Ten Years into the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement Brutal Sweatshop Conditions Endure
At the Taiwanese-owned Rich Pine Factory
With Grueling Mandatory Seven-Day, 96-Hour Work Weeks
Producing for Liz Claiborne, Macy's, J.C. Penney, Kohl's
|Rich Pine International
Cyber City Industrial Park
Irbid, Jordan #22110
Taiwanese-owned. Director: Ms. Lammy
Macy's Karen Scott
Kohl's Croft & Barrow, Apt9 Essentials, Simply Vera
J.C. Penney's American Living, Worthington
(These labels have been sewn for years at the Rich Pine factory.)
Approximately 125 Jordanian men and women, 400 Chinese men and women and 360 Bangladeshi men and women workers. New guest workers from Myanmar are expected to arrive at Rich Pine very soon.
On June 13, 2011, the Institute released a report on the Rich Pine factory, "Chinese Guest Workers Flee Living Hell in Jordan; Reminiscent of Slavery, Young Women Flee, Running Away from the 93-Hour Work Week at the Rich Pine Factory." At that very time, the Jordanian Ministry of Labor accorded Rich Pine its "Golden List" status, placing it among the "very best" export garment factories in Jordan.
Following the Institute's June 2011 report, the excessive, mandatory overtime hours were cut back somewhat, and the workers were allowed one day off a week.
These minor improvements lasted all of three or four months.
As of November 2011, Rich Pine guest workers from China and Bangladesh were back to working a mandatory seven-day, 96-hour work week. The only difference is that the work week was increased from 93 hours to the current 96 hours.
The Jordanian Ministry of Labor has renewed Rich Pine's "Golden List" status, claiming that Rich Pine meets or exceeds all of Jordan's labor laws and the labor rights standards included in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
It is apparent that the Jordanian Ministry of Labor does not have a clue as to what is going on in broad daylight (and well into the night), seven days a week at Rich Pine. Nor has the U.S. Government taken concrete steps to guarantee that Jordan immediately implement the agreed upon worker rights provisions of the Free Trade Agreement.
The vast majority of Rich Pine production is destined to women in the U.S. and perhaps Canada. The exploited Chinese and Bangladeshi workers at Rich Pine have formed a common bond, speaking to each other in very broken English. If these workers were protected and assured that there would be no retaliation for speaking the truth, everything in this report and more would be publicly verified. But the lack of even minimal worker rights enforcement in Jordan means the workers must remain silent. Any worker daring to speak the truth would be immediately detained and forcibly deported to their home country without back wages or benefits.
Rich Pine sells clothing for Liz Claiborne, Macy's, Kohl's and J.C. Penney.
- Exhausted Chinese and Bangladeshi guest workers endure mandatory, seven-day, 96-hour work weeks.
- Routine 14-hour shifts from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- No weekly day off or holidays are permitted.
- All overtime is obligatory and workers are cheated of their overtime premium.
- During the 120 days from November 2011 to February 2012, the exhausted workers had just one day off.
- Workers appear to be earning just 70 cents an hour, which is below the legal minimum wage.
- Management "encourages" workers to cut their rest periods in half so they can keep working.
- Workers who fail to reach their mandatory production goals can be forcibly deported.
- No sick days are allowed. Workers who are ill will have their days' wages docked from their pay.
- Six to eight workers share each crowded, primitive dorm room, which lacks hot water in the winter.
- Workers must begin lining up at 6:00 a.m. each morning to use the limited toilets and washing facilities. Workers bathe using a bucket and a small cup to splash water on themselves.
- Every single labor law in Jordan is routinely violated, including commitments in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
- Liz Claiborne clothing has been produced at the Rich Pine sweatshop for at least three or four years and, according to the workers, accounts for roughly 60 percent of total production. Macy's "Karen Scott" label is the second largest buyer. Nor do these sweatshop goods come cheap. One of the Kohl's styles retails for $44.00.
Jordan Stiffs the U.S. Government and Blocks Worker Rights
More than ten years into the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement-which was the first U.S. free trade agreement to guarantee workers the right to organize and bargain collectively-the over 30,000 guest workers in Jordan's export garment factories still have no rights.
This is what the Jordanian government did to prevent guest workers from having the legal rights clearly laid out in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement:
Jordan "amended" the Free Trade Agreement so that only guest workers who have worked in the private sector in Jordan for at least five years would have the right to organize. But guest workers are typically limited to three-year contracts.
Moreover, if guest workers from China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and elsewhere want to join a union in Jordan they would have to return to their home country to initiate legislation to guarantee that workers can organize a union in Jordan. Can you imagine the government of China supporting such legislation?
In other words, Jordan has turned the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement's right of guest workers to organize a union into a joke.
The "independent" media in Jordan does not have it too easy either. The estimate by the U.S. Government is that 94 percent of journalists in Jordan practice self censorship for fear of four or more years' imprisonment and fines reaching $28,000 for offending the government.
Labels smuggled out from Rich Pine factory in March 2012
The mandatory shift is 14 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., six days a week-Saturday through Thursday-with a 12-hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Fridays. This puts the workers at the Rich Pine factory 96 hours a week.
Tracking Rich Pine's hours, we were able to confirm that in the last 120 days, from November 1, 2011 through February 28, 2012-the exhausted workers were allowed just a single day off in that four month period, on Friday, February 3, 2012. These grueling hours are the norm.
