Haitians Cheated out of Earning Livable Wages: How You Can Take Action
Jobs in export garment factories, making clothes for top North American brands and retailers, have been promoted as a panacea for the economic misery of Haiti’s people. Yet the truth is that North American apparel companies have been complicit in the exploitation of Haitian workers - the most vulnerable in our hemisphere - by refusing to require their supplier factories to pay these workers the country’s legal minimum wage.
Both the International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation’s Better Work Haiti factory monitoring program and the Worker Rights Consortium have documented wholesale noncompliance with Haiti’s minimum wage laws in the country’s export apparel factories. The WRC report reveals that wage theft in the country’s garment industry has only increased over the past few years to the point where workers are being denied 1/3 of their legally-due wages. Earlier this year, Better Work Haiti reported that every single one of the country’s export garment factories was violating the country’s legal minimum wage.
We are particularly disturbed that these wage violations are happening while these factories are supplying North America’s top apparel companies, and are receiving preferential treatment through trade legislation intended to strengthen the Haitian garment industry – and despite the fact that Haiti’s minimum wage for export garment workers is the lowest in our hemisphere.
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Companies Refusing Stand Up for Workers Rights
Hanes is a billion dollar apparel business, their sales revenue in 2012 alone amounted to 4.53 billion dollars. They produce some of their goods in one of the most popular textile factory areas, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Their Port-Au-Prince manufacturing plants, Global Manufacturers and Contractors, and Multiwear, employ 3,626 workers. Thousands of apparel factory employees continue to be denied the wages they have earned as Hanes refuses to comply with our requests to enforce fair wage standards.
Wal-Mart, a company that their own employees have recently protested, earned 446.95 billion dollars in sales revenue in 2012. As the company continues to make an astronomical profit, they fail to filter down some of those earnings to store or factory employees. Wal-Mart produces a large amount of their apparel in the new Caracol Industrial Park, a project subsidized by the U.S. government to bring jobs and revenue to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Caracol employs 1,197 factory workers and is one of many apparel factories guilty of wage theft, as outlined in this report by Workers Rights Consortium.
Khol's, another large corporation producing in Haiti, made 18.8 billion dollars in sales revenue in 2012. The company produces apparel in the Caracol Industrial Park, a project opened in 2012 with the goal to lift Haitians out of poverty with skilled, well-paid jobs. Unfortunately, Caracol did not keep it's promise and as a brand benefiting from low production costs, Khol's refuses to stand up and protect the underpaid factory workers.
VF, a company that produces may brands of clothing such as: The North Face, Wrangler, Nautica, Timberland, Vans Off the Wall, Jansport, and Lee, made 10.89 billion dollars in sales revenue in 2012. This company of many brands produces their apparel in the Haiti factories of Modas Gloria Apparel in Port-Au-Prince and CODEVI in Ouanaminthe. Together, the two factories employ over 7,000 workers. VF refusing to take notice of the illegal wage theft in their supplier factories has a profound impact on the workers and their families, forcing them to continue a life in poverty.
While you're out shopping this holiday season, be conscious of the companies you're supporting. In the best spirit of giving, only purchase apparel that is made under ethical conditions. Avoid shopping at retail stores like those listed above and check-out this shop with a conscience consumer guide for alternative companies.