Reports

May, 22 2008 |  Share

Another CAFTA Failure

Salvadoran Women Sewing
$165 Jackets for The North Face and $54 Shirts for Eddie Bauer Cannot Afford Milk for their Children


Youngone S.A. de C.V.
Km 28 Carretera a Comalapa
Zona Franca Internacional
Olocuilta, La Paz     El Salvador

Korean-owned:

Mr. Sung Park, CEO
Mr. Ki Hak Sung, Legal Representative

Phone:
Fax:

(503) 236-63133;  236-6387
(503) 236-63385

Workforce:

Approximately 1300 to 1400 workers
Note: It is very difficult to speak with the workers in the vicinity of the Free Trade Zone since the security guards at the International Zone are well known and feared for the rough and threatening way they treat the workers.

Production:

Fleece jackets, shirts, sport jackets for The North Face and Eddie Bauer.
Currently, North Face accounts for 80 percent of total production, (12 of 15 production lines), while Eddie Bauer accounts for the remaining 20 percent.  Youngone also produced for Patagonia up to the last quarter of 2007, and for Timberland.

North Face's $165 Denali Jacket (below) is part of the Youngone factory's production

 

   

The North Face also produces such styles as the $159 Prophecy (below, left) and $129 Zot Windstopper (below, right) at Youngone

 

 

Eddie Bauer styles identified by workers at Youngone include the Button-Collar Oxford (below, left) and Short-Sleeve Patterned Poplin shirts (below, right), both $49.50-$54.50

 

                                            

 

Another CAFTA Failure:

 

  • Women in El Salvador sewing $165 jackets for North Face and $54 shirts for Eddie Bauer cannot afford milk and other basic necessities for their children as their wages fall behind soaring food costs.  Some mothers report they will have to take their children out of school.
  • The women are paid just 94 cents for each $165 North Face jacket they sew—meaning that their wages amount to less than six-tenths of one percent of the jacket's retail price.
  • The workers and their families could climb out of misery and at least into poverty if the U.S. companies would pay a base wage of just $1.49 an hour.
  • Sexual harassment:  Women working in the Embroidery department stitching the logo on North Face jackets are routinely groped by their supervisor—a man named Jaime—and "invited" (pressured) to date him.
  • Forced overtime:  During the peak season, some workers are forced to toil 47 hours of overtime a week, including some all-night 22 to 26-hour shifts, from 7:00 a.m. straight through to 5:00 or even 9:00 a.m. the following day.
  • Workers dripping in their own sweat: The factory lacks adequate ventilation, despite 100 degree temperatures.
  • Harsh and abusive treatment:  Supervisors constantly shout at the women to work faster, calling them "dogs," "animals," "dummies" and threatening to cut their bonuses or lay them off.  Pregnant women face the same constant pressure and are often brought to tears.
  • Salvadoran workers pitted against poor workers in Bangladesh:  Management is always threatening the workers that Youngone also has huge plants in Bangladesh where the "workers really produce, unlike the Salvadorans, who only come to the factory to pass the time."  [The legal minimum wage in Bangladesh is just 12 cents an hour for helpers and 25 to 32 cents for junior and senior sewing operators.  At least half the factories in Bangladesh violate the legal minimum wage.  Unions are still outlawed in the free trade zones.]
  • The Race to the Bottom:  Rumors are spreading in the factory that there will soon be mass layoffs.  This has never happened before, and the workers fear that Youngone may be shifting work to its lower cost plants in Bangladesh.
  • Complete denial of the right to Freedom of Association:  When the workers organized a union local at the Youngone factory, which was legally recognized by the Salvadoran Ministry of Labor, management responded by illegally firing five newly-elected union leaders along with four workers whom supervisors suspected of being union sympathizers.  Youngone management told the fired workers:  "You can go to the Ministry of Labor with your complaints" The company is not interested in having a union.  We don't care if the union is big or small.  We don't want them here."
  • North Face and Eddie Bauer audits are a joke:  "Every three months," the workers told us, "buyers from North Face and Eddie Bauer come to the factory to see the quality of their products, but they don't speak to the workers."  However, when auditors are in the factory, "the supervisors suddenly behave as decent people.  They don't shout, instead speaking softly""

At North Face
Commitment to Protecting the Environment Trumps Human Rights Any Day

The North Face — Youngone Connection

In November 2007, North Face's president, Mr. Steve Rendle "received the Mountain Institute's Distinguished Exemplary Corporate Stewardship of Mountains 2007 Award."
(North Face press release, November 1, 2007)

"I am honored to receive such a prestigious award on behalf of The North Face," stated Rendle.  "It is a great recognition of our athletes' and team efforts to give back to the communities where we explore —It truly is an honor."

