PDF - Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights
children are again sewing clothing for major U.S. companies
HANES. PUMA. WAL-MART. J.C. PENNEY
Child Labor is Back:
Children Are Again Sewing Clothing
for Major U.S. Companies
By Charles Kernaghan, Director, National Labor Committee
An estimated 200 to 300 children, some 11 years old or even younger, are
sewing clothing for Hanes, PUMA and Wal-Mart at the Harvest Rich plant in
The children report being slapped and beaten, sometimes falling down from
exhaustion, forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, and even some all-night 19
or 20-hour shifts, and often working seven days a week, for wages as low as 6
½ cents an hour.
In 1996, after the National Labor Committee revealed that Kathie Lee Gifford’s
clothing line for Wal-Mart was being made by teenaged children—as young
as 12 and 13 years old—in Honduras, the resulting scandal and publicity was
enough to virtually wipe out child labor in garment factories around the world
producing for export to the U.S. Child labor became the third rail that U.S.
apparel companies and retailers would not touch.
A decade later, child labor is coming back, and it must be stopped.
An eleven-year-old girl told us, “Yesterday, I was
beaten … The work I did was wrong. I left some
threads … [I was] slapped, hard, strong … I cried
… It was the supervisor, a man. He slapped me and
he instructed me to do better. I feel hurt.”
The companies must
provide these children with
wage stipends to replace
their lost salaries and also a
modest education stipend
so these kids can return to
school where they belong.
A thirteen-year-old girl told us that in midSeptember, she was kept at the factory 95 hours a
week, including being forced to work four grueling
all-night 19 to 20-hour shifts. She was also beaten:
“Yesterday I was sick and could not make the target
… The supervisor, a big man, slapped [me] hard,
A 13-year-old girl relates: “I was also beaten …
Wednesday, last Wednesday. One hundred and
twenty pieces [an hour] was the target. I made 100
pieces. The supervisor slapped me … hard. I am
A thirteen-year-old boy said: “Sometimes they slap
and sometimes they give a punishment of sitting on
a chair and holding your ears … for half an hour …
in the middle of the workers … We feel very hurt.
Because it is punishment … Then I feel it is better
to die than living in this world.”
“The long working hours,” another 13-year-old girl
said, “make us feel exhausted and very weak. When
we return home after working so many hours, we do
not feel well, we are sick.”
One fourteen-year-old told us, after being forced to
work 19 hours straight, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
the following morning, “This is not a life at all. We
have no dreams. There is no future.”
A teenaged worker explained that the U.S. clothing
“is made of the tears of children and the sweat of
What the U.S. Companies
Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and any other U.S. companies
involved must not cut and run, pulling their production from the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh. This would only lead to the mass firing
of these 200 to 300 children, who would be thrown out on the street with
nothing. The U.S. companies owe these children better. The companies
must provide these children with wage stipends to replace their lost
salaries and also a modest education stipend so these kids can return
to school where they belong. It will cost the giant U.S. companies less
than $70 a month per child to do the right thing. For such large companies, this is just pocket change.
The U.S. companies should demand that their contractor, the Harvest
Rich factory, hire the parents or older brothers and sisters of these child
workers, and pay them a wage that will allow these families at least to
climb out of misery and into poverty. According to the workers, if they
earned just 36 cents an hour, they could live with a modicum of decency.
Surely Hanes, Puma, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart could afford to do this.
This would be the right way to end child labor once and for all.
Harvest Rich Ltd.
Harvest Rich Industrial Park
Mr. M. A. Bari
Harvest Rich sews clothing for Hanes, Puma and Wal-Mart. According to their
factory brochure, other clients include Target, Reebok and Motherswork. (We
also recently learned that J.C.Penney’s St. John’s Bay label is being sewn in what
the workers call the woven department.)
Shipping records based on U.S. Customs department documents show WalMart receiving a shipment from the Harvest Rich factory on July 5, 2006 of
“men’s 100 percent cotton woven pants” worth $421,174.
On June 4, 2006, Sara Lee Underwear in Winston Salem, North Carolina
received a shipment worth $111,495 from the Harvest Rich factory containing
men’s briefs. At least two departments in the Harvest Rich factory—the
Underwear unit and the Orange unit—produce exclusively for Hanes/Sara
European labels being sewn at the Harvest Rich factory include Tesco, Mark &
Spencer and Charter House from the United Kingdom, Carrefour of France,
and Puma and Tchibo of Germany.
Number of Workers:
We estimate that the factory has approximately 2,500 workers in total.
How the Research Was Done:
This report on Harvest Rich and the accompanying video footage is the result
of a four-month investigation, beginning in June 2006, into factory conditions,
including the exploitation of child workers. National Labor Committee
researchers traveled to Bangladesh in early September to personally interview
the child workers. From the beginning, this research was a joint collaboration
with our longstanding partner, the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity,
which is an independent human, women’s and worker rights organization
headquartered in Dhaka. It was only through the secret collaboration of well
over a dozen very brave Harvest Rich workers—who will remain unnamed due
to the serious risk to themselves if their identities were made public—that this
research was possible.
Workers were able to smuggle labels out of the factory and provide detailed and
precise descriptions of each garment. We also relied upon shipping documents
based on U.S. Customs data to track shipments from Harvest Rich to U.S.
companies. Harvest Rich’s own promotional brochure also names the major
U.S. and European companies sourcing production at the company. On
numerous occasions, our researchers observed the factory operating well into
the night, and we also filmed and observed child workers entering and leaving
the Harvest Rich compound. Information regarding the abusive and illegal
working conditions comes directly from in-depth interviews with Harvest
Rich workers, who were—for the first time—able to speak truthfully, since
meetings were held in a safe location and always in the company of respected,
independent local human and women’s rights organizations. For several cases
we also visited the workers’ homes and spoke with their parents and siblings.
It has been our long experience over the years that when several groups of
workers are interviewed on separate occasions over time, the reliability of their
information can be fully trusted.
Research and production assistance from: Barbara Briggs, Christine Clarke, Tomas
Donoso, & Amanda Teckman.
Works on Hanes Underwear
“I feel very bad … I feel tired, exhausted…sometimes while cutting the thread,
like last time, I fall down.” … [The supervisor] just tells me to wake up … I
am very tired when I get home.”
“If I am absent one day,
the following day they will
beat me and shout at me.
If we make a mistake, they
beat us, they scold us …
They slap us in the face. It
hurts. They say ‘you made
mistakes’ and they yell and
shout … It happens every
t most, 11-year-old Halima gets just six hours of sleep a night, going
to bed around 11:00 p.m. and getting up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for
Eleven-year-old Halima works as a helper in the underwear department of
the Harvest Rich plant, where she cleans the Hanes underwear of any loose
threads by clipping them off. In an interview in Dhaka on September 11,
2006, she told us: “The whole floor is making this label. All the products
belong to this label, Hanes.”
