July 1999

The women in El Salvador who sew Liz Claiborne garments speak out
asking for justice

Workers entering Doall factory

Contents

Introduction  
Labor Rights Not Allowed in El Salvador's Maquilas  
Recent firings at Liz Claiborne contractors Doall factories #2 and #3 
Inform or No Job! 
Suspected of Organizing 
Huge Mark-Ups Based on Below-Subsistence Wages 
You Cried to the Gringos! 
No Respect for Worker Rights
Cheated on Severance Pay  
Who Are the Workers? 
Sweatshop Conditions at the Doall Factory #2 
What Has Been Liz Claiborne's Response?  
So, how does PricewaterhouseCoopers conduct its social auditing of factory conditions? 
So, what in fact, has the Liz Claiborne Company actually done?  
Harvard Students Reject PriceWaterhouseCoopers-Apparel Industry Partnership Monitors   
Monitoring the Companies Can Love  
Forced Overtime 
Surviving on Below-Subsistence Wages
United Students Against Sweatshops Letter to Liz Claiborne
What You Can Do to Help

 

 


 


Introduction

The Liz Claiborne company has been sewing garments at the Korean-owned Doall factories in El Salvador since 1992. The women earn just 74 cents for every $198 Liz Claiborne jacket they sew, and 58 cents for every $118 pair of pants. Their wages amount to less than one-half of one percent of the retail price of the clothing.

Doall is a real sweatshop. Temperatures reach 100 degrees and more. There are mandatory pregnancy tests; forced overtime-in the busy season up to 151/2-hour shifts and seven-day work weeks; permission to use the bathroom limited to twice a day; constant pressure and yelling to meet the excessively high daily production quota; below-subsistence wages; routine denial of access to health care and sick days; dust- filled air and no clean drinking water. And there is the fear that you can be fired for refusing to work overtime, for meeting with U.S. college students, for raising grievances or challenging factory conditions, if you are seen meeting or "grouping together," if they suspect you of organizing, or even see you in the company of workers who have already been fired. And if you are fired for organizing, you may be blacklisted and cheated of back wages and severance pay.

Eighty percent of the workers are young women and half are single mothers, who are especially vulnerable because their children are totally dependent upon them.

There have been five attempts to organize a union at Doall, all crushed through mass illegal firings.

This concrete case is very significant. The Liz Claiborne company is co-chair of the Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP)/Fair Labor Association and has contracted PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit Doall's compliance with respect for human rights.

What follows is the workers' own words, as they appeal to the Liz Claiborne company for justice, urging that Claiborne bring their contractor into compliance with Salvadoran labor law. After reading what these workers say, you will be in a position to judge just how effective the AIP and PricewaterhouseCoopers have been in guaranteeing respect for human and workers rights.

 

Labor Rights Not Allowed in El Salvador's Maquilas

    * There are 225 maquila assembly factories in El Salvador
    * 68,000 workers
    * Sending 581 million garments a year to the U.S., worth $1.2 billion
    * El Salvador is now the 7th largest apparel exporter to the U.S.
    * El Salvador's apparel exports to the U.S. were up 12% in 1998, with the growth continuing in the first three months of 1999, up another 7%. El Salvador is now sending 50 million garments a month to the U.S.

Yet there is not one single union with a contract in any of these maquila factories. It is not allowed.

Despite the mandatory pregnancy testing, the forced overtime--sometimes seven days a week, up to 151/2 hours a day--monitored bathroom visits, starvation wages, excessively high production goals, the maltreatment and illegal firings, there is not one single union. Every attempt to organize to defend their basic rights is met with mass illegal firings. 
 



   
Recent firings at Liz Claiborne
contractors Doall factories #2 and #3
 

Yolanda Vasquez de Bonilla

I was fired from the Doall company, factory #3, together with 17 other workers on August 5, 1998.

From the beginning the unbearable working conditions in the factory impressed me a great deal, which included obligatory overtime hours every day of the week including Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. On alternate days we worked until 11 p.m. and some weeks we were obligated to work every day until 11 p.m. at night. We were mistreated, including being yelled at and having vulgar words used against us by the supervisors, humiliated for wanting to use the restrooms, and being denied permission to visit the Salvadoran Social Security Institute for medical consults.

FIRED FOR:
Refusing to Work Overtime, Discussing Factory Conditions with U.S. College Students, Meeting to Learn their Rights, Organizing 

The highest wage I received, working seven days a week and more than 100 hours, was 1,200 colones (U.S. $137). Nevertheless, I accepted all this that I have briefly narrated since I have two children who are in school and I must support them. But a moment arrived when I considered that changes were needed in the factory and, with other compaZeros, I initiated efforts for us to organize ourselves into a union.

These efforts were minimal, limited to talking with the companeros about the need to organize ourselves so that our rights would be respected and to calling a meeting to discuss this idea. The administration of Doall was quickly informed of my initiative and I was fired by the manager Ernesto Aguilar Sarmiento at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5, 1998, with no explanation.

August 5, 1998:
18 Doall Workers fired, including Yolanda Vasquez de Bonilla, for challenging forced overtime and meeting to discuss organizing 

There is no doubt that I was fired for the union organizing initiative that we had begun and that the other 17 workers fired on the same day were those with whom I had made contact. In addition, we were informed by other workers that the supervisors had threatened to fire them if they spoke with those of us recently fired, especially me.

