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Testimony of Lorena del Carmen Hernandez Moran

September, 17 1999 Share

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Lorena del Carmen Hernandez Moran
Fired September 2, 1999 from Caribbean Apparel, Santa Ana, El Salvador

 

My name is Lorena del Carmen Moran.  I am 21 years old and a single mother.  I have three children, 2 boys and a girl.

To support my family, I have worked in the Caribbean Apparel factory in the American Park free trade zone since April 1, 1997.

In Caribbean Apparel I worked as a production line operator, making shorts, pants, blouses, skirts, jackets and dresses of the labels Kathie Lee, Miss Dorby, Components, Koret, Esleep and others I can't remember.  At the beginning I also worked in the pressing section of the factory.

I worked Monday to Saturday, almost 12 hours a day:  from 6:50 a.m. to 6:10 p.m. and at times until 9:40 p.m.  My base wage was 1260 colones a month ($145).  Including overtime, I earned up to 700 colones ($80) every two weeks.

The job at American Park was my first job.  I had the illusion of finding work where they would appreciate me and treat me well, even if they didn't pay me much.  Nevertheless I imagined that I would be able to give a better life and better future to my children.

The first week of work was good.  They treated me well.  But starting the second week, it changed: the supervisors demanded more and more production;  they screamed and would hit the tables when the production was not enough.  The chief of production, Mr. Lee, screamed the most.  They only allowed us to drink water once in the morning and once in the afternoon, in the hellish heat of the factory.

Together with other compaZeras, we decided to organize ourselves to improve our working conditions and to improve our income.   I never thought that doing something just and legal would bring me to one of the bitterest experiences of my life.  I will tell it.

On Thursday, September 2 at 1:30 p.m. the chief of personnel of Caribbean Apparel, Leone Catota called me to his office.  He told me that the factory was cutting personnel: "Look daughter, we are going to make a cut, and unfortunately you are on the list."  I said that it was strange they were firing me and at the same time hiring new personnel.  I asked him to tell me who else they were firing.  He got nervous and told me he was just following orders.

The supervisor took my things from my locker and brought them to me in the office.  She told me not to come into the production area of the factory.  They asked me to give them my Cedula ID card so they could give me my severance pay calculation in the Ministry of Labor.  I wasn't carrying my ID.  Then the chief of personnel pressured me that we should go to my house to get the ID.  I went in a car with the chief of personnel and another woman who works in the free zone.  My house is approximately 35 km (21 miles) from the factory.

My mother did not want me to return with them, but I felt under pressure, so I took my ID and returned to the car.  The same people drove me to the city of Santa Tecla, about 60 km (36 miles) from my house.  There they took me to the Labor Court to calculate my severance.  When I received the documents, the chief of personnel took them from me and wouldn't give me a copy.

Then they took me to the factory again.  We got to Caribbean Apparel around 5:00 p.m.  I told them that I just wanted to go home, but the chief of personnel told me that the manager wanted to talk with me.

They closed me in an office in the factory.  At that moment I felt very bad and very nervous, since I had been in their hands for almost four hours.  In the office of the chief of personnel, Leonel Catota said to me:  "You have to sign here."  I distrusted this.  I didn't want to sign, but since he pressured me a lot and since I was very tired, I signed.

Immediately after I signed, they took me to the office next door to the manager of Caribbean Apparel, Martun Yun, and Mr. Choi, who is in charge of hiring personnel.  I was alone with them.  Martin Yun offered me a candy and put me between the two of them.

"You know why they took your job?" Martin Yun asked me.  I said that I didn't know, since I had not received even one warning and though it was hard for me, I completed the production goals.  "You are sneaky.  You were with a group. You know what group. Through the computer, I received information from the Ministry of Labor."  Martin Yun told me that my name and ID number appeared in the computer, together with those of Blanca Ruth.  "That old woman is a unionist.  You know it," he said.  "I propose that we make a deal-a business that will be good for both of us.  If you talk and tell me who is with the union, I'll offer you a job in another factory."  Mr. Choi offered me a job with higher pay if I would give him the information.  "You have children and you need us, and we need you."  They continued to press for a long time about the names of other unionists in the factory.

It was past 6:00 in the afternoon and I could hear that the buses were about to leave with the workers and I wanted to leave.  Then Mr. Martin Yun told me, "No, because we have a lot more to talk about."  The buses left.  They continued to pressure me to give them information.  "For the sake of your children, you have to collaborate more with us," they kept saying.  When it was 7:15 p.m. I told them it was too much, that I had been in their power for 6 hours and that I needed to see to my children.  He proposed we make a final agreement.  "I will give you three days to tell me the names."  He threatened that if I didn't speak within three days, he would communicate with all the maquila companies in the country and give them my name so that I would never again find a job.

 

(From left to Right) Blanca Ruth Palacios, Jiovanni Fuentes, and Lorena del Carmen Moran