Jordan Slips Back into Human Trafficking at Chinese-owned Maintrend Sweatshop producing for Sears' Lands End

October, 03 2011 Share


Young Women Tear-gassed and Beaten

On September 22, 2011 at 4:30 p.m., dozens of Jordanian police stormed the Maintrend factory, firing teargas and clubbing the women workers.  Dozens of women were injured.  The factory was filled with smoke from the teargas. 

The women have been on strike since Monday, September 12.  As of September 26, management has cut off food and water.  The workers have now been out for three weeks.  (We hope that the teargas fired on the young women guest workers was not supplied by the U.S.)

The majority of workers at Maintrend-about 600-are young women from Bangladesh who were newly recruited over the last six months.  From the very beginning, the passports of the Bangladeshi women have been confiscated.  To date just half of the women have had their passports returned.  Most of the women workers also lack their akama (residency permit) and their work permit.


Harsh and illegal sweatshop conditions have returned at Maintrend

Workers who fail to reach their mandatory production goal are routinely cursed at, pushed, slapped and even punched.  Management arbitrarily sets production goals at 50 "jackets" per hour, while the workers can sew just 25 jackets.  Workers are then routinely required to remain for two overtime hours without pay.

A line chief, Mr. Jobuj, recently slapped a young woman sewer, Ms. Selina, for failing to reach her production goal.

In May 2011, eleven women were forcibly deported for failing to reach their mandatory production goals.  (This means that the young women and their families will sink even further into poverty since they will be unable to pay off the money they borrowed at exorbitant rates to purchase their daughters' three-year contracts to work in Jordan.

Chinese supervisors constantly threaten the young women, shouting at and slapping them, and threatening them with deportation.

If the sewing machines malfunction and need repair, management deducts wages from the workers' attendance bonus.  Workers who fall sick will also have money deducted from their attendance bonus.

Workers need a "toilet pass" to use the bathroom.  Workers who "overstay" their time limit are dragged from the bathroom by supervisors.  "Toilet offenses" also result in wage deductions, and women can be fined for drinking too much water as well.

Factory dorms are primitive.  There are no separate dorms for women and men.  All the workers complain that both the factory and dorm lack adequate water. When the women return from work, there is little water available to bathe with.  The workers also describe the company food as "awful" and "half rotten." 

On September 26, Maintrend workers attempted to enter the Jordanian Labor Court in the Al Tajamouat Industrial Park to file charges against Maintrend management, but they were immediately blocked and turned away by Jordanian police.

It seems impossible, but somehow the Jordanian Ministry of Labor has awarded the Maintrend sweatshop "Golden List" status, indicating that it is among the very best factories and in compliance with Jordanian law and all labor rights provisions included in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.  Clearly this is not true.  When it comes to guaranteeing the legal rights of the guest workers, the system is broken.

Maintrend management is also an official participant in the "Better Work Jordan" program.  This is also stunning.  How can a sweatshop like Maintrend, in broad daylight, abuse hundreds of young women guest workers from Bangladesh without Better Work Jordan knowing about it and acting immediately to end the gross violations?  This smacks more of a cover-up than a good-faith attempt to guarantee respect for the worker rights standards under the U.S. Jordan Free Trade Agreement and Jordanian law.

The Jordanian Ministry of Labor must immediately intervene to guarantee the rights of the guest workers and end the gross violations by Maintrend management.  Rather than always reflexively lashing out at the guest workers, the Ministry of Labor should turn its attention to the mis-management and gross worker rights violations at the Maintrend company.

Sears/Lands End must also move quickly to clean up the Maintrend sweatshop and demand compliance with the labor rights provisions of the U.S. -Jordan Free Trade Agreement. 

(Despite the fact that the garments are made under harsh sweatshop conditions, they enter the U.S. duty-free- a violation of the U.S.-Jordan FTA.)