox, VP-Corporate Social Responsibility, Hanesbrands Inc.
           Terry J. Lundgren, CEO; Jay L. Monitz, Group VP Associate General Counsel, Macy's
           Gregg W. Steinhafel, CEO, Target
           Kevin Mansell, CEO, Kohl's
           Louis J. D'Ambrosio, CEO; Carol Rice, Global Compliance Director, Sears Holdings Corp
           Nick Coe, CEO, Lands End
           IGLHR Contacts

FROM: Charles Kernaghan 

RE:      Investigation Stalls at Classic Fashion in Jordan: 
              An Open Letter To the Apparel Companies Sourcing Production at Classic


  •  A test for the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement-and for Wal-Mart, Hanes and the other labels.
  • The investigation at Classic must also focus on the company cars and drivers Anil Santha used to transport his rape victims to rented safe houses, and the supervisor who acted as a key enabler for Anil, fetching the young women he requested and bringing them to his waiting car. 
  • The alleged serial rapist, Anil Santha, must be required to take a polygraph test. If it is good enough for the atomic scientists at Los Alamos, surely it is good enough for a low-end garment sweatshop like Classic.



Like many other countries, Jordan has a problem with corruption. Perhaps you have seen the recent New York Times article, "Jordan's Protesters Ask for Little, and Receive Less," July 20, 2011 by Kareem Fahim-which quotes a local political analyst saying "During the past six years, corruption was so rampant"...[that] "as a result Jordan almost went bankrupt..."


The Jordanian Government's investigation of rampant sexual abuse and women's rights violations at the Classic factory in Jordan is running into a brick wall. Even the simplest facts-such as identifying the Classic factory company cars and drivers who ferried factory manager Anil Santha and his rape victims to various houses (which Mr. Santha apparently rented and used to rape young women workers)-are being withheld from investigators. Surely records were kept noting the time and use of company cars. It would also be very easy for the Classic company drivers to quickly identify the houses to which Anil took young women workers. Moreover, if Classic used surveillance cameras, the tapes would show young women being lead out of the factory, often by a supervisor (Ms. Jhuman, for example) who acted as Anil Santha's enabler, fetching the young women Anil asked for and bringing the victims to the waiting car. When Anil's rape victims were returned to the factory, they would often have been seen bent over in shock and pain, crying and unable to work. 


Also, are you aware that, in broad daylight, Classic management is in the process of removing all senior male workers from the Classic Group of factories? In fact, within the next few months, there will be no senior male workers left at Classic. The thousands of young Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi women guest workers at Classic will be alone, isolated and with nowhere to turn for help.


Just last Friday, July 22-the workers' one day off in the week-Classic managers made the rounds of all the women's dorms during the lunch period, threatening them to never speak with "outsiders". The terrified women were instructed to say only good things about Classic, or the factory would be shut down and they would all lose their jobs.


Anil Santha should be required to take a lie detector test


We ask the apparel companies and retailers sourcing production at Classic to agree that Anil Santha be required to undergo a polygraph-lie detector-test, regarding the allegations that he has raped scores of young women, year after year.


One of Anil Santha's victims, "Nazma," is willing to take a polygraph test. She has nothing to hide. If lie detector tests are good enough for the scientists at Los Alamos, then clearly they should be good enough for a low end garment factory.


If Anil Santha is not a serial rapist, he will have nothing to fear from a polygraph test.


Given the gravity of the allegations of sexual abuse of scores of young women at Classic, we are sure the labels and retailers will support the requirement that he undergo a lie detector test. It would be very disappointing, and indicative of indifference to abuse, if the U.S. companies sourcing production from Classic refused to support this.


 "There Are Things Worse Than Rape"


When a Sri Lankan women's rights advocate told us this, we were shocked. She explained that the young women guest workers who are raped at Classic may be full of hurt and anger, but what can they do? If they speak out, they risk having their names publicly known. If this happens, many, from traditional communities, could lose their chance to marry. Their fiancés will leave them. Their hopes of having a family and a decent life will be smashed. Even their parents may shun them. Rape victims are ostracized. So, there are things worse than rape.


But there is another trap which keeps them silent. The guest workers are in Jordan for only one reason. They are from extremely poor families, and travel to Jordan so they can earn enough money to help their parents and younger siblings. The guest workers borrow money in order to pay what, for them, is a huge amount of money to purchase their three-year work contracts at Classic. If these workers dare to speak out about being raped by Anil Santha, they will be immediately fired, imprisoned, and then forcibly deported under false charges. If they still owe money on their contracts, the whole family will be bankrupt.


It is incredible that under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, these hard-working young women guest workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can actually face crimes worse than rape. That should give us all pause.


What Must Be Done 

The scores of rape victims at Classic will certainly talk, but only if they are guaranteed protection and confidentiality.  Their names must never be exposed.  The Sri Lankan women's organization, Migrant Rights Group, would come to Jordan to meet with the rape victims in a safe location.  Once they give their testimony, the women will never be able to work in Classic again.  Classic management must pay the women every cent they would have earned-including overtime-during the time left on their contracts.  Classic must provide each worker with a free ticket home.  Classic management must pay each rape victim $25,000 to $50,000 for the torture they have endured.  IF the women guest workers want to remain working in Jordan, the government of Jordan should find them jobs in other, better garment factories.

We ask that the very well-respected and effective Jordanian Centre for Human Rights lead the investigation into the alleged widespread sexual abuse and rampant women's rights violations at Classic. 


Why Can't Wal-Mart Help Investigate the Alleged Rapes at Classic?


As far back as March 29, 2007, The New York Times reported that: " known internally for its bare-knuckled no-expense-spared investigations of employees who break its ironclad ethics rules." 


That same week, the Wall Street Journal also wrote about "Wal-Mart's Threat Research and Analysis Group."


According to The New York Times article, Wal-Mart hired Kenneth H. Sensor-"a former top official at the CIA and FBI" to run Wal-Mart's Security Department, which had a "staff of roughly 400"... "to investigate allegations of misconduct."

 Fired for a Kiss 


"The investigator flew to Guatemala in April 2002 with a delicate mission: trail a Wal-Mart manager around the country to prove he was sleeping with a lower-level employee, a violation of company policy. 


"The apparent smoking gun? ‘Moans and sighs' heard as the investigator, a Wal-Mart employee, pressed his ear against a hotel room door inside a Holiday Inn, according to legal documents. Soon after, the company fired the manager for what it said was improper fraternization with a subordinate...


"...During the investigation, a company investigator followed Mr. Lynn and a lower-level female colleague who worked in Costa Rica on a business trip to Guatemala City, where he spied on the pair at least four days-even booking a hotel room directly across the hall from the female employee's room to keep watch on the pair. (In the end, both Mr. Lynn and the woman did say they kissed.)


"Mr. Lynn, in an interview and in a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart, claims he was singled out because he openly criticized the working conditions in the Central American factories he inspected.


" ‘Wal-Mart is the ultimate Big Brother in corporate America,' Mr. Lynn said."


So....where is Big Brother Wal-Mart with its CIA and FBI-led 400-member Threat Research and Analysis Group when we really need them???


The point is, Wal-Mart has the resources and capacity to track down every single rape of defenseless young Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi women guest workers at the Classic factory in Jordan, which sews their clothing. But they just do not care.