Reports

November, 29 2007 |  Share

Worker Rights Violations At the Star Factory in Honduras

Worker Rights Violations and Mistreatment
At the Star Factory in Honduras
Producing for Nike, NFL and Anvil

"End the disrespect for our labor rights.  Compañeros join our struggle.  Let's defend our rights as the workers we are. We have been fired for having organized ourselves.  No More Violations.  Everyone unite."  --SITRASTAR Union


Star S.A.
Zip El Porvenir
El Progreso, Yoro, Honduras

Phones:  (504) 648 2256 / 57 / 58 /60
Fax:  (504) 648 2259
e-mail:  dalel@anvilknitwear.com
web site: www.anvilknitwear.com

Manager:

Dale Lockamy

Ownership: 

Owned by Anvil.  Star factory oponed in February 2000

Size:

2,000 workers, 800 sewing machines

Production: 

T-shirts.  Currently producing mostly Nike and Anvil labels
As well as NFL, Reel Legends

Managers:

Carlos Humberto Zelaya, Plant Manager
Wendy Aguirre, Chief of Human Resources
Tomas Machado,  Production Engineer
Jaime Ramirez, Training Manager

    
 
 
  

 

 

 

 

Main problems according to the workers:

  • Verbal abuse and harassment.
  • Violation of the right to organize:  union leaders and supporters illegally fired.
  • Workers who support the union fired, threatened, intimidated.
  • Company management has failed to fulfill agreement made in meeting with Ministry of Labor and the workers.
  • Overtime is paid improperly

Star Workers Form a Union; Company Reprisals Begin Immediately

On Wednesday November 7, 2007 a group of workers of Star, 58 in total, informed the Labor Office of the Ministry of Labor in El Progreso, Honduras their decision to form a union in the company. The workers (mostly on the A Shift) had been organizing quietly for about three months. 

The General Labor Ministry Office in Tegucigalpa received the application documents on Thursday November 8, at 8:00 a.m. and declared:

""in consequence we declare them (the 58 founding members) under the Special Protection of the State, meaning that from the date their employer is notified until the union gets their registration and legal recognition, none of them can be fired, transferred or demoted, without extenuating circumstances authorized by the authority".

That same day at 3:10 p.m., Labor Inspector Jose Antonio Hernandez Rodas went to the El Porvenir Free Trade Zone to officially notify the company that the union had been organized and that, therefore, its founding members were under the legal protection of the state.  When labor inspector Rodas arrived at the free zone gate, he was told by the security guards that no Star manager was available to speak with him. The labor inspector called the Ministry of Labor in Tegucigalpa asking instructions and was told by officers at the Ministry to give the legal notification to a manager of the El Porvenir Free Zone.  As per these instructions, labor inspector Rodas prepared a cover document and gave the notification to Kesia Ranchame Galiano, Chief of Human Resources of El Porvenir Free Trade Zone.

On Saturday November 10 the management of Anvil/Star S.A. began to fire the founding members of the SITRASTAR union, beginning with 33 founding members whose names appeared on the union's founding documents.  By Monday November 12, 55 of the 58 founding members of the union had been fired.

On Sunday November 11 the fired members organized a protest at the gates of the El Porvenir free zone.  Very early the following morning, Monday, the fired members were joined by 500 other Star workers, blockading the gates of the free zone.  The workers were soon joined by local organizations including the FUTH labor federation and Comun, a labor research and advocacy organization in El Progreso.   Soon National Police and the Armed Forces united arrived, called in by management.  They used tear gas and hit some of the workers to disperse the crowd, arresting others, and then opened up the gate by force. 

Ministry of Labor officials appeared until Tuesday November 13 to mediate in the conflict.  Based on prior experience, the union and popular organizations rejected the participation of the Chief Labor Inspector of El Progreso Jose Zuniga, accusing him of being pro-management. The Ministry sent the Regional coordinator, Lucia Rosales to mediate.   When Ms. Rosales arrived to the park, security guards told her that none of the managers of Star were available.  But she received a call from El Porvenir Free Zone, Carlos Chain, who offered to arrange a meeting for her with the managers of the Alcoa—but without representation of the union. The Labor Ministry officer rejected the offer.