Halima earns just 6 ½ cents an hour, 53 cents a day, $3.20 a week. She tells
us: “The salary I get is not fair.”
(930 taka a month)
6 ½ cents an hour
53 cents a day
$3.20 a week (48 hours)
$13.88 a month
“If anyone dares to say this
[that we should be earning
more], they will be without
$166.57 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)
For the typical 11-to-14-hour shift, Halima is on her feet all day, standing at a
table where she cuts any loose threads from the garment. She is given a mandatory production goal of cleaning 150 pairs of Hanes underpants per hour,
which means she is allowed just 24 seconds to complete each operation. The
pace is relentless, and given that she only earns six and a half cents an hour,
Halima is paid less than 1/23 of a cent per piece.
If Halima makes a mistake such as missing a loose thread, she is in trouble.
“Yesterday, I was beaten,” she told us, “… the work I did was wrong. I left
“I face much hardship. My
father is a rickshaw puller.
I earn 930 taka a month
($13.88). It’s too little. With
the money I earn, I cannot
afford to buy a toothbrush.
I am getting 930 taka, how
can I buy a toothbrush?”
Halima demonstrates how
she brushes her teeth with
ashes from the fire.
some of the threads … [I was] slapped, hard … strong … I cried … it was
the supervisor, a man. He slapped me and he instructed me to do better. I
Also, when the children fail to meet their production goals, “They [the supervisors] shout at us. They beat us. It happens everyday.”
Halima’s wages are so wretchedly low, she told us: “I also use my finger to
brush my teeth. I don’t have a [tooth] brush or toothpaste…I brush my
teeth with ashes. I have never bought a [tooth]brush.” Halima cannot afford
an umbrella either, so if it rains while she is walking to work she and the others
get soaked. “We have to work in the wet clothes,” she says.
Before large orders have to go out, as was the case with a Hanes shipment
scheduled to depart the Harvest Rich factory on September 23, the workers
are kept to 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. each night and sometimes to 10:00 p.m. Worse
still, as the shipment date approaches, are the grueling all-night 19 to 20-hour
shifts, stretching straight through from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following morning. The workers can sleep just two or three hours on the factory
Typical Daily Shift
(12 to 14 Hours)
8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Work, 4 ½ hours
12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Lunch, 1 hour
1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Work, 3 ½ hours
5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.
Overtime, 3 to 5 hours
floor before they have to get ready for their next shift. Such all-night shifts can
occur twice a week and rotate among different assembly lines that have fallen
behind their production goals.
During these rush periods, it is common for the factory to operate on a seven
day schedule. Between Friday September 8th and Frida September 22nd, when
the shipment had to go out, Halima and her co-workers received just one day
off. It is not uncommon for the workers to be kept as the factory 95 hours a
From July through mid-August, Halima and the others in the underwear department also worked 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
When the workers are forced to work on Friday, the Muslim holiday, they are
typically allowed out “early” at 5:00 p.m. Even if they worked to just 8:00 p.m.
each night, and got out at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, at a minimum the workers are
still at the factory 81 hours a week.
The overtime is “obligatory.” Halima tells us, “They will not allow us to go.
They [the supervisors] say, ‘Sit down, continue to work, complete it, then
NLC Hidden Camera:
Harvest Rich Factory. Late
night shift, Sept. 2006
Bangladesh, Sept. 2006.
“If I work overtime, then it’s 10:30 at night [when I get home.]” Further,
Halima explains, it is not safe for the children to be going home so late at
night: “There are girls like me, so we go in a group.”
Nor does the Harvest Rich factory pay Halima and the other workers correctly
for all the overtime hours they are forced to work. No matter how late the
workers are kept, management always marks their time cards out at 7:00 p.m.
“If we work up until 9:00 p.m., they will write 7 at night.” In this way, the
workers are routinely cheated of two or three hours of overtime pay legally due
them each day. It is the same when they work on Friday, their weekly holiday.
Management marks their time cards “Off,” and they do not get paid, despite
the fact that they were forced to work eight overtime hours.
And if the workers dare ask to be paid for all the overtime hours they actually
work, they will be fired. Halima put it like this: “If anyone dares to say this
[that we should be earning more], they will be without any salary.”
At the Harvest Rich factory workers need permission, and must receive a card
or pass, to use the bathroom which is limited to two to three visits per day.
“They [the supervisors]
shout at us. They beat us. It
Bangladeshi Law Prohibits Child Labor
No Child Under 14 Years Old Can Work
Bangladesh’s labor law strictly prohibits factories from hiring children
under the age of 14.
If a factory hires 14 to 17-year old children and adolescents, they are
prohibited from working more than five hours a day and 30 hours a
Children and adolescents must never, under any circumstances, be
obligated to work at night—between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00
“We cannot go when we want to,” Halima explains. Also, the bathroom “is
dirty and filthy.” Supervisors monitor their absence, and if they are too long,
“They beat us.”
Halima and many others take their lunch on the roof where there is no proper
place to sit. The drinking water in the factory “is dirty.” Nor are the children and other workers allowed to speak during working hours and if they are
caught, “They [the supervisors] shout at us.” Also, the factory is hot, and the
workers are always sweating.
Corporate monitoring never works,
and in the case of Harvest Rich,
it was again a miserable failure.
Halima and the other children never heard of such a thing as a corporate code
of conduct. “I don’t have any idea,” she told us.
“When buyers come, we
[the child workers] are kept
in the bathroom.”
However, “When buyers come, we [the child workers] are kept in the bathroom.” They make us hide “because we are little, because we are kids.” The
bathroom smells terrible so, “we feel very bad.” “Fifteen days back this happened [to us.]”
Halima has no idea where or to what country the clothing she works on goes.
“I didn’t tell my father
about the violations and
the beatings because if
I did, my father would
not allow me to continue
to work and my family
would suffer not having an
income, not having money
to shop with.”
She only knows it goes to a “foreign country.” She has never heard the expression “the global economy” nor has she heard of the World Trade Organization.
Nor does she know the labor laws of Bangladesh. She has never heard of a
union and has no idea what it might be.
Halima does not own a bike. She has never been to a movie theater. Her family does not own a television. She cannot afford to eat an apple and she never
plays. On the rare days off, “When I have a little time,” Halima explains, “I
sit at home and I do household chores.”
Halima’s father and mother both confirmed that their daughter is 11 years old,
telling us, “Someone wrote down when she was born.” Her father also confirmed that Halima arrives home at six, or nine, or 11:00 p.m. each night.
Halima lives in one small room with her parents and her sister and brother. The
children sleep on a wooden platform while the parents sleep on the floor.
