The National Labor Committee released a report last week citing sweatshop conditions in a Guatemalan factory manufacturing clothing for Briggs New York (80%) and Lane Bryant (remaining 20%) clothing.
If you don’t want to read the full article, here is the abstract:
“Young Mayan women sew Briggs New York and Lane Bryant clothing under abusive and illegal sweatshop conditions at the Nicotex factory outside Guatemala City. Women in the U.S. are unknowingly purchasing clothing made by other women who are being exploited.
All overtime at the Nicotex factory is mandatory, and 14 2/3-hour shifts, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:40 p.m. including six hours of overtime, are uncommon. The women are routinely at the factory up to 72 hours, forced to toil 20 to 25 hours of overtime. Women unable to remain for overtime work, even if they have family emergencies, are fired. The workers are allowed just 10.2 minutes to sew each Briggs New York blouse for which they are paid 19 ½ cents. The women and their families are trapped in extreme poverty, earning just 76 cents to $1.15 an hour, which comes nowhere close to meeting even their most basic subsistence level needs.
Workers and their children are cheated of health and maternity care, including paid maternity leave, which they paid for and is supposed to be guaranteed under Guatemalan law. Workers are also robbed of their vacation and severance pay and are shortchanged of their legal bonuses.
- The Nicotex garment workers have no rights. U.S. company audits are a sham, and the workers have never even heard of a “corporate code of conduct.”
- At least some officials of the government-run Social Security Institute appear to be involved in a widespread corruption scam, along with factories such as Nicotex, to defraud the workers and their children of the healthcare they pay for. This scam is an open secret in Guatemala, and it has devastating consequences for the workers.
- The Nicotex sweatshop is just another example of how the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement has badly failed to enforce even Guatemala’s most minimal labor laws. US-CAFTA has certainly not empowered workers through respect for their legal rights, nor has it helped raise them out of extreme poverty.”
For those of you who don’t know who Charles Kernaghan is, he is “The Man Who Made Kathy Lee Cry”. He also heads the National Labor Committee. Here’s a video of him discussing the science of exploitation and his work with the NLC from the film The Corporation.