Finally, on the morning of Wednesday, November 14, a meeting took place at the Honduran Maquila Association offices.  Participating were Manuel de Jesus Giron, legal representative of STAR, Edwin Enamorado on behalf of FUTH (the federation to which SITRASTAR is affiliated), Honduran Maquila Association lawer Arnoldo Solis, Ministry of Labor officials Lucia Rosales and Rene Guevara Matute, and Alexis Martinez, Cristian Melissa Gallo, Julio Cesar Aranda, Lino Rosa Hernandez, Juana Contreras and Mercedes Mejia representing the STAR workers.

The agreements reached in that meetings were:

  • "The company will make the arrangements necessary for a direct meeting between the managers of STAR at USA and the workers to take place on November 20 to discuss reinstatement of the fired workers, legal recognition of the union  and other issues;
  • "The fired workers will receive their wages for the week between November 12-20;
  • "The company will not take any retaliation or discrimination against the workers who participated in the work stoppage of Monday 12 and Tuesday 13."

On Tuesday November 20 the U.S. representatives of the company did not show up at the meeting as agreed.   The explanation given by the legal representative of STAR was that the managers had been unable to get seats on any flight to Honduras.

The company has also failed to fulfill other agreements it made at the meeting:
It has continued to fire to fire workers in retaliation for their participation in the protest.  To date some 70 of the unions founding members and supporters have been fired.  (Three out of the 58 founding members have not been fired because they have been out on sick-leave.)  The company has also not paid the fired workers as agreed for the period November 12 — 20, paying only 50 percent of what was agreed.

The workers have continued to fight.  On Wednesday November 21, the Star union occupied the Ministry of Labor's regional office in El Progreso demanding immediate reinstatement of the fired union leaders and members; recognition of the union, and dismissal of the regional office director, Jose Zuñiga.  Hundreds of workers and members of the social organizations participated in the occupation of the offices.

The occupation continues to date (11/29/2007)

 


PRODUCTION AT STAR, S.A.

According to the workers 90 percent of the Star factory's production of t-shirts goes to Nike and Anvil.

The factory is organized in 11 units (called Camisetas-- "T-shirts"—at the plant).

Each unit has 7 production lines of 12 to 14, or 18 to 20, workers, depending on the style of the shirt being made.

As of November 2007, five units are producing for Anvil and four units are producing for Nike.

The factory functions seven days a week and operates on what is called a 4-by-4 system.  There are two shifts, A and B.  Shift A works four days, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:20 p.m., then rests four days while Shift B is working.  Then Shift A picks up again.  The work shifts are long and exhausting.  And since it's an eight-day cycle, the workers days off vary from week to week.

Line organization and production goals making NIKE    

Each unit is composed of:  
1 supervisor  
1 auditor  
1 worker making hems  (Goal:  73 packages of 36 t-shirts = 2,628 t-shirts per day)
1 sewing shoulders (Goal: 64 packages of 36 t-shirts = 2,304 t-shirts per day)
2 making necks  (Goal: 56 packages x 36 pieces = 2,016 t-shirts each)
1 doing overstitch on necks (Goal: 84 packages x 36 t-shirts = 3,024 each day)
1 or 2 "cinteros"  
1 to 5 sewing sleeves  Goals: -Short sleeve: 30 packages x 36 = 1,080 t-shirts each
  -Long sleeve: 20 packages x 36 = 720 t-shirts each worker
1 closing sleeves  
1 making hems on the sleeves  
1 attaching labels: 78 packages x 26 t-shirts = 2,028
2 inspectors  


 Nike is produced all year round and, according to the workers, has been produced at the Star factory for years.  Nike uses at least two "T-shirt" units all year, except in October — December when they use four units.   One style is a basic, 90% cotton 10% polyester t-shirt made in red, fluorescent yellow, orange, green, lemon, black, navy, and beige. They make only large sizes—XL, XXL, XXXL and XXXXL.   The Nike label is ironed on the back of the t-shirts. 

The t-shirt is plain when it leaves the factory.  The workers believe that the t-shirts may be embroiders or silkscreen printed once the reach the U.S. 

The other Nike t-shirt style produced at the factory is also a basic t-shirt, but in 100% cotton in sizes are from S to XXL, in the same colors as the other Nike style.

Production for ANVIL

One style (photo #1) is a V-necked shirt, with 3 buttons and a polo-style collar.  This shift is made in white, black, blue, light yellow, green, gray, brown and orange.

Sometimes the Anvil style has a pocket on the front right side.

The lines and production goals for the Anvil shirts and t-shirts are similar to those for Nike.

NFL players

The production of this label is seasonal.  It was last produced for one month in September. 

According to the workers, their supervisors refer to it as a "private" label.

