December, 08 2011 |  Download PDF |  Share

Dallas Cowboys Linked to Sweatshop


NFL Cowboys and College Kids production
at Apple Tree Sweatshop in El Salvador


Apple Tree S.A. de C.V. 
San Marcos Free Trade Zone, Building #4
San Salvador, El Salvador

Phone: (503) 2207 6000
Fax: (503) 2220 5535


The Apple Tree Factory is owned by the South Korean AT Group, S.A. (The AT Group has factories in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Bangladesh-all of which are very low wage countries.)

President:                   Mr. David Kyung Ha
General Manager:        Mr. John Han

Established:                 1987

Number of workers:    Approximately 750, 90 percent of whom are women


NFL Dallas Cowboys creepers for infants and toddlers were sewn at the Apple Tree sweatshop from April through July or August (four or five months) in 2011.

Six production modules with an average of 14 sewers each had to produce 1,200 Cowboys creepers in the eight-hour shift, or 86 each day. This means the workers were allowed just 5.6 minutes to sew each garment, for which they were paid 14 cents per Cowboy creeper.  (On May 16, 2011, the legal minimum wage was raised to 78 cents an hour, $6.25 a day.)   



The legal daily shift is from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, a nine-hour shift with a 15-minute morning break and 45 minutes off for lunch. Actual working hours were eight hours per day. On Saturday, the legal working hours were from 7:00am to 11:00am, or four hours. The legal workweek in El Salvador is 44 hours.

Legal hours are one thing, while reality is another. Workers were constantly pressured to come to work early, skip most of their lunch, and then remain for an additional one to three hours, all of which was unpaid. At least 50 percent of the workers at Apple Tree-including those producing for the Cowboys and College Kids-started work at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., took less than 30 minutes a day in total break time, and kept working to 5:00, 6:00 or even 7:00 p.m. They were routinely working a 10 ½ to 12 ½ hour shift rather than the legal nine-hour shift with one hour off for a morning break and lunch.

At a minimum, we estimate that fifty percent of the workers were kept toiling for an extra two-and-a-quarter overtime hours a day, without pay. Many workers took just 15 to 20 minutes for lunch, leaving them just time enough to have a coffee and a sweet roll.

All overtime was forced. Anyone who refused to work overtime would be permanently banned from working any overtime in the future.

Supervisors told the workers, "You should make an effort to get up earlier so you can be in the factory well before 7:00 a.m. so that you can get a start to reach your production goal." Mr. Han, the general manager, was glad to open the factory at 5:30 a.m., so the workers could get a jump in their production goals-unpaid.

College Kids production of creepers and other children's garments were sewn under the same illegal conditions as the NFL Cowboys garments. College Kids has been producing at Apple Tree for the last two years, generally for four to six months a year. There were six production modules with 15 workers each sewing College Kids clothing.

During the summer, the extreme heat in the factory is suffocating. Workers report they are drenched in their own sweat: "Around 2:00 p.m. our shirts are soaking wet with sweat."

Apple Tree's drinking water gives off a sickening smell, tastes horrible, and often leads to stomachaches.

Supervisors do a lot of shouting and cursing to pressure the women to work faster. "You're a good for nothing... Just a lazy son-of-a-b#*ch." Two supervisors are especially crude-Oscar and Lidia Moya.

Workers have no seniority, since they are fired every year and then rehired. When Apple Tree management fires the workers each year, they pay them just 70 percent of the severance pay legally due to them. Workers have no security. The workers also say they are not paid their legal Christmas bonus.

There is no cafeteria in the Apple Tree factory, and for shelter from the sun, workers often eat their lunch on the pavement sitting under trailer trucks. Bathrooms are often out of order, and workers were routinely denied permission to go to the Social Security medical clinic, until the FESS union demanded and won this legal right.

In March 2011, the local of the SITS union (Union of the Textile and Related Industries, affiliated with the labor federation, FESS) at Apple Tree placed a formal complaint before the Fair Labor Association (FLA) regarding gross trade union discrimination by factory management. Union members are often denied paid overtime work and are routinely harassed by security guards. According to the SITS union, the FLA has had no impact whatsoever, and conditions continue as they were. In another absurdity, the U.S. apparel industry's monitoring program called WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production) was so impressed with the Apple Tree sweatshop that Apple Tree is now certified A-okay through April 2013. WRAP has a long sorry record of certifying sweatshops in many low-wage developing countries.

Nothing substantial will change at Apple Tree until the labor rights provisions in the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement are finally enforced. To date, the U.S.-CAFTA has been a terrible failure, with little if any attempt to assure respect for internationally recognized worker rights standards.

On the other hand, the Dallas Cowboys can import their sweatshop clothing from El Salvador to the U.S. duty-free. The sad reality is that the American people are subsidizing sweatshop production at Apple Tree for the Dallas Cowboys and College Kids.


About Apple Tree/AT Group

"AT Group Industries Specialized in T-Shirts, Polo Shirts, Nylon Shorts and all Knitwear for all sexes and ages, being produced with better and high standard quality in fabrics, guaranteed quality that only ATGroup offers to all clients, we competed with the best of Central American markets and the Caribbean, excellence and good development of textile product, we counted with the certifications authorized of Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) and the Fair Association Work, which looks for ensuring that given factory you produce sewn goods to under lawful, humane, and ethical conditions. and Workplace Standards plows upheld where FLA company products plows produced, it is possible to mention other certifications received and approved: VF, K-Mart, Li & Fung, JC Penney, PhilipVan Heusen, Wallmart and Speedo."



Style Avenue/El Salvador—NFL, NCAA & Walmart Caught in Sweatshop Scandal