Standard Shift at Rich Pine
Saturdays through Thursdays (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Work, four hours
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Lunch, one hour
1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Work, four hours
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Supper, one hour
6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Overtime, four hours
8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Work, four hours
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Lunch, one hour
1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Work, seven hours
Workers are routinely at the factory 96 hours a week, while working 83 hours. This includes 35 hours of mandatory overtime per week, which is not paid at a premium.
But it actually gets worse. The hour breaks for lunch and supper are actually only 40 minutes, since it takes at least 10 minutes to walk to the dorm to eat and another ten minutes to return to the factory.
Moreover, management "strongly encourages" the workers to work through at least part of their two breaks. Many workers race through their meals so they can get in another 30 minutes of work. So instead of working 12 hours a day, many workers are toiling 13 hours.
The hundreds of guest workers have no choice. Rich Pine management sets production goals, which vary from one design to another. It is only at the end of the month, when the production is completed, that management unilaterally sets the price for the production rate.
Workers cannot dare question management, let alone negotiate for a better piece rate. This is a top down system where guest workers have no voice. When management encourages workers to work through part of their breaks, they do it.
There is enormous pressure on the guest workers. If workers fall behind in the production, the minute their contract is up, they will be fired and forcibly deported back to China or Bangladesh.
The contract the guest workers sign with Rich Pine management clearly states: "The first party [Rich Pine management] has the right to arrange the second party's [guest workers'] working place, working time and type of work."
A typical day for a guest worker starts at 6:00 a.m. and ends at around 12:00 midnight. At 6:00 a.m., they begin lining up to use the limited toilets and washing facilities. The workers wash using a bucket and a cup to slosh water on themselves. During the winter months, only about half the workers have access to warm water before it runs out.
"It's not much of a life," the workers told us, "we have no time to relax." There are no televisions in their crowded dorms, and besides, they are always at work. When they finally have a rare day off-perhaps once in three or four months-the workers wash their clothes, buy food, clean their dorm rooms, but most of all they sleep.
According to the attached labor contract (see p.11), the basic salary at Rich Pine is supposed to be $180 a month, working a regular six-day, 48-hour week. This would put their hourly wage at 86.5 cents an hour.
According to their contract
Workers to be paid
86.5 cents an hour
$6.92 a day (8 hours)
$41.54 a week (48 hours)
$180.00 a month
$2,160 a year
On the other hand, most guest workers are earning $250 a month, including overtime. Leaving aside the hours they work off the books, for the routine 83-hour workweek most workers are earning $57.69 a week, $250 a month. This comes to 70 cents an hour, not the 86.5 cents stated in the contract. We know that guest workers are not paid the legal overtime premium, nor are they paid for the time they spend working off the books, when they toil through parts of their breaks.
Thirty-one sewing operators must complete 55 pairs of Karen Scott women's pants in one hour, which means they are allowed 34 minutes to sew each pair of pants. It appears that most workers are earning 70 cents an hour, which means the guest workers are paid 40 cents for each woman's pants they sew.
This is an example of how women guest workers in Jordan are stripped of their rights and exploited, while sewing clothing exported to women in the U.S. and Canada.
The Jordanian workers at Rich Pine-split nearly evenly between men and women-work fewer hours while earning more in hourly wages.
Jordanian women work a nine-hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., six days a week. They have all Fridays and holidays off. On average, for the 48-hour workweek, women earn $42.69, or 89 cents an hour. Jordanian male workers work a 12-hour shift, six days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and earn up to $57.69 a week for the 63 or so hours of work, which comes to 92 cents an hour.
The Jordanian workers have Fridays and all public holidays off, while the guest workers are forced to work on Fridays and public holidays.
The workers told us that: "Buyers' representatives sometimes visit the factory, mostly meeting with factory management in their offices. The monitors rarely visit the factory floor and almost never attempt to speak with workers. Also, the monitors never visit the factory on Fridays or holidays."
Their audits appear to be much more focused on covering up the grueling and excessive mandatory hours, lack of rights, primitive living conditions, and failure to pay the overtime premium. Of course, any workers daring to ask for the right to organize a union would be immediately fired and forcibly deported.
When they were recruited to work in Jordan, guest workers are told they will receive free healthcare. There is a medical office at Rich Pine with a doctor and nurse, but what come free are the cheapest non-prescription medicines, such as aspirins. Workers needing serious medical attention or prescription drugs are on their own, what they can afford is what they will get.
For breakfast workers receive pita bread and lentils along with tea. Lunch, their main meal of the day, includes rice, lentils and a small portion of either chicken, fish or an egg. The workers told us that the chicken they receive is always well past the legal expiration date. Dinner is rice, lentils and vegetables.
Rich Pine management must acquaint themselves with and then implement the worker rights standards which are at the core of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, including the workers' right to organize a union.
Immediate remedial steps:
- To start with, the exhausted workers must be allowed one day off each week. This should not be so difficult.
- All overtime hours must be paid at a premium. Workers should no longer be pressured to work off the clock and without pay.
- Production goals must not be excessive, and must be explained clearly to the workers, who should also have their own input.
- All paid national holidays should be respected.
- Given the hardship workers have endured for years while sewing your clothing under harsh and illegal sweatshop conditions, we urge the labels, especially Liz Claiborne, Macy's and J.C. Penney-(Kohl's has no genuine focus on protecting women's and workers' rights)-to guarantee that guest workers whose contracts are expiring will be allowed to sign new three- year contracts.