"Prior to joining The North Face, Rendle held the position of Director of North American Sales and Operations for the global apparel manufacturer, Youngone Corporation""

Clearly Mr. Rendle, as a former executive of Youngone and now President of The North Face, could easily intervene with Youngone's management in El Salvador to end the violations in the factory—80 percent of whose production is for North Face, reinstate the illegally fired union leaders, and guarantee that the legal rights of the workers will finally be respected. 

The North Face company's commitment to the environment is laudable.  Please appeal to North Face to show a similar commitment to respect the human, women's and worker rights of the mostly young women workers in El Salvador sewing its garments.

 

Hours—Forced overtime during the busy season:

The regular, legal workweek in El Salvador is 44 hours.  At Youngone, the standard shift is 9¾ hours a day, Monday through Thursday, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.  On Friday, the shift is 8¾ hours from 7:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.  There is one 45-minute break during the day for lunch.  (Due to the lack of adequate facilities, most workers take their lunch outside, seeking shade sitting on scraps of cardboard under container trucks.)  So the workers are at the factory 47¾ hours a week while actually working the legal 44 hours.

It is during the busy season—which typically stretches six months from May to October—that the workers are obligated to work excessive overtime.  At a minimum, the workers are required to toil one or two overtime hours a day, from 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 or 6:45 p.m.  However, in the four-month period from July through October 2007, the workers were kept three times a week for 3¼ hours of overtime from 4:45 to 8:00 p.m.  When the workers were kept to 8:00 p.m. they received a 15-minute break and small snack around 6:30 p.m.  Also, the factory provided the workers with free transportation home.

There were also many weeks when the workers were required to put in a nine-hour shift on Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Under this schedule the workers would be at the factory 69 ½ hours a week, while toiling 65 hours—44 regular hours and 21 overtime hours, 12¾ hours during the week and 8¼ hours on the weekend.

Moreover, four to six lines—220 to 330 workers—producing North Face were required to remain for an all-night 22 to 26-hour shift on Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. stretching straight through to 5:00 or even 9:00 a.m. the following Sunday morning.  Usually this happened just once a month, but in October of 2007, three such all-night Saturday shifts were required.  These workers were toiling 78.55 hours a week, including 34.55 hours of mandatory overtime.

At the peak of the busy season, in October 2007, some workers were obligated to work as much as 47 hours of overtime a week on top of the regular 44-hour weekly shift, bringing their weekly total to 91 hours!  On average, during the busy season, the workers were required to stay for 19 hours of overtime, bringing their total working hours to 63 a week.

All overtime is forced.  Anyone who cannot stay during the week for overtime or who fails to show up for overtime on Saturday will be punished.  "Offending" workers are yelled at, threatened, warned and often moved to another assembly line where they are assigned a more difficult sewing operation, one that they do not know.

One worker described it like this:  "October [2007] was a very heavy month.  We worked all night on Saturdays starting at 7:00 a.m. and finishing the shift at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, and once not until 9:00 a.m.  We had two breaks, one at 6:30 p.m. when we received a small dinner and the second one at 11:30 p.m. when we received a coffee and a cookie.  Of course we earnedmore, but we were pressured all the time day and night to work faster.  They never got tired of pressuring us, the supervisors and engineers.  These overtime hours were forced.  If we dared not to work, we were humiliated, changed from our line""

Another woman explained that during the May to October busy season, "between four to six lines working on North Face were the ones who worked on the Saturday to Sunday shifts, that is, between 220 to 330 workers who were chosen by the supervisors."


