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Salvadoran Organizations Launch Campaign for Just Garments Workers

June, 07 2007 Share

San Salvador, June 6, 2007

RE:  A Call for Solidarity with the Workers of Just Garments

 "Their Dreams Unraveled," by Marla Dickerson, LA Times. July 7, 2007

Dear Friends,

As you know, for many years our organizations have been committed to the cause of human rights and have accompanied the victims in their efforts to win justice and reparations.  In this context, 18 women and a man have requested our support to denounce various violations of their labor rights, such as non-payment of wages, unjustified firings, failure to pay legal severance, forced and unpaid overtime, denial of medical attention and old age pension, appropriation of Social Security and Pension system dues, among other things.

The peculiarity of this case is that the abuses were committed by the Just Garments maquila, which was always promoted as a worker controlled company that produced clothing under just conditions, where the workers were receiving better pay and worked under better conditions than in other maquilas.  All this turned out to be a fallacy, for Just Garments was one of the worst factories in the country according to the above-mentioned social organizations, who were first-hand witnesses to the workers situation since some of them received their denunciations.

Just Garments is now closed and has not fullfilled its monitary obligations to indemnify the harm to its personnel.  That violation of the law and of workers rights has harmed not just the 19 workers whose cases we are attending, but rather all of the workers, about 40 in total who have quite literally been left in the street without a cent.

In spite of the constant denunciations that the workers have been making publicly since 2004, Just Garments received tremendous political and financial support from United States organizations including U.S. LEAP, WRC, UNITE-HERE, the Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO, the Sweatfree Communities coalition, USAS, and the Campaign for Labor Rights.

These U.S. organizations, who maintained Just Garments even while the company was committing abuses, should this time support the workers by paying the factory's debt to the 19 workers we are accompanying and all the rest who continue to be deceived as well as those who left the "company" without receiving any of what should have been theirs by law.  That is what we have asked for.  But the response has not been what we were hoping for.  These organizations argue that they don't have the funds to pay.  Not even to cover the persons we are supporting, who are owed about $19,948.

They have only promised to seek the necessary resources through selling the Just Garments machinery, promotional events and fundraising meetings.  But there are still no dates for these activities, nor much less any guarantee that the money will be obtained.

The workers' situation is desperate.  They have gone months without receiving a wage and without finding other work—since for having worked in a supposedly unionized factory, they have now become part of the "blacklists" in the sector and other companies have closed their doors to them.  One of them found no other alternative but to emigrate, in spite of the dangers, to the U.S. territory to seek some kind of work.

The National Labor Committee has provided a small emergency fund to allow the workers to get around and take the steps necessary to handle their case.  But we are trying to obtain the resources to be able to compensate at least the economic debts to the 19 victims we are accompanying, through contributions allied organizations who are truly in solidarity.  That is why we are turning to you now.  It is not necessary to cover the whole forementioned amount, but perhaps it would be possible to contribute some part of it.  We want to mention that between our own contributions and those made by individuals in the United States, we already have $800.

This is not the work that we and our organizations traditionally do, but under the circumstances, we are affected by the necessity these workers face, and by the lack of response on the part of some "defenders" of labor rights, who financed the "venture" called Just Garments.  The funds will be handled by Las Dignas.  Later, you will be given an audited statement regarding their distribution.

We hope for a favorable response to this request and the demonstrations of true solidarity may move those who are largely responsible for this unjust and condemnable situation so that—as it should be—the damages to the rest of the affected workers are repaired.

Thanking you for your attention, We take our leave, fraternally,

Human Rights Institute of the Central American University Jose Simeon Cañas, IDHUCA
Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana "Jose Simeon Canas

Association of Women for Dignity and Life, Las Dignas
Asociación de Mujeres por la Dignidad y La Vida
economia@lasdignas.org

Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace, ORMUSA
Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz

Salvadoran Women's Movement / Movimiento de Mujeres Salvadoreñas, MSM

Women Transforming / Mujeres Transformando

Center for Women's Studies / Centro de Estudios para la Mujer, CEMUJER;

Federation of Independent Associations or Unions of El Salvador, FEASIES
Federación de Asociaciones or Sindicatos de El Salvador

Salvadoran Union Federation / Federación Sindical Salvadorena, FESS

Association for Labor Support and Promotion Services, ASEPROLA
Asociación de Servicios de Asesoría y Promoción Laboral