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L.L. Bean Responds to the NLC

July, 14 2006 Share

After the initial release of the NLC's report on human trafficking in factories in Jordan, a number of people wrote to L.L. Bean to express their concern. L.L. Bean wrote back the following letter (which people have then forwarded to us).

Letter From L.L. Bean 

L.L.Bean is deeply troubled by the allegations made by the National Labor Committee. Thank you for contacting us with your concerns, and for providing the opportunity to present the facts as they relate to L.L.Bean.   In March 2006 the NLC published a report describing abhorrent labor conditions in Jordanian factories, and L.L.Bean was identified along with numerous other retailers as a company with production in Jordan. The allegations contained in the NLC report include confiscation of passports, illegal work hours, illegal wage rates, nonpayment of wages, and slave labor conditions as well as other equally unacceptable conditions. L.L.Bean has had a presence in Jordan at a factory named Maintrend since 2003.   However, allegations of abuse at the factory in which we have production are unfounded. L.L.Bean has a strong human rights policy and goes to great lengths to ensure it is sourcing products from reputable vendors around the world. The L.L.Bean Vendor Code of Conduct contains strict provisions concerning standards such as general factory conditions, safety, non-discrimination, compensation, work climate, harassment and benefits. The factory in question was inspected for compliance with this code prior to the commencement of production. You can find a summary of this code on-line at www.llbean.com/customerService/aboutLLBean/human_rights.html.

In response to NLC claims, L.L.Bean has again thoroughly inspected the Maintrend factory and has concluded that while the general allegations in the report might apply to other factories in Jordan, the assertions made by NLC with respect to L.L.Bean and Maintrend are wrong. To verify our findings, L.L.Bean is contracting with a third party human rights auditor, as well as requesting the Jordanian Ministry of Trade to conduct independent assessments of conditions at the Maintrend factory. Should these audits reveal questionable activities of any kind at Maintrend, they will be addressed immediately by L.L.Bean.   You should also know that our company has attempted to meet with Charlie Kernigan, NLC Executive Director and sponsor of this report for a joint inspection of the Maintrend facility. To date, L.L.Bean's calls to Mr. Kernigan have not been returned. Instead, the NLC has published yet a second document naming another factory that L.L.Bean is alleged to be in and citing human rights violations similar to those in the March report. This is not a factory that L.L.Bean is using or has ever used. As independent confirmation, we have asked several third parties and the Jordanian government to inspect the factory to determine if any unauthorized subcontracting of work is happening there. They have all reported that they found none of our product in this factory.   L.L.Bean's reputation as a responsible company with a conscience is something we will not compromise. While we respect the NLC's campaign to improve general working conditions and practices in Jordan, we resent being unfairly associated with the outrageous and abhorrent conditions described by the NLC. We appreciate the opportunity to respond directly to the allegations and you. Thank you for contacting us and providing the opportunity.  

Sincerely,  


Carolyn Beem  

Manager, Public Affairs  
L.L.Bean, Inc.

 

 

National Labor Committee Response

Dear X:

L.L. Bean clothing was sewn at the Maintrend factory in Jordan by over 800 foreign guest workers from Bangladesh, China and Sri Lanka who were victims of human trafficking and were held under conditions of involuntary servitude. Please see the NLC report, "U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement Descends into Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude", May 2006, pages 28 to 40, which deal with the Maintrend factory. Specifically page 37 deals with the rigorous research technique used by the NLC, despite the extremely difficult circumstances. (Jordan is not a democracy and civil society organizations are very weak.) Also you can access the report on the Saidan factory, where under extremely abusive conditions another L.L. Bean label was apparently being illegally subcontracted. Further coverage can be found in the New York Times, National Public Radio, and Maine Public Broadcasting. You can only judge for yourself what is accurate and what is not after you review the substantive concrete issues raised in our report, in comparison with the lack of detail in Mr. McCormick's letter.

Whenever L.L. Bean representatives contacted the NLC, we responded by email or phone.  In fact we will soon be meeting with two L.L. Bean officers who will be visiting New York.

If L.L. Bean has nothing to hide, please ask Mr. McCormick to accept an Independent Workers' Hotline being established at the Maintrend factory, and any other factories L.L. Bean sources from in Jordan. The Independent Workers' Hotline is very simple. Each foreign guest worker at the Maintrend factory-and any other factories producing the L.L. Bean label-would receive a flyer in their native language clearly explaining their legal rights under Jordanian law and internationally recognized worker rights standards. The flyer would also highlight a toll free number which the workers could call to report any serious violations. The unique aspect of the Independent Workers' Hotline would be that the toll free number would connect the workers with human, women's and worker rights organizations and unions in their home countries-such as the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS) and the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF)-which the workers know and trust. 

This is the very opposite of corporate monitoring.

The workers know they can report violations to these respected home organizations who will protect the confidentiality of the workers and who will seriously work to end those violations. Any alleged violations would then be sent in confidence to L.L. Bean, the Maintrend factory and to the Jordanian Minister of Labor. It would only be after a certain period of time, perhaps two months in new emergency situations, that the information on the alleged violations would be made public if no serious action is taken to investigate, and if need be, to resolve the crisis.

At the NLC, like other independent human rights organizations, we always prefer concrete actions to help protect worker rights than abstract letters.

Please ask Mr. McCormick to agree to this single step which is easily doable if L.L. Bean has nothing to hide.

Let me know if you have any further questions. Thank you.

 

Sincerely Yours,

Charles Kernaghan

Director, National Labor Committee