Constant Pressure Abuse Humiliation:

The workers report that supervisors constantly threaten them:  "If you don't fulfill the [production] goals, you are going to be fired without benefits."  "All they do is shout," the women told us:  "Mistreat and humiliate the workers.  They pressure us all the timeThey control us every time we try and go to the bathroom or try to drink water."  Another woman agreed:  "Sometimes I don't get up to drink water even though I'm very thirsty, because I'm afraid the supervisor will shout at me in front of all my compañeros."   In fact, supervisors routinely instruct the workers:  "Don't drink so much water, and you will not need to go to the bathroom."

One of the women supervisors, Ms. Blanco Cortes, constantly shouts at the workers: "Hurry up, don't go to the bathroom, don't be so lazy.  You can shit in peace at home."

To use the bathroom, workers must first ask for and receive permission from their supervisor, who notes the time the worker is away from her sewing machine.  If a worker takes "too long", they are shouted at and warned that next time they will be taken to the Human Resource office, where a written warning will be placed in their file.

One of the plant managers, Will Sanchez, often calls the women sewers "dummies."  "You don't produce You're good for nothing.  Why don't you stay home sleeping instead of wasting time here."

"Pregnant women are treated like everyone else," some workers told us.  "The pressure is the same, and they're pressured to reach the production goals.  They often cry, maybe because we're more sensitive when we get pregnant."

Other women told us that the pressure on pregnant women is even worse than for other workers.  Supervisors complain that pregnant women ask for too much time off for medical check-ups, complain about their pains and sickness.  So to teach them a lesson, supervisors assign the pregnant women to the finishing department where they work all day standing at a tall table using scissors to cut any loose threads off the finished garments.  They face constant pressure both for quality and to meet their production goals.

Women entering El Salvador's Free Trade Zone

Supervisors also threaten workers with the loss of their bonus.  A case in point is Ms. Silvia Aragon, a supervisor who walks along her line shouting, "Hurry up or you're not going to earn the bonus, and if you don't earn the bonus the others will not earn it either."  She will pick on someone she thinks may not be working fast enough and blame them: "You're the guilty one, nobody is going to earn the bonus because you're a big donkey and don't want to hurryYou only come here to fool around." [The workers used to receive a bonus once they reached their individual goal, but in 2008, management changed the system. Now the entire line must meet its assigned daily production goal if the workers are to receive their $1.00 a day bonus. ]


 

Below subsistence wages—soaring food and basic commodity costs leave the workers and their families mired in poverty.

The legal basic wage in El Salvador is just 67.5 cents an hour and $5.40 for the regular eight hour day, which comes to $29.70 a week.  However, in Central America it is common to pay what is called the "Seventh Day," which functions as a sort of attendance bonus, meaning the workers get paid for seven days, or $37.80 a week, for 44 hours of work.  If a worker misses a day or even arrives late once or twice a week they will lose the Seventh Day pay, and their weekly wages will drop back to $29.70.  With the Seventh Day's pay included, the workers earn 86 cents an hour.

Legal wage including Seventh Day's pay

86 cents an hour
$6.87 a day (eight hours)
$37.80 a week (44 hours)
$163.80 a month
$1,965.60 a year
 

After deductions for Social Security health insurance and the pension fund, the workers take home 78 cents an hour, $34.30 a week, and $148.63 a month.

Even the below-subsistence wages paid at Youngone are under attack.  In 2008, management increased the mandatory production goal per line from 40 North Face jackets per eight hour shift to 50 jackets, with no increase in the number of sewers.   This was a 25 percent increase in the production goal, with no increase in wages.

All the workers say that the production goals are excessive.  The cloth for the North Face jackets is very thick, including the lining, making it difficult to handle and sew.  With such heavy fabric it is impossible to fly through the operations.  It takes more time to make certain that the seams remain straight, without any curves.

Not only are the women working harder and faster to earn what they did in the past, but they are even losing money, as the increased production goals have resulted in fewer workers reaching the target, meaning they do not earn their production bonus.  The workers estimate:  "we think that only six lines [out of 15] get the production bonus.  To earn the $1.00 extra a day we have to reach the goals every hour during the nine hour shift, although if we reach at least 75 percent of the goal, we receive 50 cents."

For workers already living on the edge, the loss of 50 cents or $1.00 a day has serious consequences, meaning their children may have to go without milk.