The workers say the NFL label shirts are round necked, with a pocket on the right breast and are made of a thin fabric in sizes L to XXXL.

 

Reel Legends

The Reel Legends shirt is a basic t-shirt in cotton, in brown, black, blue, gray with a pocket in the front right side.  This is also a private label produced seasonally.   It was last produced in October

 


MAIN PROBLEMS AT STAR, S.A.

Worker Mistreatment and insults

The workers seldom see the plant manager, Carlos Humberto Zelaya, but on the rare occasions he calls to meeting in the plant he yells at and insults the workers.  At the last meeting, 2 ½ months ago, he told the workers they were "pendejos" — jerks — and scolded them because they used too much toilet paper. He told them they didn't deserve toilet paper, that he was going to provide some plants so they could use the leaves instead.  He said they could "clean their backsides" with leaves from chichicaste, which is something like poison ivy and provokes a severe allergic reaction.  And he added, "I will give you 5 minutes of permission so you can go to the fields and piss there."   

He also called the workers after an inventory was made at the factory and accused them of being "thieves," because t-shirts were found to be missing. "Honduras will not make any progress with people like you- we don't need thieves — shameless people," he shouted to all the workers.  "Do you want to end up in the park as prostitutes or do you want to end up as street thieves? If you don't want to end up that way, work hard and make your goals."  The workers obviously find this language terribly humiliating and demeaning.

The workers say there's no dialogue with the supervisors and they're constantly telling the workers that their productivity is too low.    According to the workers, "They say the workers that they are sick of having workers like us, that we don't work, that we just pretend we work- but we don't work, and they say us frequently that we only make excuses and talk bullshit (pajas)". They say, 'The gates of this park are very big and you can go out the minute you want if you don't like this factory'."

Wendy Aguirre and Tomas Machado, Human Resources Chief and Production Engineer, once called the operator sewing sleeves because they were unhappy with his production and told him: "We don't want mediocre people like you. If you don't function I'm going to send you to clean the factory. Or we can fire you. Honduras doesn't need people like you. Your children are going to be criminals when you only have tortillas and salt to eat."

Wages, Shifts & Overtime

The factory works on a 4-by-4 system, working four days, followed by four days off.

The shifts are from 7:00 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. The workers get 30 minutes for lunch and a break of 10 minutes during the morning.

Working on this 4-by-4 system, they are in the factory 45 hours and 20 minutes a week and earn the minimum wage of 786.31 lempiras ($41.60) a week. 

The company doesn't recognize any of these hours as overtime even when the workers work on Sundays and even though their shifts are over 8 hours a day. Workers get some extra money if they succeed in producing more than the production goal, which is also referred to as reaching "over 100% efficiency."   However, according to their supervisors, only 56 percent of the workers are able to work at "100% efficiency."  These workers make an average wage of about 980 Lempiras a week ($51.85).

Other information

Auditors

According to the workers, Nike auditors visit the plant once or twice a year. They never speak with workers; basically what they do is check the styles, and review the company policies with the managers. When the auditors are in the plant they are always accompanied by Wendy Aguirre of Human Resources and other managers, so the workers don't have any opportunity to speak with the auditors.

Auditors from Anvil also visit the factory. The workers know they are from Anvil because they use a badge that says "Anvil visitor". The Anvil auditors visit the plant every four months.  They don't speak with the workers.

Bathrooms, water, cafeteria

Bathrooms are clean and there's bottled water available for the workers. They don't report restrictions to use the bathrooms.

There's a cafeteria with a capacity of 200 workers, so the workers eat in three shifts.  The cafeteria sells food on credit which is deducted from the workers wage every week. A lunch costs 23 or 24 Lempiras ($1.22 -$1.27).  Many workers bring their own lunches

UPDATE:  Good news From Honduras! (12/21/2007)

Fifty-eight workers fired for organizing a union at the Star SA factory in Honduras's El Porvenir free trade zone (owned by the U.S. Anvil t-shirt company) have been reinstated to their jobs with back wages and legal recognition for their union.  After the workers were fired in November, they held massive peaceful demonstrations in front of the free trade zone with as many as 600 workers.  Factory and zone management called in the police, (many of whom arrived in black ski masks carrying assault rifles.)  To Nike's credit, this time they did the right thing.  After receiving a letter from the NLC, Nike immediately dispatched a representative to Honduras who quickly concluded that the workers were unjustly and illegally fired.

Yesterday, the Star workers held their first official union assembly, elected their new union leaders and held a huge victory party.