This is totally unjust and has represented a terrible blow for me and my children. I have not succeeded in getting other work since then and I fear that I am on the company blacklist. My economic situation is precarious. I am not asking for favors or gifts, I am only urgently asking for the Liz Claiborne company's mediation to win reinstatement in the job from which I was unjustly fired.

(February 23, 1999 letter to Liz Claiborne, Inc.)

 
 

Inform or No Job!

Raúl Martinez was fired on December 5, 1998 by Doall chief of personnel Jaime Garcia Urrutia, who told him that the manager of Doall "doesn't want to see you anymore because you are a problem." Later, he was offered his job back if he would agree to "inform the company of workers who cause problems." Rúl refused to do so, and remains fired.

Mass Dismissals

Ana Guadalupe Morales  fired January 11 
José Roberto Rosales Molina  fired January 12  
Rosa Esperanza Martinez Osequeda  fired January 13 
Enrique Guevara Orellana  fired January 13 
José Mario Gil  fired January 13 
Cruz Ernesto Vasquez Cruz  fired January 14 
Juan Francisco Herrera  fired January 14  
Rosa Neidi de Leon  fired January 14 
Aurelio Garcia Mendez  fired January 18 
Luz Marí­a Piñeda  fired January 23 
Germán Antonio Martinez   fired January -- 

All of us were fired during the second week in January of this year by the chief of personnel of Doall #2 and #3, Jaime Garcia Urrutia. He assured us that the company was reducing personnel due to lack of orders for production; nevertheless, at the same time, we were witness that the company is continually hiring additional personnel. Our firings took place after we met in a public place on Sunday, December 10 to organize ourselves into a union, a fundamental right which is recognized by Salvadoran law and, we understand, by Liz Claiborne's Code of Conduct. The company was alerted to our efforts and began to fire us the next day.

FIRED FOR:
Suspected of Organizing
December 5, 1998:
Raul Antonio Martinez Carrillo fired from Doall Factory #3 

As you probably know, there exist working conditions in the Doall factories that are abusive for the workers, such as forced overtime almost every day, a situation that gets worse between May and October when the company receives large volume orders from the exterior, requiring us to work more than 15 hours a day.

The production goals are excessively high and debilitating, and are imposed arbitrarily by the administration without consulting with those who produce the clothing. To make us reach these arbitrarily imposed goals, we are constantly submitted to the humiliation of being screamed at by the supervisors, which appears to be a matter of company policy.

FIRED FOR:
Meeting in a Public Place and Suspected of Organizing a Union
January 11-23, 1999:
Eleven Doall Workers fired from Factories #2 and #3 

The wages we receive are very low. Contrary to what is believed outside the country, El Salvador is not a cheap place to live. The price of certain foods, such as milk, chicken, cheese or eggs is similar to or higher than in the United States. Our daily wage is 42 colones, the equivalent of $4.79. What quality of life can we give our families with these wages?

This is not the first time that our efforts to organize ourselves have been repressed by the company. On August 5 of last year, 18 workers were fired for attempting to organize and asking for a day off on what is a national holiday in our country. You will understand the atmosphere of uncertainty and fear that exists in the factory. We are now fired and facing a grave problem. We are unemployed, with little chance of finding work since we are probably on the "blacklist" of the companies and we are without savings due to the low wages we earn.

We are willing to speak with any investigator from Liz Claiborne or other institutions. We have nothing to hide. We can talk with anyone. We were fired illegally and unjustly for the one reason that the company suspected us of organizing in Doall. But it is in our interest to organize ourselves to defend our rights. The only thing we were trying to do was to improve our difficult working conditions, gain respect for our human rights and improve conditions for our families.

We have been informed that Liz Claiborne Inc. is committed to improving working conditions and respect for the rights of the workers in your contractors' factories around the world. For these reasons, we are asking you to immediately interpose your good offices with the Doall company (factories #2 and #3) so that we may be reinstated in our jobs as soon as possible.

(February 9 and March 2, 1999 letters to Liz Claiborne, Inc.)

 

 Blacklist in Operation:

After searching for work,fired workers José Mario Gil and Cruz Ernesto Vasques were finally hired on Monday, February 15 at the Coval SA de CV factory sewing the "Catalina" label for Wal-Mart. However, after Doall management contacted the Coval company on Wednesday, February 18, both José Mario and Cruz Ernesto were immediately fired. 

We have known that the maquila companies in El Salvador have been using blacklists since at least 1992, when the National Labor Committee and 60 Minutes went undercover posing as investors and exposed the use of computerized blacklists shared by the companies. Now the system is less obvious and a little more sophisticated. To get a job in the maquila, you need a reference from the chief of personnel in the last factory you worked in. When the chief of personnel is phoned by the new company and explains that you were fired for organizing a union, you are let go immediately, before your trial period is over. During this period, a worker has no legal rights. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Suspected of Organizing

    * Sandra Cruz
    * Cecilio Ostorga Salgado
    * José Manuel Ramirez

We are three workers of the company Doall Enterprises, SA de CV (Doall #2), San Marcos free zone, who began working on September 16, 1997 and were unjustly fired on March 12, 1999 at 4:00 p.m. by Ernesto Aguilar Sarmiento, the legal representative of the company. During that time period, we have worked hard to produce good quality clothing for your company, Liz Claiborne.

The pretext for our firing was lack of work in the company, but the real reason was that we, together with other workers, are trying to organize ourselves to form a union that will look out for our rights, which are not respected by the administrators of the factory. The trusted personnel (paid informers) of Aguilar Sarmiento are in charge of finding out who is expressing discontent with the treatment we receive at Doall, to fire us.