Management also ended the attendance bonus. "Until last year," one worker explained, "Youngone was giving an eight dollar attendance bonus every two weeks if you got to work on time and didn't have absences.  But that was eliminated in November 2007—so we're really earning less.  Nobody gave any explanation; the supervisors didn't tell us anything.  The eight dollars simply disappeared from the pay stub."

In the past, the workers used to receive a onetime efficiency bonus of $50 for the entire six month busy season.  No one knows for certain, but the workers fear that this small bonus will also be ended when the busy season begins in 2008, which is typically in May.

A worker explained how the efficiency bonus worked: "to get the bonus you have to be on time during the six months.  You can't ask for any personal absences; you can't go to the Social Security clinic—even if a doctor has given you an appointment, or you are sick.  You can't ask to leave for any emergency at home, not even if your child is seriously ill, you have to give production with 100 percent quality.  You have to work overtime every time supervisors order you to.  If you make a single mistake, you lose the bonus.  Some people think they have the right to the bonus, and at the end of the six months the supervisor tells them that they don't have the right to get it because they made a mistake in the production four months ago.  It's terrible.  I think the company abuses the needs we have, and the bonus is just a scam to make you work harder."

 

 


 

Women paid just 94 cents for each $165 North Face jacket they sew.  Their wages amount to just six-tenths of one percent of the retail price.   

Management routinely sets mandatory production goals for each line, which the workers must meet.  The 55 workers on a North face assembly line must complete 50 jackets per hour or one jacket every 65.54 minutes.  Given that the workers earn 86 cents an hour, the total direct labor cost to sew the $165 North Face jacket is just 94 cents.  [86 per hour, plus eight cents for the additional 5.45 minutes needed to sew the garment.]

The 94 cents in wages the workers earn to sew each jacket amounts to just six-tenths of one percent of the jacket's $165 retail price.  The workers' wages are almost an insignificant part of the total production cost especially given the huge mark-ups on such jackets.  But the weakest link—workers in the developing world who are stripped of their rights—are expected to contribute the most to the company's profits. 

If the workers earned just the legal base wage of 67.5 cents an hour, the direct labor cost to sew the jacket would fall to 73.6 cents, which is less than one half of one percent of the jackets' $165 retail price.

$165 North Face Denali Jacket (below) sewn at the Youngone factory in El Salvador 

 

  

Tag from a North Face Denali Jacket produced at Youngone and purchased in New York (above)

Receipt from purchase of North Face Denali Jacket produced at Youngone (left)

  

The Race to the Bottom

Instead of getting better, things are getting much worse.  It was not supposed to be like this.  The U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was supposed to increase trade while lifting all ships, improving wages, working and living conditions and respect for internationally recognized worker rights standards.

Far from getting better, conditions for workers in El Salvador are spiraling downward, even for those sewing $165 North Face jackets and $54 Eddie Bauer shirts.

Women garment workers are telling us they may have to stop giving milk to their children, and some—due to falling real wages—are even worried that they may have to take their children out of school, because they can no longer afford it.

Milk prices soar 50 percent.  Rice is up 45 percent.

The soaring cost of food, along with other basic commodities, has drastically reduced the real purchasing power of workers in El Salvador, in Central America and across the developing world.

In just the last eight months to a year, basic food prices in El Salvador have skyrocketed.  Rice is up 45 percent—from 38 cents a pound in August 2007 to 55 cents in April 2008, a 17-cent increase.  Milk is up 50 percent.  A liter of milk (1.057 quarts), which cost 90 cents in 2007, now costs $1.35, a 45-cent increase.  Cooking oil is up 75 percent.  A bottle of cooking oil which cost $1.20 in 2007 now costs $2.10, a 90-cent increase.  A pound of dry beans, which cost 45 cents in early 2007 now sells for at least 90 cents, a 45-cent or 100 percent increase.