Her father was shocked, and looked on the verge of tears, when he learned his
daughter was beaten at the Harvest Rich plant. “I did not have any idea how
Five people share one room.
Bangladesh, Sept. 2006
“I dream that I go to school
and that I continue my
education … I want to be a
they treat my daughter in the factory,” he told us. “She never told me that
she was beaten, and I feel very bad, and if I had known this earlier, I would
not have allowed her to go to the factory.”
We asked Halima why she had never told her father. “I didn’t tell my father
about the violations and the beatings because if I did, my father would not
allow me to continue to work and my family would suffer not having an
income, not having money to shop with.”
“I love my family very much,” she said.
Halima is incredibly brave, but no child should be placed in this position, and
Hanes and the other U.S. companies sourcing production at the Harvest Rich
factory must do much better than this.
Halima still has a dream: “I dream that I go to school and that I continue
my education … I want to be a doctor.”
Halima with NLC Director
Bangladesh, Sept. 2006
Concern for Halima
Those who are concerned for Halima and the other child workers whose names
and faces are identified in this report should know that the National Labor
Committee is committed to taking care of these children if the U.S. companies
refuse to pay to send them back to school. We would never let these children
down. Either way, they will received stipends to replace their wages and to pay
for school. That is our commitment.
We call upon Hanes and the other U.S. companies to provide every child
worker at the Harvest Rich factory with stipends adequate to replace
their wages and to pay for their school uniforms, books, and other basic
education costs. These kids belong in school, not locked in a sweatshop.
Two 13-year-old Girls Beaten
While Sewing Hanes Pajamas
At the factory up to 95 hours a week.
Forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, and even some all-night 19 to
20-hour shifts, with just a single day off in September, while being
paid 6 ½ to 17 cents an hour.
“My whole life I am in the
dark. There is nothing to
Pria is 13 years old and works
at the Harvest Rich factory
as a junior operator sewing
Hanes pajamas. She earns 17
cents an hour and $1.35 per
“We are so concentrated
on the work we have no
dreams, we have no time to
Beauty is also 13 years old
and works as a helper in the
same Ready Made Garment
department as Pria. Beauty
earns 6 ½ cents an hour and
53 cents a day.
“The supervisor calls me
names, beats the workers
and shouts at the workers.”
Beauty was beaten on Friday, September 8, which should have been the
workers’ weekly day off. “Every day,” Beauty tells us, “The supervisor calls
me names, beats the workers and shouts at the workers.” Asked what the
supervisor says, Beauty, clearly embarrassed, responds: “I cannot say … very
bad words.” A 17-year-old male colleague explains, the supervisors say things
like, “I f— your mother. You’re a prostitute.” Beauty was beaten because she
had fallen behind on her mandatory production goal.
“The supervisors ordered us to make 110 pieces an hour … I have to
match numbers [identifying the pieces of fabric] like 30-30 and put
them together ... Yesterday, I was a bit sick, most of the days I make
110 pieces. Yesterday I was sick and could not make the target … The
supervisor, a big man, slapped [me] hard, violently.”
Beauty’s job is to match the appropriate front and back pieces of the Hanes pajama trouser in preparation for sewing. She is allowed 33 seconds to complete
each operation and earns just one cent for every 16 operations she finishes.
Thirteen-year-old Pria told us a similar story: “I was also beaten … Wednesday, last Wednesday [September 6]. One hundred and twenty pieces an hour
was the target. I made 100 pieces. The supervisor slapped me—hard—I am
swollen. I cried.” Pria’s job is to sew the hem on the fly opening on the Hanes
men’s pajamas, for which she was allowed just 30 seconds. The pace is relentless
and monotonous, since the workers have to repeat the exact same operation
1,200 times in a 10-hour shift. Pria had to work on seven pairs of pajamas to
earn just one cent.
Beauty demonstrates how she
is slapped by her supervisor.
The Wages Low and the Hours Long:
Child labor is cheap in Bangladesh. As a helper, 13-year-old Beauty is paid just
6 ½ cents an hour and 53 cents a day. Pria, though the same age, earns a little
more as a junior sewing operator.
(530 taka per month)
(2,350 taka a month)
6 ½ cents an hour
17 cents an hour
53 cents a day
$1.35 a day (8 hours)
$3.20 a week (48 hours)
$8.09 a week (6 days; 48 hours)
$13.88 a month
$35.07 a month
$166.57 a year
$420.90 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)
According to the workers, 45 sewing operators on a line have to complete
1,200 pairs of Hanes pajamas in a 10-hour shift, or 120 pieces an hour. (Management actually set a production goal of completing 150 pairs of Hanes pajamas per hour for each assembly line made up of 45 sewing operators. The
goal was excessively high—at most, the workers could complete 120 pieces.) In
effect then, each worker had to sew 2.67 pairs of pajamas trousers each hour,
or one every 22 ½ minutes. Given the 17-cent-an-hour wage Pria and most of
her co-workers earn, this means that the direct labor cost to sew the Hanes
pajama trousers is as little as 6 ½ cents. The wages the workers are paid to
sew the $11.32 Hanes pajamas amount to just one half of one percent of the
garments’ retail price. In other words, the workers wages are insignificant.
The direct labor cost to sew
the Hanes pajama trousers is
as little as 6 ½ cents.
Hanes Sleeping Pants,
Made in Bangladesh
Bought in New York
At the Factory 95 Hours a Week:
Beauty also had to work four
grueling all-night 19 and 20hour shifts, while Pria had to
work three such shifts.
In September, Beauty, Pria and the other workers in the Ready Made Garments
Unit One department at Harvest Rich factory were allowed just one day off,
which was Friday, September 15. They worked every other day, most often to
8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. However, when the real rush was on to complete a
large Hanes order for shipment, between September 11 and 22, 13-year-old
Beauty also had to work four grueling all-night 19 and 20-hour shifts,
while Pria had to work three such shifts. Pria estimates that there are as many
as 50 other child workers on her floor. At any rate, we know that Beauty, Pria
and other under-aged children were forced to work from 8:00 a.m. straight
through to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following morning, after which, they would
sleep on the factory floor for a few hours before being woken to start their next
shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning.
We estimate that Pria and Beauty were at the factory 95 hours the week of
Saturday, September 16 through Friday, September 22. Working just one
all-night shift that week, together with being kept at the factory until 10:00
p.m. on three nights and until 8:00 p.m. on two other nights, and getting out
“early” at 5:00 p.m. on Friday (their supposed day off), would put them at the
factory exactly 95 hours.
We followed Pria home the night of Wednesday, September 13, when, as she
explained, she was let out “early.” “I came out at 8:00 p.m. as the factory
closed early.” The night before, she had worked to 10:00 p.m., which is more
common. It took Pria two hours and ten minutes to get home that night, and
she arrived at 10:10 p.m.—and this is what happens when she gets out “early.”