FIRED FOR:
Suspected of organizing a union
March 12, 1999:
Three workers fired without back wages from Doall factory #2  

There are bad conditions in the factory which include:

On March 16, José Manuel and Cecilio received our severance checks from Doall for 2,051.61 colones ($234) and 2,013 colones ($230) respectively. But these checks do not include our wages earned from March 1-12, 1999.

The company says that it will not give us even five cents more and that the amount in the check includes 'all that we have a right to, including wages and deductions for arriving late.' That is not true. The company is trying to rob us of the two weeks' pay for March 1-12.

For us, two weeks' pay is a lot of money and it allows us to feed our families. A phone call or fax on the part of the Liz Claiborne company to Doall would help us a lot, telling them to comply with the law and pay us our wages.

We need our jobs, and ask that you facilitate our reinstatement at the Doall company, despite the bad conditions in the factory, which could be improved.

(March 16, 1999 letter to Liz Claiborne Inc.)

 

Liz Claiborne's Code of Conduct Not Working. Fear Pervades Factory

Few workers at Doall #2 factory, where 50 percent of the production is for Liz Claiborne, have ever heard of the Liz Claiborne Code of Conduct, which is supposed to guarantee respect for human and worker rights. Some workers have seen a xeroxed piece of paper on the wall, which they thought might be the Code, but no one takes it seriously. No explanations were ever provided to the workers, nor was there any popular education regarding the meaning and protections in the Code.

In another Doall factory there is a more important sign posted, one that is more in line with the workers' experiences: "Unions Are Synonymous with Unemployment"

In May 1999, the National Labor Committee-United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) delegation met with workers from the Doall #2 factory in a safe location. They told us:

"There are a lot of violations, but we are not allowed to talk about it. There is a lot of fear. They watch people. If you talk, you are afraid you will get fired. They fire you when they realize you are grouping together. You can't talk or be seen with workers who have been fired, for that they fire you too." 

 

 


 

 

Huge Mark-Ups Based on Below-Subsistence Wages
 

These low wage rates have remained constant over the years. When the National Labor Committee researched production costs at the Doall factory in October 1995, the women were earning 77 cents for every $178 Liz Claiborne jacket they sewed, which means their wages in 1995 also amounted to only 4/10ths of one percent of the retail price of the garment. Note that in the United States the labor cost to sew a garment typically amounts to 10 percent of the retail price. By relocating production offshore, the companies have almost wiped out the cost involved in sewing a garment, driving labor cost down from 10 percent to only 5/10ths of one percent. The companies have at the same time increased their mark-up from the traditional 100 percent when a garment moves from manufacturer to retailer in the U.S. to between 500 and 1,000 percent for clothing made offshore, where minimum wages are frequently set below subsistence levels and where wage rates are artificially suppressed through denial of worker rights.

 

 

 

Here's how the system works:

Sixty workers on a production line have a daily production quota of sewing 600 Liz Claiborne jackets in an eight-hour shift, working from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

The base wage at the Doall factory is 60 cents an hour, but for our calculations we have chosen the very highest wage in the factory-which very few workers earn-including all bonuses and incentives, which is 92 cents an hour.

[($0.92 x 8 hours = $7.36 per day; $7.36 x 60 workers on a production line = $441.60 in daily payroll. 600 jackets x $198 = $118,800 retail value of garments produced each day. $441.60) $118,000 = .00374, or 4/10ths of one percent, which means that the direct labor cost to sew the jacket is just 74 cents. (0.00374 x $198 = 0.74)]

Sixty-three sewing operators on a production line have a daily production quota of assembling 800 Liz Claiborne pants in an eight-hour shift, working from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with an hour off for lunch.

[$0.92 x 8 hours = $7.36 per day; $7.36 x 63 workers = $463.68 daily payroll. 800 pairs of pants at $118 each amounts to $94,400 worth of garments sewn each day. $463.68 ) $94,400 = 0.0049, or 5/10ths of one percent, which means that the direct labor cost to sew each $118 pair of pants amounts to 58 cents. ($118 x 0.0049 = $0.58)]

note: All U.S. dollar figures are rounded up to the nearest cent.

 

 


 

You Cried to the Gringos!
 

    * Sonia Beatriz Lara
    * Bety Josefina Figueroa
    * Julio Enrique López
    * Santos Mejí­a Rivas
    * Miguel Amilcar Vasquez

On Saturday, March 13, 1999, five workers from the Doall factory met with a team of Columbia University graduate students who were in El Salvador conducting a study to determine whether wages in apparel factories are sufficient to meet a family's basic survival needs. (Their study, which will be released in September, found that the wages were not even close to subsistence levels.)

FIRED FOR:
Meeting with Columbia University students and discussing factory conditions and wages
March 19, 1999:
Five workers fired from Doall factory #2 

The workers had all been employed at the Doall #2 factory producing Liz Claiborne garments for at least the last year-and-a-half. Some had been there as long as three years.

Then, on Friday, March 19 at 4:00 p.m., they were all abruptly fired by Antonio Ernesto Aguilar Sarmiento, who was Doall's chief of personnel at the time. He called them into his office one by one, simply telling each of them, "You are fired because you and your friends went to cry before the gringos, and the Koreans don't want unionists at this factory."

