The Disappearing Child Workers at the Harvest Rich Factory in Bangladesh

December, 01 2006 Share

Child workers say they are 12, 13 and 14 years old.

Companies say they are malnourished adults.

Who do you believe?


Besides using child labor in Bangladesh, Hanes has cut 2,764 manufacturing jobs in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico in the past 10 weeks. Read the November 16 Winston-Salem Journal article.

  • Over 100 child workers, some as young as 11, were fired on October 19 from the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh, where they sewed clothing for Wal-Mart and Hanes.
  • After receiving a warning letter from the NLC, Harvest Rich immediately shifted strategy, rehiring some of the child workers while beginning to refer to them as malnourished adults, not children.  At the same time, thugs connected with the factory fanned out across workers' neighborhoods threatening the child workers, and their parents, to lie about their ages.  Overnight 13-year-olds were turned into 18 and 19-year-olds.
Download this article in PDF
Please Write the U.S. Companies!
Read the original NLC report on Harvest Rich.

Read a statement by NLC Director Charles Kernaghan concerning Evitex, another factory in Bangladesh where children work to sew clothing for Tesco.



 Harvest Rich Releases Reign of Terror on Workers

  • Harvest Rich worker who met with the companies on November 6 has been fired and badly beaten;
  • Please demand that Harvest Rich management immediately stop the reign of terror--retaliatory firings, beatings, threats to workers who speak truthfully about factory conditions.  Rule of law and respect for basic human and worker rights must be respected.

One of the workers who helped organize and participated in the Dhaka meeting on November 6 has been fired, badly beaten and seriously threatened by local gang members who are evidently working for factory management.  This will become clear in the following account.  The gang members also threatened to attack this worker's family.  This is very serious.

We also have reports that other Harvest Rich workers who participated in the company meeting have been seriously threatened.  One thing is for certain:  All the outspoken workers are terrified—frightened for themselves and their families.  This deliberate atmosphere of fear is meant to block all further dialogue.

What follows is an account of what happened:

"In order to talk with the workers from the Harvest Rich factory, I went to the plant gate around 4:15 p.m. on November 22.  A group of four gang members stopped me around 5:30 p.m.

"They asked me why and when I had left the factory.  I responded that the management had forced me to sign a blank piece of paper and then told me to quit.  Then they accused me of leaking information about the Harvest Rich factory to an office in Dhaka.  They wanted me to give them the address of the office in Dhaka.  I replied I do not know any office in Dhaka and I never passed any information.  Suddenly, they all started beating me, slapping and violently punching me.

"I had a cell phone with me.  They robbed me of 600 taka and my cell phone.  I had a list of fired workers with me.  They immediately tore it up and threw it away.  They threatened me that if I disclose this incident to anybody, they would drive my family from our home.  Around 6:00 p.m. they left me badly beaten.

"Hurt, I went to the home of one of my former co-workers who lives nearby the factory.  After an hour my friend helped me home.

"On November 24, at 6:30 a.m. in the morning, I was just leaving my house to visit the office of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity when I saw three gang members waiting for me.  One of them started calling me.  They asked me where I was going.  Then they forcibly took me to an office at Guasia, near the Salam Studio.  They kept me there the whole day without any explanation.  At 8:15 p.m., they set  me free on the condition and threatening me that I must never tell this story to anybody else. 

"They threatened to kill me if I spoke about any of this.  I think that Harvest Rich management has hired these local goons to safeguard their factory.  They also threatened to torture me if I come near the factory again.

"We believe these thugs collect illegal tolls from Harvest Rich and other nearby factories."

All the workers at the meeting threatened:

When those still employed at Harvest Rich returned to work on November 7, following the meeting with the company representatives, they were immediately interrogated by management regarding the reasons for their absence the day before.  Shortly afterward, management called the workers' parents and guardians to come to the factory, where they too were threatened to control their children.  They were warned to never again meet or speak with outsiders regarding factory conditions—and told that if they did, the factory would be shut down forever and the workers, without jobs and out in the street, would face much harder times.

Management told the workers and their families that the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity was acting with foreign agents determined to destroy all the garment factories in Bangladesh and take jobs away from the workers.