By the time she washes and eats supper, Pria cannot get to sleep before 11:00
p.m. or even later. (She must have been very hungry, since she did not take
lunch that day, explaining she was “overpressured” and that her supervisor
had “shouted at me.”) When she works to 10:00 p.m. she gets home even later, as Pria explains: “sometimes at 12:00 midnight or 1:00 a.m. –Many times
Pria asleep on a bus on her
way home from work, Sept.
Pria walks home from work
late at night, September 2006.
at 1:00 a.m.” It is the same for Beauty, who often does not get to eat supper
before midnight. (Most workers cannot afford to spend more than 1,200 taka
a month on food, which is $17.91 a month, 59 cents a day or just 20 cents per
meal. They eat just rice and lentils.) This is a very long day for a 13-year-old
who gets up at 6:00 in the morning. Most nights, Pria is getting less than seven
hours of sleep and sometimes as little as four. Pria has to be on the bus at 7:00
a.m. on her way to work, since she enters the factory at 7:40 a.m. “[If ] I am
one minute late, they mark it. I would not get the attendance bonus this
Even during slow periods, and when the workers do receive one day off a week,
they still appear to be at the factory 56 to 57 hours a week. This is the case at
this moment, since the workers are let out earlier each day, at 5:00 p.m., in
honor of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight
The length of the workday is determined by the production goal that must be
met. “We can’t leave the factory,” Pria says, “until the target is met. We have
to shed tears to complete the target … [and] many hours are not treated as
overtime.” Management’s standard practice is to mark the workers timecards
“Out” at 7:00 p.m. no matter how late they are actually kept working. It is
the same with Fridays. Whether they work or not the workers’ time cards are
marked “Off”. Every single worker we met from the Harvest Rich plant is being cheated on the overtime pay legally due them.
The workers have no choice but to accept this. If they ask for their correct
overtime pay, Pria explains, the supervisors become furious, shouting, “What
you are getting is better than what you are doing … Is this factory owned
by your father? ... How do you imagine that you make demands and we will
respond to it? Be satisfied with what you are earning.”
We asked Pria what happens when the corporate monitors visit the factory. Her
“We can’t leave the factory,
until the target is met.
We have to shed tears to
complete the target . . .
many hours are not treated
answer: “They let us go home early or they put us in the bathroom.”
This is exactly what happened on October 2 and 4 when corporate auditors—
apparently from the English big box discounter Tesco and Puma arrived at the
Harvest Rich factory. On October 4, Pria was told to stand in an unused stairway which functions as a fire escape. Other child workers from the underwear
department were sent home early.
Thirteen-year-old Pria was again beaten on Thursday, October 19. When
corporate monitors visited the factory, Pria was instructed to hide in the
Illegal & Abusive Conditions
at the Harvest Rich Factory
An estimated 200 to 300 under-aged children, some 11 years old or even
younger, are working at the Harvest Rich factory.
NLC Hidden Camera:
Young workers about to enter
Harvest Rich Factory.
The children report being routinely beaten, slapped and cursed at for falling
behind on their production goals, making mistakes, taking too long in the
bathroom, or for being absent for a day due to sickness.
The standard shift is 11 to 14 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or
more frequently, to 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. However, before clothing shipments must leave for the U.S., there are also frequent, mandatory 19 to 20hour all-night shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following day.
After sleeping for two or three hours on the factory floor, the workers must
start their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning.
The Harvest Rich factory often operates seven days a week. In the month of
September, the workers had just one day off.
When it is busy, the workers are typically at the factory over 80 hours, or even
up to 110 hours, a week. All overtime is strictly mandatory.
Charles Kernaghan holds
up a Harvest Rich time card
belonging to Halima, a child
CHEATED OF THEIR WAGES:
Wages at the Harvest Rich factory are set well below subsistence levels, with
child helpers earning just 6 ½ cents an hour and 53 cents a day, while sewing
operators earn just 17 cents an hour and $1.35 a day. The workers are also routinely cheated on their overtime pay. Many of the child workers report cleaning
their teeth with their finger and ashes from the fire, since they cannot afford a
toothbrush or toothpaste.
No matter how long the workers are kept at the factory, their timecards are always marked out at 7:00 p.m. It does not matter if they are working until 9:00
or 10:00 p.m., or even an all-night shift until 4:00 a.m.—their timecards are
always marked out at 7:00. It is the same with Fridays. Even when the workers are required to work seven days their timecards show Friday marked “Off.”
Mandatory overtime past 7:00 p.m., which is routine, is not paid for; nor are
the workers paid for toiling on Friday, which is supposed to be their day off.
There is not a single worker at the Harvest Rich factory who is being paid their
proper, legal overtime pay. Some workers are being shortchanged of up to half
the wages due them. Anyone daring to ask for their wages will be fired.
EXCESSIVE PRODUCTION GOALS:
Daily production goals are arbitrarily set by management, and are excessive.
For example, the child workers are allowed just 24 seconds to clean each pair
of Hanes underwear, using scissors to cut off any loose threads. They are paid
just one twenty-third of a cent for each operation.
A child worker demonstrates
how she cuts the loose thread
off of Hanes underwear.
The workers must receive permission to use the bathroom and are limited to
two, or at most three, visits per day. The bathrooms are filthy, lacking toilet
paper, soap and towels. Sometimes—on average about two days a week—the
bathrooms even lack running water. Anyone spending too much time in the
bathroom will be slapped.
Speaking during working hours is strictly forbidden and workers who get
caught are punished.
UNSAFE DRINKING WATER:
The workers say that the factory drinking water is not purified and sometimes
makes them sick.
SWEATING WHILE WORKING:
The sewers are provided only hard stools without cushions or backs. If the
workers bring their own cushion, management takes it away. The workers say
the factory is very hot and they are constantly sweating while they work.
DENIAL OF MATERNITY LEAVE:
According to the workers, Harvest Rich does not respect women workers’ legal
right to three months maternity leave with full pay. Pregnant women have to
quit and return as new workers.
PUNISHED FOR BEING LATE:
For being one minute late, a worker can be punished with loss of their attendance bonus for the full month.
NO GOVERNMENT HOLIDAYS:
The workers say they do not receive national public holidays. Nor are they allowed the legal vacation time due them.
NO DAYCARE CENTER:
There is no daycare center at Harvest Rich.
NO VOICE AND NO RIGHTS:
The workers at Harvest Rich have no voice and no rights. Anyone daring to
ask for their proper pay, or that their most basic legal rights be respected, will
be attacked and fired. The rights to freedom of association and to organize are
100 percent denied.