Dear Compañeros: Through this letter, we want to express to you our thanks for the support you have given us since our unjust firing from the Doall Enterprises factories for having met with the students from Columbia...

June 12, 1999, Letter from workers fired on March 13  to the National Labor Committee

 


 

 

No Respect for Worker Rights
 

    * Joaquin Antonio Hernandez
    * Edwin Ernesto Peña

We, Joaquin Antonio Hernandez and Edwin Ernesto Peña, workers of Doall #2 factory, employed in the cutting section, were fired Friday, April 23, 1999 at 7:40 a.m. by chief of personnel Ernesto Aguilar, utilizing vulgar and dirty words.

The reason for the firing is unjust since on Thursday, April 22, the cutting supervisor José Armando Santos, tried to force us to work two overtime hours, but due to family responsibilities with our children it was not possible for us to work that day. The next day we were fired.

FIRED FOR:
refusing to work overtime
April 23, 1999:
Two workers fired from the Doall #2 factory 

On Friday, April 30, at 4:40 p.m., we presented ourselves at the factory to claim the severance pay due us according to Salvadoran law, but the chief of cutting, Mr. Choi, screaming, kicked us out of the factory.

In the sixteen months that we have worked cutting pieces for pants and jackets of your Liz Claiborne label we maintained good conduct, in spite of terrible working conditions in the factory. When we speak of labor conditions, we refer especially to the great pressure we were submitted to in our work, the refusal to give us medical permissions and even limited in our use of the bathroom.

The company has not paid us our severance pay and so we have been obligated to present a complaint against Doall Enterprises in the Ministry of Labor. Generally in these meetings the business representatives utilize legal subtleties to evade or put off paying the severance benefits.

We ask the Liz Claiborne company to help us, for Doall to pay the 2031.53 colones ($232 U.S.) we are owed in severance benefits. This money will help us enormously to buy food and pay basic expenses for our families for the next two weeks while we look for other work.

(May 4, 1999 letter to Liz Claiborne, Inc.)

 


 

Cheated on Severance Pay

When the fired workers, Joaquin Antonio Hernandez Quesada and Edwin Ernesto Peña showed up at the Ministry of Labor on May 13, 1999, they were met by Doall's chief of personnel, Ernesto Aguilar, Doall's legal representative, Mr. Jung Man Kim and the company's lawyer, Cesar Pompilio Ramos Lopez. Mr. Aguilar confronted the workers waving a copy of the letter they had sent to the Liz Claiborne company. He told them he did not like it, that they were causing problems for the factory and for himself personally through their international denunciation. Mr. Aguilar then threatened the fired workers with a defamation suit.

EXPLOITED TO THE LAST CENT:
Fired Doall Workers Cheated of their Legal Severance Pay  

Unemployed, without savings, facing a legal battle that they could not win against a powerful maquila company with a couple of thousand workers--a battle that would take a year, meaning more expenses and travelling to court--they gave in. They had no choice.

Ernesto Aguilar then offered the workers only one-half of the severance pay legally owed them: $116, rather than the $232 which was their due.

SINCE THE LIZ CLAIBORNE COMPANY could not help the workers, the National Labor Committee provided them with that part of their legal severence pay of which they were cheated.  

To take the humiliation one step further, the workers were forced to sign the following statement:

    "...lawyer Ramos Lopez declares that the workers were fired for disciplinary failings committed inside the company, which is not responsible for them, and that they were at no time insulted or humiliated by the chief of personnel, Mr. Aguilar, and that nevertheless and without accepting responsibility for the firings and with the intention of coming to a settlement, offers to each worker the quantity of C 1,017.50 ($116). The workers on their part, accept and recognize that they were not insulted by Mr. Aguilar and to end the present labor dispute they accept the quantity offered by the legal representative of the company, which quantity was received by the workers in legal currency, and that both workers exonerate Doall Enterprises S.A. from all labor responsibility and they submit their respective contract termination forms to Mr. Ramos Lopez."

Case closed. And, remember that this was all carried out under the watchful eye of Ministry of Labor officials. It is a lesson not lost on the rest of the workers. If you try to defend your rights, the company will make you pay.  

IN FURTHER RETALIATION for his letter to the Liz Claiborne company, Joaquin Hernandez's wife, Rosa Evangelina Mendez Navas was also fired on Saturday May 8th at 11:00 am by Ernesto Aguilar Sarmiento. She had worked at the Doall #2 factory for the last three years. 

 

 


 

 

Who Are the Workers?

There are 68,000 workers in El Salvador sewing apparel exclusively for export to the U.S. Eighty percent of these workers are young women, the majority 17 to 25 years of age, and 50 percent are single mothers. The over-27,000 single mothers working in the maquila are the workers most vulnerable to abusive factory conditions, since their children are totally dependent upon their wages. Also, they are surrounded by an overall poverty rate of 48 percent.

THE NATIONAL LABOR COMMITTEE is also aware of and investigating five firings the week of March 29, and four more firings from the Doall #2 factory in April. 

Few of the workers know their legal rights. Most enter the factories with a sixth grade education, having been forced by need to leave school to look for work. Once in the factories, the forced overtime and low wages prohibit them from going to night school to complete their high school education. These maquila workers have never heard of the International Labor Organization (ILO), of the worker rights protections which are supposed to condition the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) trade benefits, or of NAFTA. They understand little or nothing of the so-called corporate Codes of Conduct. They know nothing of the companies whose brand name labels they sew--not their profits, not CEO compensation, not what the garments they make sell for in the U.S. They do not know what wages are for garment workers in other countries, so they have no way to compare or judge their own wages.