Another basic staple, tortillas, have risen from a cost of 3 cents each in 2007 to five cents today, an increase of 40 percent--and now they are smaller.  Eggs are up 20 percent.  In 2007, 30 eggs cost $2.50, but today the price is $3.00—a 50-cent increase.  Cheese, which was $2.30 a pound in 2007, now costs $2.80, an increase of 50 cents, raising the price by 22 percentSugar is up by 14 percent.  A pound of sugar, which used to cost 35 cents in 2007, now sells for 40 cents.  A pound of chicken now sells for $1.35, up 45 cents, or 50 percent from the 90 cent-a-pound cost in 2007.

A garment worker's basic lunch—rice, salad and a tiny piece of chicken—which cost $1.50 last year, now costs $1.75, a 25 cent, 17 percent increase.  (A simple lunch now costs the workers 2 ¼ hours' take home wages—since their take-home pay is 78 cents an hour.)

Public transportation costs for the workers are also up 50 percent.  A bus ticket, which cost 20 cents in 2007, now costs 30 cents, a ten-cent increase.  Gasoline prices are up 100 percent, growing from $2.25 a gallon in January 2007 to $4.50 a gallon in May of 2008.

For years, the garment workers' wages have been falling

Salvadoran garment workers—sewing clothing for all the major U.S. apparel companies and retailers—have seen their real wages fall by 20 percent over the last five years as the compounded inflation rate between 2003 and 2007 reached 24 percent, while there has been just one four percent wage increase in 2006.  And despite a nominal wage increase of three percent in 2008, the workers continue to fall even further behind, since the annualized inflation rate through April 2008 has reached 6.8 percent with the expectation that inflation will continue to grow.

Salvadoran garment workers are falling deeper into poverty.  Even official government figures show that the garment industry wage of $162 a month meets just 22.46 percent of the basic market basket needed for the average sized Salvadoran family of 3.94 people.  This means that even if both parents are working in garment factories, their combined income of $324 would still provide only 45 percent of basic family needs.

It does not have to be this way.

If the U.S. companies would pay a base wage of just $1.49 an hour, a family with both parents working could climb out of misery and into poverty, where they could raise their children with a modicum of decency.

This is not rocket science.  If companies like North Face were willing to pay a base wage of $1.49 an hour, then the direct labor cost to sew their $165 fleece jacket would still come to only $1.62, which is a little less than one percent of the retail price.  Surely the companies could afford this.  The direct labor cost to sew the North Face jacket would increase by only 68 cents, which amounts to just four-tenths of one percent of the $165 retail price of the jacket.

It is amazing that in all the enormous media coverage describing the extreme suffering workers and their families are facing across the developing world as food costs soar, there has not been a single connection made to the below-subsistence wages that the U.S. multinational corporations pay.


 

 

 

El Salvador:   Annual Inflation Rate & Maquila Wages
2003 — 2008
Year
Rate of Inflation
Rate of Maquila Wage Increase
2003
2.5%
0
2004
5.4%
0
2005
4.3%
0
2006
4.9%
4%
2007
4.9%
0
2008
6.8%*
3%
Sources:

Office of Statistics and Census of the Ministry of Economy, El Salvador
Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador
The Economist (Spanish)

* Note:

As of April 2008

El Salvador
Comparison between average cost of Market Basket (including food, housing, healthcare, clothing) and the Maquila Minimum Wage 2003 — 2008, in U.S. Dollars

Year

Living Wage Market Basket
(in U.S. dollars)
Maquila
Minimum Wage
(in U.S. dollars)
Wage as Percent of Market Basket
2003
$593.04
$151.20
25.49%
2004
$619.44
$151.20
24.41%
2005
$648.50
$151.20
23.31%
2006
$687.96
$157.25
22.86%
2007
$721.37
$157.25
21.80%
2008
$721.37*
$162.00
22.46%
Notes:

* To February 2008.  For a family of 3.94 persons

Source:

CDC—Center for Defense of the Consumer, El Salvador, based on official information of the General Office of Statistics and Census (DIGESTYC)

  • Sexual Harassment: There are some 24 women working in the embroidery department at Youngone where the North Face logo is stitched onto their jackets.  The supervisor, called Jaime, likes to touch and grope the women.  He even checks the women's cell phone messages and becomes furious if they are communicating with other men.  He constantly invites the women to go out with him on dates.  If a woman refuses his advances, he turns on her, treating her so abusively that, in desperation, the woman has no choice but to quit.