The workers are very frightened.  Everyone knows they are being watched.



Whistleblower Exposes Violations at Harvest Rich
-A Rare Inside Glimpse-

An anonymous whistleblower—we believe residing in Europe, but with access to internal documents and an intimate knowledge of the Harvest Rich factory—has decided to speak out regarding the ongoing violations and management's recent attempts to cover up.  We believe that if questioned the U.S. and British companies will not deny the accuracy of the issues raised by the whistleblower. 

More will follow, and we have reason to believe that other whistleblowers will also soon step forward.

1.) Harvest Rich management is now saying that the very young workers only look like children but are really malnourished adults.

This was included in the Talking Points that the chairman and managing director of Harvest Rich, M. A. Bari, took with him to London for meetings with Tesco and Marks & Spencer during the first week in November.

In the Talking Points the child labor issue was addressed as follows:

"The Bangladeshi garment workers generally come from rural areas and represent the poorer sectors of society where people are generally malnourished and age cannot be verified by eye examination."

Before departing for London, the Harvest Rich chairman met with the president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association (BGMEA), where they may have discussed this very strategy of turning children into malnourished adults.

NLC comment:  Some things never change.  The exact same thing was told to NBC Dateline back in 1990 by a factory owner in Bangladesh following Dateline's  hidden camera which filmed children as young as eight sewing clothing for Wal-Mart in his factory.  The owner—in the exact same vein as that of the Harvest Rich chairman—told NBC Dateline that this was all a misunderstanding—that what they thought were child workers were actually malnourished adults.

Perhaps it also escapes Harvest Rich management that this line of reasoning does not speak well for the wages paid at the factory, which are as low as 6 ½ cents an hour for helpers and 11 cents for sewing operators.  No one can survive with even a modicum of dignity on these wages.

2.) At Harvest Rich there are not, and never have been, medical procedures in place to verify the ages of its young workers.

That Harvest Rich lacked any program whatsoever to verify age was not only confirmed by the whistleblower, but is the exact same thing corporate representatives heard from Harvest Rich workers during the November 6 meeting in Dhaka.

All the workers agreed that they did not know of a single instance when management performed any medical examination to determine age.  In fact, the workers said management never rejects anyone on the basis of how young they look. (Back to worker testimony.)

The whistleblower also advised us to follow what the parents say about the age of their children working at Harvest Rich.  So long as the parents and their children have not been threatened and coerced, this is definitely the best place to start an examination of the children's ages.  (Bangladesh does not have any system requiring birth certificates.)

NLC Comment:  In 2001, H&M auditors found three children under the age of 14 working on their clothing.  Efforts were made to immediately send the children to school and to bring the Harvest Rich factory into full compliance with Bangladeshi law and H&M's code of conduct.  H&M was very concerned because in 1992, especially in the Narayanganj area where Harvest Rich is located, the use of child labor was widespread.  After several years of trying to work together with Harvest Rich management on compliance issues, H&M made the difficult decision to cease production in the factory as of April 2005.  Management was simply not cooperating in good faith. (Click here to read the H&M letter.)

3.) U.S. company representatives from Hanes find Wal-Mart clothing being sewn by workers forced to work a 19 to 20-hour shift.

Hanes officials paying a rare surprise night visit to the Harvest Rich factory found several assembly lines sewing Wal-Mart Faded Glory boys' jeans at 12:30 a.m. Monday, November 6.  The workers were 16 ½ hours into a mandatory all-night shift which had begun at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday and would have continued—had the officials not sent the workers home—until 3:00 or 4:00 the following morning.  Such all-night shifts are common at Harvest Rich.  Typically workers sleep on the factory floor for two or three hours before being awakened to begin their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning.

A recent audit by Wal-Mart also reportedly cited Harvest Rich for "violation of rest days after six days of work." Apparently Wal-Mart's auditors found many workers had not received a single day off (other than the Eid holiday) from the beginning of October through the first week in November.

Wal-Mart may have temporarily suspended two orders of 40,000 garments each until a thorough investigation is completed of working conditions at Harvest Rich.  The fabric and accessories for the garments were sourced from China.  The next Wal-Mart audit is scheduled for January 4, 2007.