Most do not know the Salvadoran Labor Code. But they do know that if they are seen carrying it around or discussing it, they may be labeled as trouble-makers who need to be punished.

Still, they struggle for their rights and their dignity on a daily basis.

 

Doall entrance

 

 

 


 

 

Sweatshop Conditions at the Doall Factory #2

At Doall Factory #2, there are approximately 800 workers sewing clothing for Liz Claiborne (which accounts for about one-half of total production), Perry Ellis, and Leslie Fay. The Doall plant is located in the San Marcos Free Trade Zone on the outskirts of San Salvador on the highway leading to the airport. The Free Trade Zone is surrounded by a high chain link fence topped with rolls of razor wire. The metal gates at the entrance are kept locked, under the control of heavily armed security guards toting rifles. No visitors are allowed.

Sweatshop conditions:

 

The workers told us this story.

In January, Mr. Chang - one of the Doall managers told the women that "people from Liz Claiborne and Perry Ellis were coming to inspect production and to give more work to the factory." He instructed the workers, should they be questioned, to deny that they were forced to work overtime. He also told them to say they were producing 30 pieces an hour, instead of the 75 to 80, since if they told the truth, Liz Claiborne "could cut the orders because they would think there was bad quality in the products." During the company visit, they were also pressed to finish their production goals by 4:00 p.m., since they did not want anyone to be seen in the factory after that. 

  

There is a clear, systematic pattern of labor rights violations at the Doall #2 factory.  

 

 


 


What Has Been Liz Claiborne's Response?

In response to their letters, on February 18, 1999, a Liz Claiborne Vice President wrote to the fired Doall workers saying:

"Please be assured we take these allegations very seriously and are in the process of reviewing them as well as other allegations we have previously heard....In order to improve conditions, we have reached out to an independent U.S. auditor..."

The U.S. auditor that Liz Claiborne reached out to was the multinational accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers. In fact, a PricewaterhouseCoopers team visited El Salvador during the week of January 11 to conduct a social audit of Doall for Liz Claiborne. This was the very week that eleven more workers had been illegally fired because Doall management had seen    them meeting in a public place and suspected them of organizing a union. The PricewaterhouseCoopers investigators did not even   meet with the fired workers.

Later on, at a May 12 meeting with Harvard Students Against Sweatshops, Randy Rankin, who led the PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation in El Salvador, told the students that factory conditions were "just fine" at the Doall #2 plant. Pressed by the students on the role local respected religious and human rights NGOs should play in verifying factory conditions, Mr. Rankin responded that he found the involvement of these local groups often "counter-productive."

At the same May 12 meeting, when the Harvard students questioned Mr. Rankin on the January mass firings of Doall workers suspected of organizing a union-which happened while he was in the country-he responded that all the firings were at the Doall #3 factory which was 20 miles away and which they did not visit. Mr. Rankin was wrong on two counts. Juan Francisco Herrera was fired on January 14 from the Doall #2 factory. Also, the Doall #3 factory is hardly 20 miles away. In fact, it is just yards away from Doall #2, since the two factories are next to one another in the San Marcos free trade zone.

 


 


So, how does PricewaterhouseCoopers conduct its social auditing of factory conditions?

Two PricewaterhouseCoopers staff people arrive at the factory, which is most often alerted in advance. They spend a day at the factory and, in a nine-hour period, review company books and records, check occupational health and safety conditions, and interview 20 to 50 workers inside the plant, with management knowing who is being questioned. On the basis of this, a strictly confidential report is drawn up and delivered to their client, such as the Liz Claiborne Company.

NONE OF THE ILLEGALLY

FIRED WORKERS have been reinstated.

THE FORCED PREGNANCY

TESTING CONTINUES as does the obligatory overtime

INTIMIDATION AND FEAR continue to pervade the factories.

THE ILLEGAL FIRINGS continue.

THE VIOLATION of worker rights continues. 

Given the atmosphere of fear and intimidation inside the factory and the ongoing firings for daring to discuss working conditions, it is little wonder that during their in-factory interviews in front of management the workers told PricewaterhouseCoopers' auditors that everything was "just fine." The Doall workers are smart enough to tell the boss what he wants to hear in order to keep their jobs.

The Liz Claiborne company's letter to the fired workers also told them: "We will let you know as soon as we have more information."

That was the last the workers heard. There has been no further response from the company.

Regarding the earlier allegations of worker rights abuses at its contractor, Doall's factories, Liz Claiborne Inc. was referring to a September 19, 1998 Los Angeles Times article reporting on a National Labor Committee investigation. At the time, Liz Claiborne Inc. responded that company actions had led to "certain improvements" at the Salvadoran plants, but that "certain problems...such as pregnancy testing cannot be solved by one company alone." The Liz Claiborne company also said it would seek industry-wide reforms through the Apparel Industry Partnership.

That was September 1998. Today it is June 1999 -- Nine months later and nothing has changed. 

 


 

So, what in fact, has the Liz Claiborne Company actually done?

Liz Claiborne Inc. has refused to open their contractor, Doall's factories to independent verification by an already existing prestigious monitoring organization made up of the Human Rights

CLAIBORNE INC. IS DRASTICALLY CUTTING BACK PRODUCTION at Doall, where they once accounted for 100 percent of production. 