The women who refuse to be groped have told him that they will file an official complaint against him with the factory's Human Resources department.  Jaime responds by telling them:  "I'm not going to lose anything, because I'm the supervisor.  So I can shift you to another department or I can fire you, because I can do it."

  • Workers dripping in their own sweat: One woman described the excessive heat in the factory: "This year has been the hottest I've remembered.  A lot of us are often on the verge of fainting, we get very dizzy.  The cloth, because it's thick, makes us feel hotter.  I can even feel the sweat running down my legs when I wear pants or jeans.  Our sweat sometimes drops onto the jackets we're sewing, but we are told by the supervisor to be very careful not to sweat too much on the garments because we smell and can't be sending smelly products to the U.S.  We asked the supervisors to put some fans inside the factory, but they never did.  What they did do was to open the windows.  But the windows are small and few in comparison to the size of the factory.  In fact, in April and May afternoon temperatures reached 98 degrees, meaning that temperatures inside the factory could easily reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Another woman worker explained, "We feel desperate because it is very hot inside the factory, especially in the afternoon; there are seven particle extractors [fans] in the factory, but they don't let in fresh air.  The factory hasn't a single ventilator.  There is only air conditioning in the administration office.  The cloth we work with is thick and furry and makes you feel hotter.  There are some small windows in the factory which they now open, but for years the windows were closed.  When we suggested putting in ventilation fans the supervisors only said, 'let's see.'  Once one of the supervisors told us: 'Listen, in Bangladesh it is hotter, and still they produce more than you.'"

  • Complete Repression of Freedom of Association: In response to the constant abuse and humiliating treatment on the part of the factory management, on February 24, 2008, the workers at Youngone organized a union, which was officially a local affiliated to the Union of Garment Industry Workers of El Salvador (STIVES).  The STIVES Union belongs to the FEASIES Labor Federation.  Within a week, on March 6, the Salvadorian Ministry of Labor officially recognized the new union local (see image below) at Youngone, accepting its documentation on February 28, and registering the names of the recently elected union officers.

However, on February 28—the same day the union presented its documents of affiliation to the Ministry of Labor—Youngone management simply fired five of the seven newly-elected union leaders along with four workers they suspected of being union sympathizers.

The woman workers had dared to defend themselves by organizing a union, a right that is supposedly guaranteed them under Salvadorian Law, the International Labor Organization's internationally recognized worker rights standards, and within the US-CAFTA Free trade Agreement.
The fired union board members—all women—are:

- Carmen Julia Reyes Carranza, Secretary of Negotiations
- Maria Luz Villalobos, Press Secretary
- Francisca Edelmira Contez, Secretary of Finances
- Lilian Vasquez Alvarez, Health Secretary
- Rosario Molina Gutierrez, Secretary of Acts

Four more women workers, who were suspected of being union sympathizers, were also fired:

- Haydee Castillo de Aguilar
- Francisca de la Pez Iraheta
- Ana Ruth Leano Ceron
- Ana del Carmen Saravia Mendoza

Ms. Erica Hernandez, Chief of Personnel at Youngone, informed the fired unionists: "You're being fired from the factory without vacation time, Christmas bonus, or severance pay because you should have thought better before doing what you did."  Ms. Hernandez told them: "You can go with your complaints to the Ministry of Labor." The fired union leaders did appeal to the Ministry of Labor, which carried out an inspection at Youngone on April 7, determining that the unionists were indeed illegally fired.  The Ministry of Labor demanded that the fired union leaders be reinstated to their former jobs no later than April 11, and that the four fired rank and file workers receive 100 percent of the severance pay due them.

The Ministry of Labor inspection also cited Youngone for the "employment of under-aged workers" who lacked proper documentation or oversight.

On Tuesday, April 15, the five fired union leaders, accompanied by a Ministry of Labor inspector and representatives from the FEASIES labor federation, returned to the factory to seek their reinstatement.  It all amounted to naught, as the Chief of Personnel met the delegation at the locked factory gate telling them point blank: "The company is not interested in having a union.  We don't care if the union is big or small.  We don't want them here."