CODES OF CONDUCT
NOT WORTH THE PAPER THEY ARE WRITTEN ON:
Before the U.S. corporate monitors arrive for factory inspections, the children
are either sent home, if there is time, or quickly hidden in the dirty bathrooms,
the emergency stairwells or on the roof. Any worker saying one word of truth
regarding factory conditions will be fired the moment the corporate monitor
walks out of the factory.
Are We Going Backward in
the Global Economy?
In 1835—171 years ago—child cotton mill workers in
the U.S. won a 69 hour workweek, and were paid—in
today’s dollars—64 cents an hour.
Forced to work 13
½ hours a day, six
days a week for an
2,000 child cotton
mill workers aged 10
to 18 went out on a
six week strike in Paterson, New Jersey, beginning in July 1835.
The children demanded an 11-hour day,
but had to settle for
hours a day Monday
through Friday and nine hours on Saturday, for a 69-hour week. Their pay at
the time was $2.00 a week, which in today’s dollars would be $44.08, or 64
cents an hour.
As we have seen at the Harvest Rich factory, 171 years later, child garment
workers in Bangladesh as young as 11 years old—and some perhaps even
younger—are being forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, often seven days a
week, with grueling mandatory all-night, 19 to 20-hour shifts before orders
must be shipped. During busy periods, these child workers could be at the
factory 80 to 110 hours a week, while earning just 6 ½ cents to 17 cents an
hour—just one tenth to one quarter of what the child workers were paid in
Paterson, New Jersey back in 1835. Also, one can only imagine what would
happen to the child and teenaged workers at Harvest Rich if they dared declare
a strike. At best, they would face just beatings and firing.
One Billion Garments
In terms of volume, Bangladesh is the 3rd largest exporter of apparel to the
United States, following only China and Mexico. If current growth continues,
Bangladesh is poised to surpass Mexico in 2007.
In 2005, Bangladeshi factories shipped 786 million garments to the U.S. with
a wholesale value of $2.4 billion. In the first seven months of 2006, Bangladeshi garment exports are up 23 percent over the same period last year. Bangladesh is on track to ship over one billion garments to the United States
this year, which amounts to over three garments for every man, woman and
child in America.
There are an estimated 4,100 garment export factories in Bangladesh, with two
million workers, of which 80 percent or more are young women 16 to 25 years
Sumon is 13 Years Old
“I feel it better to die than
living in this world.”
Sumon is a junior machine
operator at the Harvest Rich
factory where he sews Hanes
underwear and pajamas. He
is paid just 15 cents an hour-$1.21 a day.
n one recent 12-day period in September, before a large order of Hanes
underwear and pajamas had to be shipped to the U.S., 13-year-old Sumon
was ordered to work seven all-night shifts, from 8:00 a.m. straight through
to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. the following morning.
Afterward, Sumon and the others would sleep on the factory floor for a few
hours before being awakened to start their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same
morning. In between the all-night shifts, the standard work day was 13 to 14
hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. During extreme rush periods
like this (September 11-22), Sumon could be at the factory up to 110 hours a
week. However, during busy periods, it is more common for the workers to be
kept at the factory 87 hours a week, while working 80 hours.
In the month of September, the Ready Made Garments (RMG) Unit 1, where
Sumon works had just one day off: Friday, September 15. The other four Fridays, they were required to work.
Up to two months ago, when the workers were kept at the factory until 10:00
p.m., management allowed the workers a short evening break when they were
provided a banana and a soda. But to cut costs, this practice was stopped in
Sumon could be at the
factory up to 110 hours a
“I start working at 8:00
a.m. and we have lunchtime from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Sometimes we stand because there are many workers. And when we have to
work, they give us only a
half hour lunch break.”
Grueling all-night 19-to-20-hour shift.
8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Work , 5 ½ hours
1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Lunch, 1 hour
2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Work, 2 ½ hours
5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Overtime, 3 hours
8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Supper break, 2 hours
10:00 p.m. to 3 or 4 a.m.
Overtime, 5 or 6 hours
Note: The Harvest Rich factory is very large, so lunch periods are staggered to
accommodate all the workers. Halima takes her lunch at 12:30 p.m. When it
is very busy, the lunch period is cut back to 30 minutes
As Sumon explains, all overtime is obligatory at Harvest Rich: “It is not voluntary. It is their decision … We have to listen to them. If they want us to
stay, we have to stay. According to their orders … sometimes we get out at
10:00, 10:30, 12:00 [midnight] and when we cannot make the target, we
have to work extra time, but without charging [without pay] … Last Sunday and Monday [September 10-11], I worked until 10:00 p.m. ... We get
home around 11:00 if we work to 10:00 p.m.”
Even a low-end estimate of hours worked during busy periods puts Sumon
at the factory 87 hours a week—working six 13-hour shifts from 8:00 a.m.
to 9:00 p.m. and one nine-hour shift on Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
With time off for lunch, Sumon and the others would actually be working 80
hours a week.
Sumon holds up a pair of
Not only are the hours long,
but the pace of work is relentless.
Sumon is assigned a mandatory production goal of sewing 120 pairs of Hanes
underwear per hour. His job is to sew, or “close,” the crotch area of the underpants. He has just 30 seconds to complete each pair. In a 10-hour shift, he
must complete 1200 pieces; in 11 hours, 1,320 pieces; in 14 hours, 1,560.
The pressure is constant, repeating the same operation over and over again.
And Sumon has to sew eight pieces to earn just one cent.
Sumon is beaten.
When he cries, they beat him more.
Sumon told us:
“There are many pressures on us to make [the production goal]. We
are to make this product, and if we don’t make it, they beat us. They
cut our overtime [pay] and sometimes we have to work until 10:00
[p.m.] or 12:00 [midnight] and they don’t give us any food …”
“They beat me … last Sunday [September 10] … because I could not
make the production target … [Mr. Habib, the supervisor in charge
of the floor] slapped my face very strongly. ... then he pushed my neck
… calling names, like ‘I f-— your mother.’”
Made in Bangladesh
Bought in New York
“Sometimes they slap
and sometimes they give
punishment of sitting in a
chair and holding the ears
… for half an hour … In the
middle of the workers …
We feel very hurt, because
it is punishment.”
“It’s very often … It happens frequently. In one week I was beaten
twice … When they beat, I cry, even when I ask, ‘Why are you beating me?’ then again, they strongly continue to beat me.”
There is also another form of punishment, as Sumon explained:
“Sometimes they slap and sometimes they give punishment of sitting
in a chair and holding the ears … for half an hour … In the middle
of the workers … We feel very hurt, because it is punishment.”