Department of the Jesuit University and the Center for Labor Studies in El Salvador;Instead, they hire PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a one-day confidential social audit;The Liz Claiborne Company has placed its name on the restricted list, thereby removing any identification of the company from all publicly available shipping documents. This way human rights activists can no longer track Liz Claiborne imports from El Salvador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, China, Saipan, etc. 
  

 

Harvard Students Reject PriceWaterhouseCoopers-Apparel Industry Partnership Monitors

Following their May 12, 1998 meeting with a representative of the PricewaterhouseCoopers' social auditing division, the Harvard students issued the following statement:

"Harvard Students Against Sweatshops left a meeting with a PricewaterhouseCoopers representative today, convinced that PwC will not be able to do accurate and adequate monitoring of factories where Harvard garments are made.

"Today's meeting was the first encounter between PwC and members of United Students Against Sweatshops, the national coalition of student activists with campaigns at over 100 campuses.  Harvard students are now warning students at other universities not to let their schools join Harvard's monitoring coalition because of the inadequacy of PwC as a monitor. Harvard Students Against Sweatshops calls on Harvard University not to employ PwC, but rather to commit to principles for transparent and independent monitoring and to work with students, other universities, and anti- sweatshop groups to develop a monitoring plan that will rely on the work of indigenous non-profit labor, religious and human rights groups."

 

   

 Monitoring the Companies Can Love

Following the sweatshop scandals surrounding Kathie Lee and El Monte, the Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP) was formed. The Liz Claiborne Company was appointed co-chair. Other important corporate players include Nike and Phillips-Van Heusen-a company that just shut down the only unionized factory in all of Guatemala to source the work out to sweatshops that pay half the wages.

The AIP was supposed to establish an industry code of conduct and monitoring standards to end sweatshop abuses. UNITE!, the AFL-CIO and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) all left the AIP because its monitoring proposal was so weak.

Trust but verify. The companies had finally found a type of monitoring they could love.

It works like this:

  • Companies choose and pay for the "independent" monitors.  
  • These "independent" monitors can be from the same multinational accounting firms that now audit the company's books-such as PricewaterhouseCoopers.
  • The companies will have the primary say in selecting which of their factories will be monitored each year.
  • After the initial trial period, about 10 percent of a company's factories will be inspected each year.
  • No doubt the factories will be alerted ahead of time.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers conducts its social audits in one day, interviewing workers in the factory, with the full knowledge of management as to which workers are interviewed.
  • In the extreme case, each factory would be audited for one day every ten years, and on this basis, the company could maintain that it was sweat-free.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers has commented that it often finds the role of local, respected independent religious and human rights groups to be "counter-productive" to factory monitoring.
  • On the basis of the above, the companies can present themselves to the American people as "sweat-free." For the first few years, the American people will also subsidize the corporations for their monitoring costs.

 

 


 

     
Forced Overtime

65 to 85 Hours a Week at the Factory - 60 Cents an Hour Base Wage

Beginning in June, the workers sewing Liz Claiborne garments at Doall #2 factory have been placed on mandatory 12-hour shifts, Monday though Friday, working until noon on Saturday.

Their Schedule is:

Monday - Friday:  6:50 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. 
Saturday  6:50 a.m. to 12:00 noon  

They are at the factory 65 hours a week. Their sole break during the day is 55 unpaid minutes for lunch, from noon to 12:55 p.m. They are being paid for 60 hours a week, 44 regular hours and 16 hours of overtime.

If workers cannot stay for the overtime hours, they are fined, losing up to a day-and-a-half's wages. The second time this happens, they are fired.

The busy season at Doall is between May and November each year. As you can see from the attached pay stubs, the overtime hours increase gradually. In January, the Doall workers put in eight and a half hours of overtime a week. In May, it increased to 10 hours of mandatory overtime. The first week of June, they worked 16 hours of overtime.

 

paystub

 

Doall Worker's Pay Stub

This May 23, 1999 pay stub is from a worker at Doall #2 who sews Liz Claiborne garments. In El Salvador, the maquila workers are paid every two weeks. The base wage is 60 cents an hour, $4.79 a day.

However, if a worker receives the 7th Day bonus (no absences), makes the production goal, and has no sick days, she will be paid 294 colones a week, or $33.52.

For a regular 44-hour week, this comes to 76 cents an hour. After deductions for Social Security healthcare and Pension Fund, which comes to about $3.87 a week, she takes home $29.65.For the week ending May 23, she also worked 10 hours of overtime, which is paid at double the base wage, or $1.20 an hour. So for being at the factory 60 hours and paid for 54 hours, she took home $41.65.

By August, as is demonstrated in a Doall #2 pay stub from last year, they could be forced to work more than 31 hours a week overtime.

Under this regime, their schedule would be:

Monday to Thursday:  6:50 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. 
Friday:   6:50 a.m.  to  7:00 p.m. 
Saturday:  6:50 a.m. to  5:00 p.m. 

 

 

paystub

 

 

Doall Worker's Pay Stub--shows that the worker took home $68.59 for working 75 1/2 hours.
 

The workers are at the factory 85 hours a week. In the 15 1/2-hour shift, there are two unpaid breaks: from noon to 12:55 p.m. for lunch and from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. for supper when they are working until 10:30 p.m. Doall gives the workers 10 colones for supper, $1.14.

The Doall workers can be forced to work this grueling schedule for several weeks running.