So much for Salvadorian labor laws, the ILO worker rights standards and US-CAFTA Free Trade Agreement.  The large Youngone factory knows it can ignore Ministry of Labor orders, and in return pay a small fine.  It's really chump change for a company the size of Youngone, and such fines are easily written off as a cost of doing business.The workers' demands remain the same:  The immediate reinstatement to their former positions of the five illegally fired union leaders, with back wages; and 100 percent severance pay for the four suspected union sympathizers.  Youngone cheated the fired workers by paying them just 50 percent of the severance legally due them

Rumors—fanned by management—are being spread that Youngone will soon suffer mass layoffs.  The same Ms. Erica Hernandez, Chief of Personnel, told the workers last week,  "We have few new production orders and little raw materials on hand, so unfortunately worker suspensions will begin at the end of May."  Supervisors are now telling the workers that at least 25 percent of the workforce will be laid off.  If management implements the layoffs, it is because work orders are falling due to the recession in the United States, but many supervisors are manipulating and trying to spread fear among the workers claiming that the upcoming layoffs are being "caused by the union and all the problems they made at the factory."

El Salvador Ministry of Labor's Certificate of Legal Recognition (below) for the Youngone Union Local

  • Corporate Audits a Joke:  Obviously, the clothes matter more than the human beings who made them.  One worker explained:  "We know that auditors from the brands come to the factory.  They never speak with us.  They just walk through the lines.  They look carefully at the product, the quality, the process, everything related to the garment.  They come to the factory every three months.  When the auditors come from North Face and Eddie Bauer, the supervisors behave as decent people.  They don't shout; they speak softly, pretending to be in reality what they aren't."
  • No sick days: There is a Social Security healthcare clinic in the factory staffed by a woman doctor and nurse eight hours a day Monday through Friday.  The workers report that the medicines available in the clinic are very basic.  Furthermore, given that the doctor essentially works for the factory management, she is reluctant—or perhaps not authorized—to grant sick leave to the workers who must remain at their work stations no matter how ill they are.

 



 

[EXCERPTS]
 
"File No. 104-UD-03-08
Ministry of Labor — Special Inspection Act                  
 
The labor inspector, Rafael Arnulfo Orellana Torres present at Youngone on April 7, 2008 states (based in interviews with workers, management and supervisors):
 
Violations:
 
"NUMBER ONE: Against Article 205 c) and d) of the Labor Code; on February 28, 2008 by the supervisors Vilma Rolin of line 6, Ana Cornejo of Line 7, Estela Escobar line 14, Omar Arevalo line 16 and German Arevalo line 17, having carried out meetings with the workers to tell them that the company doesn't agree the formation of trade unions inside the factory, threatening  them with firing without the right to severance, in an attack on the legitimate right of the workers to organize.
 
"NUMBER TWO: Against Article  248 of the Labor Code, on February 28 illegally firing  the workers and members of the board: Carmen Julia Reyes Carranza, Conflict Secretary; Maria Luz Villalobos Gonzales, Education Secretary; Lilian Vasquez Alvarado, Security Secretary; Francisca Edelmira Cortes, Finance Secretary; Rosario Molina Gutierrez, Acts Secretary of the Garment Workers Union. The undersigned Labor Inspector recommends the immediate reinstatement of the abovementioned workers and members of the board to their jobs.
 
"NUMBER THREE: Against Article 29 of the Labor Code owing the above mentioned members of the Board the wages for the period February 29 to March 30, 2008.  [Note:  This was as of the inspection date on April 7.]
 
"Recommendation to the Company Youngone:  It must comply with Articles 117 and 114 of the Labor Code regarding the hiring of minors; and must taking into account ILO Agreement 182 regarding the worst form of child labor.".... "We give a deadline of 4 working days to the company, until April 11, to correct the infringements."
 
Signed by Rafael Arnulfo Orellana Torres, Labor inspector
 
Signed and sealed by Erica Hernandez Osegueda,  Young One El Salvador.
 
[Note: Under the Salvadoran Labor Code minors between the ages of 15 and 17 may work, but only under certain conditions including: Authorization of the underage worker with the Ministry of Labor; and that the company assure that the young worker is able to attend school.   Evidently the Labor Ministry Inspector found minors working at Youngone and that the company had failed to satisfy these conditions.]