The continuing violations are all the more surprising in that Wal-Mart instructed Harvest Rich representatives to visit their headquarters in Bentonville, which they did at the end of October.  Harvest Rich executives met with Rajan Kamalanathan, vice president and Anwar Khan, regional manager at Wal-Mart's Ethical Standards Department.

4.) Hanes cites Harvest Rich for underpayment of wages.

The whistleblower reports that during their November inspection of Harvest Rich, Hanes officials also found that workers were clearly owed back wages.

NLC Comment:  Both Wal-Mart and Hanes have been connected to abusive sweatshop conditions in the past, at factories in Bangladesh producing their garments.  See the undercover investigation by NBC Dateline which aired in May 2005, which found excessive hours, all-night shifts, underpayment of wages, seven-day work weeks, false timecards and other serious violations.

5.) Harvest Rich general manager was hired to terrorize the workers.

The whistleblower knows that Harvest Rich general manager, Rotan Roy, was specifically hired to act as the enforcer, and to abuse workers whenever management deemed it necessary.

NLC comment: And indeed Roy is a very tough man when it comes to beating and exploiting child workers.

6.) Tesco does not conduct unannounced audits.

Prior to the airing of the hidden camera investigation by Independent Television News in England and the release of the National Labor Committee report, the whistleblower confirms that Tesco always informed Harvest Rich management beforehand of any impending audits. Further, audits were always conducted during the day.

There were no surprise or night visits by Tesco's auditors.

Currently, Tesco has an order of over two million dollars worth of clothing being sewn at Harvest Rich, where they could account for at least 25 percent of total production.

Tesco underwear is now being sewn on eight assembly lines, including six day lines and two night shift lines. It is a very large order, and four or five additional all-night lines will soon be brought on line to complete the production on time.

It was the same at another Bangladesh factory called Evitex Apparel which also produced for Tesco. The workers had never even heard of the Ethical Trading Initiative. The workers had no idea that Tesco's code prohibited any worker under the age of 18 from sewing their clothing. In fact, all the workers agreed that Evitex management never even asked the ages of the young people it hired. However, before Tesco's monitors arrived on their announced visits, the under-aged workers were sent home in advance. If there was not time, the young workers were coached to lie and say they are 20. When it became clear that dozens of under-aged adolescents were working at Evitex, management responded by firing 50 of the workers along with two older workers suspected of being whistleblowers. Management then lied to the adolescent workers telling them that they cannot work any longer at Evitex, but all the same, they should come to the factory every month to receive their wages. This arrangement would be in place, so the adolescent workers could return to school. When they reached 18 years of age, they were free to come back to the factory at higher wages. This of course was all a lie. None of the fired adolescent workers is receiving their wages or going to school. They are worse off now than they were before—when they had never heard of Tesco's code of conduct. (See also an update on the Evitex factory)

7.) PUMA has also flunked Harvest Rich on compliance issues.

Reportedly, the Harvest Rich factory has failed at least four compliance audits carried out by PUMA. For the last two years, PUMA officials have been urging Harvest Rich management to improve their salary structure, including correct payment of overtime according to the law; to end the abusive treatment; and improve factory facilities such as inadequate lighting and unhygienic toilets.

8.) Harvest Rich fires hundreds of workers in June and July 2006.

Harvest Rich management treats its employees as a disposable contingency workforce to be hired when the factory is busy and quickly shed when production needs fall. This is what happened in June and July, when hundreds of workers were fired.

Despite the fact that new orders are arriving from Family Dollar Stores, Sears, Studio 55, and Linen Utility Cropped, Harvest Rich is currently operating at approximately half its full capacity, producing 40,000 to 50,000 pieces a day while their full capacity is at least 100,000 pieces per day. The current workforce could be down to as low as 1,500 workers.

9.) Rather than investigate child labor and gross worker rights violations, Harvest Rich and the BGMEA are investigating the NLC.