What the supervisors do to punish the children is to make them perch on top
of a chair, squatting on the seat, while with their fingers they pull down on
their ear lobes. In Bangladesh, this is a gesture indicating extreme ugliness and
stupidity. One can only imaging how embarrassing it must be for a young,
teenaged boy to be forced to sit like this in front of his friends and co-workers
for half an hour. It must feel worse even than being hit, which is why Sumon
said, “Then I feel it is better to die, than living in this world.”
To sew Hanes underwear, Sumon was paid just 15 cents an hour, and $1.21 a
day. He is also cheated on his overtime pay.
“We start at 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 [p.m.] is general duty.
And we work two more hours from 5:00 until 7:00. But if we cannot
make production, the two hours of overtime, they cut it. That means
we don’t get any overtime, although we worked for it … and also,
when we work from 7:00 at night until 10:00 at night, three hours,
but they don’t pay us three hours overtime.”
Even with overtime included, Sumon never makes more than $8.61 a week—
$7.23 a week in regular pay and $1.38 in overtime pay. This means that when
Sumon is required to work an 80-hour week, he is being cheated of half of the
wages legally owed him. Even at his very low wages, Sumon should be earn-
(2,100 taka a month)
15 cents an hour
$1.21 a day (eight hours)
$7.23 a week (6 days, 48 hours)
$31.34 a month
$376.12 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)
ing 30 cents an hour for overtime work, and $16.83 for working an 80-hour
Sumon’s wage is well below even the most minimal subsistence level. Like his
11-year-old co-worker, Halima, Sumon gets up each morning and cleans his
teeth, “with my finger. I use my finger with ashes from the fire. I cannot
afford to buy toothpaste and a toothbrush.”
“They don’t allow us to talk to each other while we work,” Sumon says. He
and his colleagues are allowed to use the bathroom just twice a day, and they
have to get permission to do so. “There is no toilet paper or towels,” Sumon
says, and “it is very dirty and filthy.”
At work, Sumon sits on a hard stool all day –“There is no back” and no cushion.
At the end of the shift, when Sumon goes home, he is exhausted. “I feel very
bad,” he says, “and I feel like some uneasiness, I don’t feel comfortable getting back home, because we work so hard the whole day and then feel very
tired at home.”
“I cannot afford to
buy toothpaste and a
Puma label smuggled out of
the factory by workers.
“When I get a Friday off, I
stay at home. I sleep. I only
sleep when I get a day off.
And I work around the
When the Harvest Rich
factory is actually closed on
a Friday and the workers
receive their weekly holiday, Sumon spends most of
the time sleeping because
he is so exhausted. “When
I get a Friday off, I stay at
home. I sleep. I only sleep
when I get a day off. And I
work around the home.”
and has “never been to a theater or cinema hall.”
There is nothing much else
to do, as Sumon does not
own a bike or a television
Sumon does not know the laws of Bangladesh and has no idea what his legal
rights are. He said no one has tried to help them. Nor does Sumon know what
a union is. But he does know that, “Workers never associate together, and
we don’t protest the violations. If we do, then the managers will beat us,
shout at us and fire us.”
Nor has Sumon heard of any such thing as a “Corporate Code of Conduct.”
What he does know, however, is that “when buyers come, we are told to say
we are 18,” and also, “they [the management] send the child workers to the
roof or somewhere else.”
As we were about to leave, we asked Sumon if he would like to say anything
else. He responded: “What I want to say to the [U.S.] company: give us
NLC Hidden Camera Footage:
Unknown Harvest Rich
Worker, September 2006
overtime, salary on time, and legal wages. These are the words I would like
Sumon and the others might not know the laws of Bangladesh, but they do
know that they should not be abused and cheated.
Sumon had the chance to study up to the 5th grade, where his favorite subject
was geography. Now his dream is “to be an engine mechanic, a car mechanic.”
Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and the other U.S. companies are responsible to provide stipends to every under-aged child worker at the Harvest
Rich plant so they can return to school. The companies owe these exploited
children at least that.
This sample of Hanes sleeping
pants was smuggled out of
the factory by workers
U.S. Apparel Industry
Monitoring Fails Miserably
The Harvest Rich factory was inspected and awarded a “Certificate of Compliance” by the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production Group (WRAP),
guaranteeing that the factory is in “full compliance” with all human and worker rights laws and international standards. WRAP was started by the American Apparel Manufacturers Association in 2000.
Somehow WRAP and the U.S. apparel industry failed to find:
Two hundred to 300 child workers, some as young as 11 years old
Routine beatings of the children and other workers
Wages as low as 6 ½ cents an hour
Forced overtime with routine 12 to 14-hour shifts, often seven days a
week, with mandatory all-night 19 and 20-hour shifts before shipments need to leave
Workers cheated of up to half of the overtime pay legally due them
Any worker daring to ask for their most basic legal rights will be ime-
diately attacked, beaten and fired
Bangladeshi Garment Workers’
Wages Cut Nearly in Half
As Exports Soar, Real Wages Fall
The legal minimum wage in Bangladesh has not risen in the last 12 years, since
1994, while the cumulative inflation rate for this same period has reached 87
percent. In 2006, the real purchasing power of the workers’ wages is just a little
over half of what it was in 1994. Rather than progressing—despite soaring exports—Bangladesh’s garment workers and their families are sinking ever deeper
* Fiscal year, July 1, 1994-June 30, 1995
New Minimum Wage:
11 ½ ¢ an Hour
Garment manufacturers say this is “too high.”
The Bangladeshi government has proposed a new minimum wage of 1,604
taka a month, or $23.94. This amounts to just 11 ½ cents an hour. The powerful and wealthy garment factory owners oppose this as “too high.”
The proposed increase, in terms of real purchasing power, would not even bring
the workers’ wages up to the level they were 12 years ago.
Government’s Proposed New Minimum Wage:
1,604 taka a month
11 ½ cents an hour
92 cents a day (8 hours)
$5.52 a week (6 days; 48 hours)
$23.94 a month
$287.28 a year
(67 taka = $1.00 U.S.)
Management people stare at us.
We are frightened.
Thirteen-year-old girl who
did not want her face shown
or name mentioned for fear
of being attacked and fired.
This 13-year-old also works in
the Underwear Department
at the Harvest Rich factory as
a junior sewing operator. She
earns 19 cents an hour, $1.55
a day, and $9.30 for the week.
am 13 years old and was born in the countryside … Child workers also have
to work 10 hours like other workers … I start working [at] 8:00 [a.m.] and
work until 1:00 [p.m.]. There is a break for lunch from 1:00 to 2:00. From 2:00
p.m. to 5:00 p.m. is general duty. Overtime starts from 5:00 p.m. At first we work
two hours overtime until 7:00. But in practice we work until 8:00, 10:00, 11:00
[p.m.] and 12:00 [midnight] without having any overtime pay … The company
purposefully cheats us of our overtime pay.. We also work on Fridays … The factory
is open on Friday—at least two-three Fridays a month. We work usually until 5:00
p.m. on Friday, but are cheated of our overtime [pay].