El Salvador Exports $1.49 Billion in Garments to the U.S.

The small country of El Salvador is the ninth largest exporter, by volume, of apparel to the United States.  In 2007, El Salvador shipped $1.49 billion worth of garments to the U.S., an increase of $78.4 million—six percent—over 2006 garment exports of $1.41 billion.  In the first three months of 2008, El Salvador's apparel exports are up another 5.1 percent, to $343.31 million, in comparison to the same period in 2007.

 

Youngone in Bangladesh linked to U.S. Universities

Youngone in Bangladesh produces logo garments for at least 48 major U.S. universities including the Universities of California, Illinois, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin as well as Boston College, Georgetown University, Syracuse and New York University.

 

From the North Face website:

The North Face® President, Steve Rendle, Receives Distinguished Honor

The Mountain Institute awards Steve Rendle, Exemplary Corporate Stewardship of Mountains Award 2007

SAN LEANDRO, California — November 9, 2007 — The North Face, the world's premier supplier of authentic, innovative and technically advanced outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear, today announced that its president, Steve Rendle, received The Mountain Institute's distinguished Exemplary Corporate Stewardship of Mountains 2007 award.

The Exemplary Corporate Stewardship of Mountains Awards recognizes individuals who are dedicated to protecting mountain cultures, and embody the mountain spirit. Rendle joins past recipients such as Conrad Anker and Rick Ridgeway.

"I am honored to receive such a prestigious award on behalf of The North Face," stated Rendle. "It is a great recognition of our athletes' and team efforts to give back to the communities where we explore—it truly is an honor."

The North Face was founded on a culture of environmental sustainability and social responsibility while simultaneously advancing its position as the industry's key innovator of products for the outdoors athlete.

Since Mr. Rendle joined the company, The North Face launched the philanthropic expedition program which provides support to the local communities who assist the athletes in their quest to reach the summits and explore the remote regions of the world. Two such programs include the Himalayan Cataract Project to cure blindness in remote mountain villages in Nepal, and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation to teach lifesaving climbing and rope techniques to Sherpa's.

Through these athlete philanthropic expeditions, Mr. Rendle and The North Face have demonstrated that the production of quality products can go hand-in-hand with care of the environment and social entrepreneurship.

"Whether Mr. Rendle is in his office at The North Face or outdoors gear testing, he truly lives the brand and empowers others to do so as well," said Bob Davis, President, The Mountain Institute, "We are proud to recognize his achievements."

Prior to joining The North Face, Rendle held the position of Director of North American Sales and Operations for the global apparel manufacturer, Youngone Corporation, gaining experience in all aspects of technical apparel production and internal business operations. In the nine years before his time at Youngone, he was in a leadership position at W.L. Gore and Associates' Fabrics Division, garnering extensive knowledge of performance textile design and manufacturing, sales and marketing.

The Mountain Institute was founded in 1972 at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center in Pendleton County, West Virginia. Since then it has evolved significantly and diversified its programs under the leadership of many gifted visionaries. For additional information, please visit www.mountain.org.

 


 

Company Contact Information

The North Face Inc. (Subsidiary of VF Corporation)
2013 Farallon Drive
San Leandro, CA 94577-6622  

Phone: 510-618-3500
Fax:     510-618-3553

Contact:  Steve Rendle, President Americas

Write to North Face and urge them to respect women's and worker rights in El Salvado

Samples of North Face labels taken by workers in the Youngone Factory

  

 

 

 North Face's Corporate Parent:

VF Corporation
105 Corporate Center Blvd.
Greensboro, NC  27408    

Contact: Eric C. Wiseman, President, CEO, and Director

Phone: 336.424.6000
Fax: 336.424.7668

 

E-mail: cindy_knobel@vfc.com

Note:  VF Corp claims to be the largest clothing retailer in the world. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eddie Bauer Holdings, Inc.

15010 NE 36th St.
Redmond, WA  98052   

Phone: 425-755-6544
Fax: 425-755-7696

 

E-mail: CustomerCare@csc.eddiebauer.com

Contact: Neil S. Fiske, President and CEO

 

 

Eddie Bauer label taken from Youngone