Inflation Eats Away at the Minimum Wage:
The current minimum wage in El Salvador was set in 1997. Inflation in 1997 was 4.5 percent, and in 1998 it was well over 4.2 percent, further decreasing the purchasing power of the maquila workers' wages. Inflation rates in 1995 and 1996 were 10 percent and 9.8 percent. 

Most workers live 45 minutes to an hour away from the factory. The women explained to us that they get up at 4:30 a.m. each morning and immediately start preparing food for the day; they wake up, wash and dress the children and drop them off at some sort of day care. By 5:30 a.m., they are on the bus to work. After having a tiny breakfast of rice and beans or a roll and coffee, they must be at their sewing machines by 6:50 a.m., though they are paid beginning at 7:00 a.m. Getting out of work at 10:30 p.m., they arrive home sometime after 11:30 p.m., after cleaning up and doing a few last minute chores, they fall into bed at midnight. After less than 4 1/2 hours sleep, they are up again, starting all over. During this period, they barely see their children. Working 15 1/2 hours a day, in 100-degree heat, furiously repeating the same sewing operation 80 times an hour to meet their production quotas, the women are soon exhausted and drained.

For those who live too far away to travel home at 10:30 p.m., Doall houses the workers in a hotel, five women to a room with one bed. They sleep on the floor and in chairs.

 

 Base Wage in El Salvador

· 60 cents an hour (5.25 colones)

· $4.79 a day (42 colones for 8 hrs)

· With the 7th Day bonus (conditioned upon no late arrivals, perfect attendance, no sick days, remaining for the mandatory overtime, meeting production goals, etc.) a worker will earn:

· $33.52 a week (42 colones x 7 days = 294 colones ) 8.77 = $33.52)

· $143.67 a month (1.26 colones)

· $1,724 a year (15,120 colones) note: There are 8.77 colones to $1.00 U.S.

 

 


 


Surviving on Below-Subsistence Wages:

As we have seen, the base wage for maquila workers in El Salvador is approximately 60 cents an hour, $4.79 a day.

How do you live on 60-to-90-cent-an-hour wages?
"You can't," the workers told us, "It is not enough. You are always poor, always behind, always in debt. You have to go without. It is hard, especially for the children."  

With all incentives and bonuses included a worker can earn 76 cents an hour, with a few of the very fastest workers earning 92 cents an hour. At this highest wage, their pay would come to $7.36 a day.

At a meeting on May 1, 1999 a group of Doall workers walked us through their daily expenses:

 

 

Doall workers eating lunch

 

Maquila Workers' Daily Expenses: 
Dollars 
Colones

Round trip bus fare to and from work 

$0.80 

7

Breakfast
(a modest breakfast of rice and beans or a roll, and coffee) 

$0.91 

Lunch
(a very modest meal of rice, beans, a scrap of chicken)  

$1.37 

12 

Rent
(for two small rooms it costs 300 colones a month: $34.21) 

$1.13 

9.9 

Dinner... "to eat very little"
(For four people "to eat very little,"the cheapest meal would be 30 colones, $3.42. It would be rice, beans, eggs-4 or 5 eggs for the entire family-tortillas and a "fake cool-aid.") 

$3.42 

30 

Milk
(Just to have enough milk for two children to be served at onlyone meal each day-breakfast-a mother would have to purchase 2 1/2 poundsof powdered milk. The cheapest price: 45 colones, $5.13 a week) 

$0.73 

6.43 

Child Care
(Child care costs 500 colones a month, or $52-$1.88 per day) 

$1.88 

16.48 

Total Daily Expenses 
$10.24 
89.81


 
   
The worker has already spent $10.24 and we still have not even considered other basic expenses such as health care, school costs-fees, books, supplies, uniforms-utilities, clothing, and so on.

ASKED WHAT THEY WOULD DO if they were paid a fair wage-all the women responded in unison that they would buy more milk for their children. 

This means that the base wage of 60 cents an hour meets only 47 percent of even these very limited daily expenses, while the very highest wage paid in the factory-which few workers even receive-meets only 72 percent of these limited expenses.

Asked what they would do if they were paid a fair wage-for example a base wage of $1.20 an hour-all the women responded in unison that they would buy more milk for their children, more and better food-even a little meat, vitamins, pay for school books and supplies, purchase much-needed clothing.

As things stand, the maquila workers who sew the $198 Liz Claiborne jackets must clothe themselves and their children in second-hand garments sent back from the United States. It is all they can afford.

SEE THE ATTACHED LETTER from the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) to the Liz Claiborne company urging respect for human and worker rights at the Doall factories. USAS represents sweat-free campus movements at over 150 universities across the country. They are anxious to work with religious, labor, solidarity and community groups in building a broad-based coalition to hold corporations accountable to respect human rights and pay a living wage.  

 

 


 

 

United Students Against Sweatshops

TO: Roberta Schuhalter Karp, Vice President, Liz Claiborne Company
FROM: United Students Against Sweatshops
RE: Illegal firings and abuses at DoAll factories, El Salvador

Dear Ms. Karp:

We write to you in regard to the DoAll factories in San Salvador, El Salvador which produce clothing for the Liz Claiborne Company. A delegation from the United Students Against Sweatshops and the National Labor Committee met with workers from these factories in late April of this year. The delegation encountered a number of serious violations of both Salvadoran and international labor law and we call upon you to remedy this situation immediately by improving conditions in the DoAll factories.