“The factory is hot and the toilets are filthy. There is no soap, no toilet paper in it.
“In the factory, we can’t speak with others and we can’t look at others … If we are
caught, supervisors shout and beat us. They say, ‘Are you here to gossip or to work?
If you talk to each other, I will send you out of the factory.’
“Sick days are not allowed in the factory. We can’t enjoy government holidays like
the Bengali New Year. If someone remains absent in the factory, their salary is
docked. We can’t get annual leave [vacation leave], so we can’t visit our parents in
the countryside. If we ask for leave, they respond, ‘Why do you need leave? You are
here to work.’
“Pregnant workers can’t enjoy maternity leave with pay. When they ask for maternity leave, management forces them to leave with an option of going to the factory
“The long working hours
make us feel exhausted and
very weak. When we return
home after such hard work,
we do not feel well, we are
“In my department at least
40-50 child workers are
toiling in the factory.”
as a new worker after two years.
“In my department at least 40-50 child workers are toiling in the factory.
“We don’t know about our future. Allah knows what is our fate.”
NLC Hidden Camera:
Unknown Harvest Rich
Worker near factory entrance,
This is not a life at all.
We have no dreams…
There is no future.
Mahmoud started working
at age 11 and entered the
Harvest Rich factory when
he was 13 years old. Now he
is 14 and works as a junior
machine operator in the
where he sews underwear
and pajamas for Hanes and tshirts for Puma. He is paid just
16 cents an hour, $1.26 a day.
A Dozen Children
Forced to Work to 3:00 a.m.
A day before our interview with Mahmoud on September 13, he, along with
a dozen or so other under-aged child workers most of whom were girls, was
forced to work a 19-hour shift, straight through from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
the following morning.
“We started at 8:00 in the morning until 10:00 [p.m.], then a break and then
until 3:00 in the morning … Our break was from 8:00 to 10:00 [p.m. ]… They
don’t provide food, but they give us money …twenty taka [30 U.S. cents]. But with
20 taka, what can I buy? ... So we eat when we get home in the morning.”
“I slept in the factory … on a table … For us, there are no mattresses.”
After less than three hours of sleep, Mahmoud got up, “at six in the morning
… Then I went home.” He was supposed to return to the factory that same
day, “to begin work at 8:00 in the morning.” He told us, “Since I could not
sleep, I was exhausted.”
Nor was this the first time he and the other children had been required to
“I slept in the factory … on
a table … For us, there are
Mahmoud told us, while
sewing Puma t-shirts, they
were forced to work at least
four all-night shifts, on
alternating nights, in order
to complete the Puma order
in time for shipment.
work such grueling shifts. Two months before, Mahmoud told us, while sewing Puma t-shirts, they were forced to work at least four all-night shifts, on
alternating nights, in order to complete the Puma order in time for shipment.
One night they would work to 3:00 a.m., the next, to 8:00 p.m., and so on.
This would put the workers, including children, at the factory 112 hours that
It is standard practice, Mahmoud explains, that they work from “8:00 in the
morning until 8:00 at night, and some extra hours after 8:00 … sometimes
an additional two hours until 10:00 at night.” It seems to be that the shifts
are evenly split, working half the nights to 8:00 p.m. and the rest to 10:00 p.m.
Nor do they always receive Friday, the weekly holiday, off: “If we have enough
work, then we don’t have a day off.”
While working on Hanes underwear, Mahmoud’s job is to sew the inside seam.
He is given a mandatory production target of completing 100 pieces an hour.
He is allowed just 36 seconds to complete each operation. He tells us, “It is
difficult. It’s hard ... to reach the goal.”
“I feel tired and weak.”
(2,200 taka a month)
16 cents an hour
$1.26 a day (8 hours)
$7.58 a week (6 days / 48 hours)
$32.84 a month
$166.57 a year
$394.03 a year
“At the end of the month,
what they pay us, we have
to accept that. We don’t
know what we are legally
For all that, Mahmoud is paid just 2,200 taka a month, which is $32.84, and
just 16 cents an hour. “I don’t feel good working in the factory,” he explains,
“I think they owe me, I should get more than what I am being paid.”
Mahmoud works all day, hunched over his sewing machine sitting on a hard
wooden stool. It is hot, he says, and “we sweat.” The workers are not allowed
to talk to each other and must ask permission to use the bathroom. Taking sick
days is strongly discouraged—and they are never paid. “If I am sick, if I ask
to leave, they will tell you to get out of the factory at 8:00 at night.” He
says that at the end of the shift—“I feel tired and weak.” When he is let out
at 10:00 p.m., he does not arrive home until 11:30 or 12:00 midnight. Since
it is not safe at that late hour, “sometimes we go in a group, sometimes we
scatter, because some people leave us because there is not one direction,
but different directions.” No matter what time he arrives home at night, he
still has to get up at 6:00 a.m. in order to be back at the factory at 8:00 a.m.
the following day.
“I don’t feel good working
in the factory, I think they
owe me, I should get more
than what I am being paid.”
Corporate Codes of Conduct
Used to Monitor Well-Run Prisons
“There are some principles.
There would be no worker
under 18, no bad treatment
of the workers. Workers
would work 48 hours a
week. After 5:00 [p.m.]
there would be no work.”
Mahmoud may be young, but he is also very smart. He is one of the few workers we met, under-aged or adult, who had actually heard of a corporate code
of conduct. Mahmoud told us that he was familiar with the Puma code of
conduct. “There are some principles,” he said, such as, “there would be no
worker under 18, no bad treatment of the workers. Workers would work
48 hours a week. After 5:00 [p.m.] there would be no work.”
Excited, we asked if Puma’s standards were respected and implemented. “No,”
fourteen-year-old Mahmoud responded, “It is not useful. It is hanging on
the wall. Workers have no use for it, it is in English and hanging on the
wall. They don’t think that it is useful.”
In other words, regarding its impact, the corporate code of conduct is not
worth the paper it is written on.
Corporate monitors even visit the factory. But all the workers know better than
to ever speak the truth. “No. I cannot say the truth,” Mahmoud says. Why?
Because of “punishment …The owner will force me to get out.” Daring to
speak one word of truth about the actual and abusive factory conditions always
ends up in firing.
When we explained that Hanes also has a code of conduct and that Hanes demands that the factory respect its code, Mahmoud responded, “It is not true.
Hanes is telling lies.”
Corporate codes of conduct and private monitoring schemes can never improve respect for fundamental worker rights standards under such circumstances. Most factory workers across the developing world do not know their
legal rights, but what they do know is that if they dare protest against even the
most extreme violations, they will be attacked and fired. When a corporation
goes into a circumstance like this with its code of conduct, it is nothing more
than monitoring a well-run prison.