The following e-mail has been sent to a Mohammad Haribulla in the United States:

"The following mail is to the director of NLC who is the mastermind to take workers out of many developing countries including Bangladesh to present them to the world community and hold the factories till they are forced to close down. He has a small team but is very well connected and very well funded. His source of fund is still unknown. We, all members of BGMEA [Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Export Association], BKMEA [Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers Export Association] are working non-stop to find out why he is doing this to us for the reasons best known to him!"

NLC comment: The NLC is the first human rights organization in the U.S. that has long demanded that corporations not cut and run, pulling their production from the factories, which would be the worst thing they could do as it would only further punish the workers. Our first demand is always that companies keep their production in the factory, working together with local management to clean up the plant, while also instituting concrete structural changes that will guarantee that the legal rights of the workers are finally respected.

Furthermore, the NLC is hardly well funded, which is a very serious problem holding back our efforts to join other organizations in defending U.N. / I.L.O. internationally recognized worker rights standards in the global economy. As a nonprofit organization, our finances are publicly available to all. We would request Harvest Rich management to do the same.

10.) Harvest Rich wants "Tesco to fight back!"

The following excerpts are also drawn from the talking points prepared for M.A. Bari, Harvest Rich chairman and managing director, for his meeting with Tesco officials in London.

  • "It is necessary for big brands like Tesco to fight back."
  • "If NLC gets the impression that Tesco or any other brands have reduced orders or pulled out as a result of this campaign, it is an achievement for them and they will attack the brand continuously as they have attacked GAP and Nike in the past in various countries."
  • "Tesco should take steps to stop NLC now from doing further damage to their brand image."
  • "We would request Tesco to support the Harvest Rich factory to give a reply to the NLC on this propaganda news which would bring consumer confidence back in Tesco and in the image of Bangladesh."
  • "Harvest Rich is of the view that an anti-media campaign should take place in the U.K. so that the case of NLC is weakened and the consumers know the real story."
  • "Companies such as NLC should not be allowed to attack brands like Tesco, GAP, Nike and other brands on false information to destroy brand images of these companies for their own personal gains."
  • "It's time for the brands to fight back and the companies that are being attacked to fight back. Together we think that once the consumers are aware of the hidden agendas of companies like NLC, they will think twice before reporting in future and consumers will ultimately loose confidence in them."

NLC comment: Harvest Rich management would do well to invest in a new public relations firm, or better advisors, as their talking points smell of paranoia, and too obvious an attempt to shift the focus away from the serious concrete everyday violations at their factory, to some imagined enemy with a hidden agenda out to destroy all the multinational companies and Bangladesh as well.


11.) Tesco and Harvest Rich sign agreement-maybe based on misinformation.

A letter was sent on November 19, 2006 from Harvest Rich attorney Jenefa Jabbar to Rosey Hurst, who is the director of Impactt Ltd., a U.K.-based monitoring group.  Harvest Rich's attorney concludes his letter by "ensuring that the factory commits to the improvement plan which was agreed with Rosey Hurst of Impactt for overall and general improvement of factory conditions." (Impactt has reportedly renewed its first installment of $3,000 for Harvest Rich.)

Impactt's website describes their organization as "a catalyst.  Our role is to empower and support individuals, organizations and companies to gradually transform the way they work, bringing about positive local change."  Impactt has already been working with Tesco on an ethical training program for Tesco buyers called, "Buying with your eyes open." We can only hope that none of Tesco's buyers responsible for sourcing production at Harvest Rich graduated from Impactt's training.  Before joining Impactt, Rosey Hurst was the director of the India Business and Community Partnership Trust. 

The whistleblower reports that Impactt is urging other companies to keep their confidence in Harvest Rich management.

We hope that Impactt Ltd is not so naïve as to believe what Harvest Rich's lawyer is saying in his letter.

The Harvest Rich attorney, Jenefa Jabbar, introduces himself as a former employee with Gap's Compliance Department and a current consultant on social compliance issues with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer and Exporters' Association (BGMEA)—neither of which speaks very well of Mr. Jabbar's ability to "independently audit" for the use of child labor and other violations at the Harvest Rich factory.

According to attorney Jabbar, everything in the factory is fine.  There is no child labor, and essentially the whole thing was fabricated by gullible workers, the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity and the National Labor Committee.