Workers producing Liz Claiborne apparel in the DoAll factories told us ofthe horrendous working conditions that they must endure. They are forced to work mandatory overtime on a regular basis. While they enter the factory at 7am, often they are not allowed to leave until 7pm and sometimes they have to stay until 10:30pm - that's a 15.5 hour shift! When they work this late they cannot get home to their families so they are taken to motels where five women must share a room with only one bed.

The young women producing your clothing are permitted only one or two trips to the bathroom per shift. They are not given leave to visit the Salvadoran health care clinics. There is no air conditioning in the factory and the intense heat impairs the women's vision. And the wages paid meet less than half of their cost of living-only rarely can they afford a balanced meal for their families.

Moreover, we heard countless stories of illegal firings at the DoAll factories. Dozens of workers have been fired for protesting forced overtime work or for their efforts to organize an independent, democratic union (18 workers fired on August 5, 1998; 11 workers fired the week of January 13, 1999; 3 workers fired March 12, 1999; 2 workers fired April 23, 1999).

In fact, a number of these employees were fired during the same week that PricewaterhouseCoopers was in El Salvador to monitor the factory for your company.

On this visit during the week of January 13, 1999, Pricewaterhouse didn't have contact with workers--none of the workers even knew it happened, nor did the firm's monitors even seek to communicate the fired workers. Despite this, when Randy Rankin of PwC recently met with students at Harvard University he assured that conditions at the DoAll factories were 'just fine'.

These kinds of abuses are completely unacceptable and necessitate an immediate response. We are calling on you to step in and correct the violations and reinstate the fired workers. The workers in El Salvador need these jobs, but they need dignified jobs with wages that meet their basic needs. We are especially concerned with these egregious violations of human and labor rights given your firm's relationship to the Fair Labor Association. As the co-chair of the Apparel Industry Partnership, you have asserted yourself as a public figure in the fight to end the sweatshop abuses so common in the global apparel industry. Yet, your firm is guilty of violating the rights you have ostensibly worked to protect. In our eyes, and in the eyes of the American consumer, this discredits not only your firm, but also the efforts of the Fair Labor Association.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) a national coalition of more than 100 campus-based anti-sweatshop student groups. Our organization has worked actively to facilitate and bolster the growing anti-sweatshop movement that has spread across the country like a wild fire over the course of the last year. We have captivated the national press, with pieces appearing in all of the national daily newspapers, weekly magazines, and national TV news sources. Throughout this time we have been making strong ties with the labor and religious community and have seen a number of Congressional representatives issues public statements of support.

United Students Against Sweatshops
Steering Committee

Vanessa Waldref, Georgetown University
Lyndsey Norman, University of Arkansas
David Unger, Cornell University
Rachel Miller, Holy Cross University
Nora Rosenberg, Brown University
Alex Zwerdling, Middlebury College
Peter Romer-Friedman, University of Michigan   

We are interested in working with the Liz Claiborne Company to remedy the violations in the DoAll factories. USAS has no interest in beginning a national campaign against the Liz Claiborne Company. Such campaigns can be terribly damaging to the reputations of apparel firms and once set in motion are difficult, if not impossible to call to a halt.

Students around the country, eager to see Liz Claiborne clothing produced under healthy, safe and fair conditions, await your prompt response.

On behalf of USAS,

Thomas Wheatley
University of Wisconsin - Madison

 

 


 

What You Can Do to Help

Is the Liz Claiborne Company so bad? No. In fact, Liz Claiborne is among the very best apparel companies. They do have a commitment to women's rights and social justice. You can sit down and talk with them, something that is impossible to do with the likes of Wal-Mart, for example.

INDEPENDENT NGOs SHOULD EXPLAIN TO THE WORKERS the meaning and intent of the Liz Claiborne Code of Conduct. 

But this case proves how difficult real change is. It demonstrates how much more popular awareness and pressure will be needed to nudge the companies to take the next step, to go beyond damage control and monitoring as a whitewash, all of which are intended to maintain business-as-usual. These attempts are very far from truly implementing human rights protections, ending the fear and guaranteeing a legal space for maquila workers to learn their rights and empower themselves. Here, like the rest of the companies, Liz Claiborne still has a long way to go to level the playing field so that worker rights are in fact respected. But someone always has to go first, and why shouldn't it be the Liz Claiborne company that sets the new standard?

Urge the Liz Claiborne Company to:

1.) Open its contractors' plant, Doall #2, to independent verification by the respected Independent Monitoring Group in El Salvador, which is composed of the Human Rights Institute of the Jesuit University, UCA, the Center for Labor Studies and other prestigious NGOs. This group is already successfully monitoring GAP contractors.

Write or Call:

Paul R. Charron
Chairman of the Board &
Chief Executive Officer
Liz Claiborne, Inc.
1441 Broadway, 8th Fl.
New York, NY 10018

tel: 212-626-3231
fax: 212-626-3416

2.) Reinstate the illegally fired workers.

3.) End the climate of fear and repression in the factory, guaranteeing respect for human and worker rights, including the right to organize.

4.) Not cut and run. Rather, stay and fix the problem.

5.) End the pregnancy tests and other discrimination against women.

6.) In light of the current below-subsistence wages at Doall, review its contract pricing with Doall, to assure a just and fair wage.

7.) Trust the American people. Publicly disclose the names and addresses of its contractors. There is no good reason to continue to hide these factories. Consumers have a right to know where, in which country and which factory, under what human rights conditions, and at what wages the Liz Claiborne garments we purchase are made.