The gullible workers were coached to lie, saying that children worked in the factory and that they were not paid their overtime correctly.  Five dollar bribes were offered to the workers along with "the temptation of jobs in buying offices in Bangladesh and high paying jobs in U.S.A. and Jordan." —And the only reason that the workers were coming forward now to tell the "truth" was that "none of them have been taken to the U.S.A. as promised and jobs in buying houses, etc [sic]." The workers must have been so very disappointed that in a ten-day period the BCWS and the NLC had not provided them with passports, U.S. work visas and high-paying jobs in the U.S.

Aside from other such nonsense, the only accurate statement in Mr. Jabbar's letter is when he warns Impactt that he has "a feeling that the NLC may try to put issues on the website again as fresh interviews took place between 4th to 7th November when Charles Kernaghan was in Bangladesh."

A Call for an open Dialogue with Impactt

Given the seriousness of the violations at the Harvest Rich factory, combined with the failure of multiple private corporate monitoring schemes, we strongly urge Impactt to commit to transparency in its monitoring efforts.  Impactt's factory auditing reports and updates should be made public after a suitable time period—in perhaps four to six weeks—which would give Tesco, Harvest Rich and the other companies a chance to respond first to correct any ongoing violations.

Secondly, many stakeholders involved—foremost among them the Harvest Rich workers themselves—would be intensely interested in knowing what procedures and protections will be put in place to guarantee that workers daring to speak truthfully regarding factory conditions will not be attacked, beaten, threatened and fired, which has been the norm up to this point.

Many of us in the international human rights movement would like clarification from Impactt that your mission also includes restoring respect at Harvest Rich for Bangladesh's labor laws and for the U.N. / I.L.O. internationally recognized worker rights standards, including freedom of association and the right to organize an independent union.  Will Impactt accompany workers seeking respect for their legal rights?

Like any genuine reconciliation effort, punishment of the guilty is not the end goal, rather, it is a search for the truth.  We feel strongly that until current and past abuses are fully documented, there will be no basis upon which to build real positive change at Harvest Rich.

Regarding the critical issue of child labor, will Impactt be open to working together with the NLC and other human rights organizations on continuing research?  One possibility we are exploring is to invite independent physicians from the United States, perhaps Harvard and Brown universities, to work together with independent forensic specialists in Bangladesh's medical schools on research to best estimate the child workers' ages.  Can we count on Impactt as a partner in this effort?

Reportedly, another monitoring group - Systain (Systgematic Solutions for Sustainability) - based in Hamburg, Germany, has also been engaged to assist Harvest Rich in correcting its numerous labor rights violations.



Companies Meet with Workers

It is doubtful that any of these corporate representatives had ever had a meeting quite like this, and they certainly received an earful from the workers describing the extreme violations at Harvest Rich. The real question now is what concrete actions the companies will take to restore the rule of law and respect for human and worker rights at their contractor's plant.

We cannot, due to a confidentiality agreement, identify which companies from the U.S. and Britain participated in the Dhaka meeting on Monday, November 6, or what they discussed, but we can certainly relate what the workers told the companies.

We had planned to have 30 or more child workers from Harvest Rich participate, but that became impossible after Harvest Rich management went on a rampage—going from one poor workers' home to another—threatening the children and their parents not to attend the meeting, and to lie about their ages. Overnight, 13-year-olds became 19. (When the children enter the factory, managers instruct them to say they are 18 or 19 years old, should anyone ask.) The night before meeting, Harvest Rich's general manager even forcibly detained three labor activists from the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS) who were attempting to meet with the workers, threatening to have them "hung" with the help of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Export Association (BGMEA). The activists were held for more than two and a half hours. The general manager then called the police, urging them when they arrived, to imprison, beat and torture the activists for damaging the reputation of his company.

Under these circumstances, the fact that any meeting took place at all was a miracle. Of course, most of the children were far too frightened to attend, but one 13-year-old girl did come, along with a dozen older workers who could speak with authority about factory conditions. Five of the workers had recently been fired, while eight were still working at Harvest Rich. It took enormous courage for them to show up at this meeting.

The 13-year-old girl was fired along with many other under-aged workers in mid-October before the Eid religious holiday. She was fired for being under-aged. A manager took away her ID card and told her to go away, which is exactly what happened with the other children.

Less than two weeks before, she was beaten and cursed at by her supervisor, a man called Mockgul, for arriving late. That morning she had missed her bus. First, the supervisor slapped her and then pushed her so she fell on her sewing machine. He called her a prostitute. As further punishment, she was marked absent for three days, meaning she would lose three day's wages. Her co-workers urged her to resign as the supervisor behaved so badly with her. But she needed the wages, so she stayed, only to be fired later in October.

No procedures had ever been established at Harvest Rich to attempt to verify a child's age. The 13-year-old girl explained that she got her job at Harvest Rich by showing up at the main gate. She was there, along with others, to seek work. A supervisor came out and asked her what skills she had. She responded that she could operate the overlock machine. She was taken inside to a machine where they tested her skill. After three or four days of work, she was taken to a doctor in the factory. The doctor asked where she had worked before, and—knowing she was expected to lie about her age—when asked, she said 19. The doctor said fine and wrote it down. There was no medical examination. It was always the same. The doctor merely measured the prospective workers' height, asked them their age, and nothing more. On this all the workers agreed.  They did not know of a single instance in which Harvest Rich management had performed any medical examination of a young worker.  The workers said management never rejects anyone on the basis of their age.  Also, when the foreign buyers come, the child workers are hidden.  If a buyer does see a child, it is only then that they are fired.

Some workers estimated that before the recent firings there were as many as 40 to 50 children working in the underwear department, some as young as 11 or 12 years old.

All the workers agreed that children had worked at Harvest Rich, and that even following the mass firings before Eid, some under-aged children are still working in the factory.

Just days before our meeting, the production manager had threatened the workers, coaching them on what to say to buyers should they be approached.  If they did not lie, they would be fired.  That was made very clear.

The workers informed the visiting executives that night shifts were being worked at Harvest Rich from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 or 5:00 a.m.  They asked the company representatives to visit the factory that night to see for themselves.

One worker described being fired for arriving to work 10 minutes late, another for missing one day's work after the factory re-opened following the Eid holiday.  Another fired worker had missed four days due to illness.  Some of the fired workers have not been paid their back wages.  There is no fixed day for the fired workers to receive their outstanding wages, and it is typical for management to keep delaying their payment.  General manager Ratan Roy says, "Not today.  Later."

There was once again total agreement that general manager Ratan Roy frequently slaps and beats the workers.  One worker was slapped by Roy when he objected to having been moved from an operator position to work as a helper.  This happened on September 18.

Five or six months back, a worker who was accused of stealing some scraps of fabric to make a t-shirt for himself was paraded around the factory forced to wear a sign saying "I am a thief.  Spit on me."  He was also made to wear a garland made up of shoes, which in Bangladesh is considered the ultimate humiliation.  He was fired and not paid his back wages.

Everyone agreed that all overtime is obligatory and that the workers are not paid correctly for all the overtime hours they work.  Management never pays more than two hours of overtime a day, so when they are routinely forced to work to 8:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., they are not paid for one to three hours of overtime that they actually worked.  No matter how many hours they work, management only marks down two hours of overtime on their timecards.  This is written in by hand.

Overtime work on Friday is also mandatory.  The workers are told Thursday night that they must work the following day, their weekly holiday, and if they fail to work, they will be docked three days' wages.  It is typical, the workers explained, to be required to work at least two Fridays a month.

The workers confirmed that it was common to be required to work a 14-hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  There were also some all-night shifts before clothing shipments had to leave.  One worker described working two to three such all-night shifts in September, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. the following morning, putting in a 19-hour shift.  The workers were not paid properly, if at all, for these grueling all-night shifts, but management did give them 20 taka (29 cents) for supper—enough to purchase a bottle of water, nothing more.

When foreign buyers come on their announced visits, the bathrooms are cleaned.  If the workers ever dared to speak openly and truthfully to the buyers—as they were doing now in this meeting—they would be fired the minute the auditor walked out the door.  When local Bangladeshi agents come to the factory, Harvest Rich management does not care.

Every worker agreed that they would classify Harvest Rich as a "very bad" factory.

The workers explained that the money they earn is not sufficient to support their lives.  They exist living hand to mouth, from day to day.  They cannot save.  This makes it extremely difficult for them to simply pack up and leave to look for work in a better factory.  If they did they would lose part of a month's regular wages and all of their overtime, since the regular wage is paid  between the 10th and the 15th of the following month, while the overtime wage is only paid at the end of the month.

Finally, all the workers agreed that the legal maternity leave—three months leave with full pay—is not paid at the Harvest Rich factory.

The meeting went on for over three hours, often in candlelight as there were several blackouts.

Hanes—The Best Known Label in America

Hanes is the best known label in America;

  • Hanesbrands, recently spun off from Sara Lee, has $4.5 billion in annual sales;
  • Thirty percent of Hanesbrands' business is with Wal-Mart;
  • Ninety-two percent of Hanesbrands' sales are in the U.S., but 80 percent of its workforce is located in poor developing countries;
  • Hanesbrands labels include:  Hanes, Champion, Just My Size, Bali, L'eggs, Wonderbra and Barely There;
  • A major element of Hanesbrands' strategy is to build on their expertise in operating a low-cost global supply chain;
  • Hanesbrands will spend more than $75 million in advertising this year (including TV ads with Michael Jordan)—which comes to $206,000 a day, every day of the year;
  • Both Hanesbrands and Wal-Mart have had a history of sweatshop production.  Their "Just My Size" label, accounting for $1.3 billion in sales, was the focus of an undercover investigation in Bangladesh by NBC Dateline and the National Labor Committee which aired in May 2005 entitled "The Human Cost Behind Bargain Shopping."

Sources:  Women's Wear Daily, September 5, 2006NBC Dateline, June 2005



"Truth Should Prevail"

"According to Harvest Rich

According to management, the Harvest Rich factory is above perfect.  The workers however, have a very different experience and see Harvest Rich as among the most abusive and worst of factories.

This is what Harvest Rich management says of itself in a paid newspaper ad entitled "The Truth Should Prevail—for kind attention of distinguished garment buyers, buying houses, concerned Embassies, human rights and labor organizations in Bangladesh"


      • "Harvest Rich is a fully compliant apparel manufacturing industry in all respects and is an active supporter of ethical treatment of all its employees."
      • "The truth that Harvest Rich is a fully compliant industry with no child labor and no labor harassment have been reflected in these independent audits time and again" Harvest Rich is certified by WRAP [Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production]"FLA [Fair Labor Association]""
      • Harvest Rich is a child labor free organization with strong equal opportunity policy""
      • Harvest Rich feels"the business will remain in operation as usual ensuring and upholding Bangladesh labor laws."
      • Harvest Rich will now take this opportunity to thank each and every employee who has been the backbone to the success of the company We salute their dedication and the continuous commitment.  We believe we will work together in bringing out the truth and work as a family as always."

On the other hand, the workers tell a very different story, one of a dysfunctional family characterized by exploitation of child workers, beatings and other cruel treatment, routine 12 to 14-hour shifts—including some mandatory 17 to 20-hour shifts before shipments must leave, often working seven days a week, and wages as low as 6 ½ cents an hour for helpers and 11 cents an hour for sewing operators.

There are other inconvenient truths, such as 49 cents a week in worker health benefits.  Health benefits at the Harvest Rich factory "family" are not overly generous, and in fact are shockingly inadequate.  Workers receive 150 taka a month as their health benefits package.

For each worker, this amount is just:

8 cents a day
49 cents a week
$2.14 a month
$25.73 a year

But it gets even worse:  Management deducts 200 taka a month for transportation that the worker often cannot use.  This is a hidden deduction by Harvest Rich and does not appear in the workers' pay stubs.  Every month, management withholds 200 taka from each worker for transportation on company buses.  In practice, however, despite the deductions, workers often have to pay their own fare on public buses, since there are too few company buses to accommodate all the workers.