The only way to protect worker rights is to strictly enforce local labor laws and
internationally recognized worker rights standards, the violation of which will
result in sanctions. But that is not what the corporations are about. Instead,
they use their codes of conduct as cover to relocate production to countries
with dismal human and worker rights records.
Mahmoud also agreed that 5,000 taka would be a much fairer wage. That
would amount to just 36 cents an hour. Maybe the corporations should write
into their codes of conduct that any workers making their products should
earn at least enough money to climb out of misery and into poverty.
Mahmoud would also like to return to school. His favorite subject: English.
“It is made of the tears of children & the
sweat of workers.”
sked what would happen if factory management saw his face, Male
Worker responded: “They will beat me and I will be fired.”
Though himself still a teenager, Male Worker is a senior operator sewing
Hanes and Puma clothing. He earns just 20 cents an hour and $9.82 a week.
“Last night I worked until 11:30 p.m.,” Male Worker tells us, explaining
that he did not arrive home until “around 1:00 or 1:10 in the morning.”
He worked a 15 ½ hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., sewing Hanes
pajamas. He too was beaten. “The line chief beat me with a notebook [rolled
up production records] ... He hit me very strongly ... on the arm ... twice ...
[shouting] you fat s***. You couldn’t make the target.”
Male Worker tells us, “It is very common ... even almost every day the workers are beaten.”
This was September 11, in the Ready Made Garments Unit One department.
Male Worker actually got off easy, as three nearby production lines—including 15 to 20 children, had to work a 20 ½ hour shift from 8:00 a.m.
straight through to 4:30 the following morning.
“It is very common ... even
almost every day the
workers are beaten.”
September 11, 2006: Children as
young as 11 years old forced to work
a 20 ½ hour shift from 8:00 a.m. to
4:30 a.m. in the morning.
Male Worker explains that:
“[There are] around 50 or 60 child workers [on his floor, aged] 10, 11,
12, 13...All are equal, the way they treat [them], there is no distinction.
They don’t give any sympathy to the child workers. All are treated the same
... Last night and the previous night also, some lines worked ... In the three
lines that work[ed] the night shift, [there were] 15 to 20 child workers ...
The Hanes lines, the three lines making Hanes products, they worked until
4:30 a.m. last night. [Afterward] they remain in the factory and lie down
on the floor ... They sleep on the floor. [The supervisors] beat and yell if
they want to wash their faces in the bathroom. Then they yell at them.”
Sewing Puma Shirts:
A real test of athletic endurance—
Forced to work four days straight with just two or three hours off
In April, there was a rush to complete Puma’s order of long sleeved t-shirts to
meet the shipment date. So for four days in a row, the entire floor—including
the child workers—were kept for 19 to 21-hour shifts.
8:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Forced to work 81 hours in four days, the workers were allowed just two or
three hours of sleep each morning—on the factory floor—before beginning
their next shift. Also, the workers were only paid a fraction of the overtime pay
legally due them.
How could the U.S. buyers and
corporate monitors miss such
serious violations, including the
abuse of child workers?
We explained to Male Worker that Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and the other
U.S. companies have codes of conduct that are meant to guarantee that the
labor rights of any worker making their products will be respected and that
they monitor their suppliers to strictly enforce this.
“I think Hanes is telling lies. In our factory we are treated harshly.
The supervisors beat us, we are cheated on overtime, they don’t pay us
correctly and on time, and we are badly treated by our supervisors,
but they don’t see us, that these violations are going on.
“When buyers come, then the factory management cleans the factory
and they tell us to tell lies. If we don’t tell lies, then every worker is
scared of losing their job. So they tell us that we are paid correctly, we
are paid on time, that they treat us decently. So they force us to tell
this to the monitors...
“If we don’t tell lies, then
every worker is scared of
losing their job. So they tell
us that we are paid correctly, we are paid on time,
that they treat us decently.
So they force us to tell this
to the monitors...”
“Management sometimes sends [the child workers] back to their
homes or they put them aside in another space in the building.”
Puma garment made in
Bangladesh. Bought in the
“If buyers interview a worker, the management stares into the eyes of
the worker, so that is a signal for what to tell the buyers.”
“The line supervisor always
holds a ruler in his hands”
It should be pointed out that, “The line supervisor always holds a ruler in his
hands”—which is quite intimidating, given that the workers have been beaten
with such hard wooden rulers.
“When the buyer comes, the factory management provides us with uniforms. They are very thick, and it gets sweaty. We don’t feel comfortable
in the uniforms.”
Anyone asking for their legal rights
will be immediately fired.
Asked if anyone helps the workers in their struggle to gain their basic rights,
Male Worker responds, “There is no one.” The workers are in a trap. The
right to organize is strictly prohibited and will be met with immediate mass
“Since the workers are not united, we cannot go to the Minister of
Labor. If we go, the company, the management will see that we go to
the Ministry of Labor, and they will immediately fire all the workers.
So in order not to lose our jobs, we can’t go.
NLC Hidden Camera:
Unknown workers entering
Harvest Rich, Sept. 2006.
“For example, if four or five workers ask together [ask management
for their correct overtime pay], the worker who takes the lead will
be forced out. But the others who are submissive, they will be hit. But
the workers who take the lead will be forced out of the factory.”
“We don’t get any overtime except for two hours. But the rest of the
overtime we have to work without receiving any money.
“[The bathroom] is very filthy. If you are barefoot, you cannot enter.
Before taking lunch, we cannot go in, because it makes us vomit. If
you open the door, the stink comes out and there is no running water... In a week, for two to three days there is no water...
“Management says they pay maternity benefits, but we have not seen
any workers who have been paid maternity leave.”
Asked if they get their annual vacation, the workers respond, “No never.”
And, how about government holidays? “No. Yesterday was a government
holiday, but [we worked].”
The Workers’ Dream
36 to 43 cents an hour
$2.87 to $3.44 a day (8 hours)
$17.22 to $20.67 a week (48 hours; 6 days)
$74 to $89.55 a month
$895.52 to $1,074.64 a year
Above. Hanes sleeping pants and briefs
made in Bangladesh and bought in the
United States. Right. Wal-Mart receipt.
In the Face of Such Abuse,
the Workers’ Demands Are Still
So Extremely Modest:
1.) A call to the American people to end child labor and send the children to school:
“Since we sweat and we make this product, we would like to say to the American people, the child
workers who are working in the factory now, their wish is to go to school. But for their families, they
have to work, but I ask the American people and the company to take these workers out and send
them to school, because in the school, they can have better time to build their future. So I ask them
to get rid of the child workers from the factory.”
2.) Willing to work 11 to 12 hours a day, six days a week:
“Better would be if we worked from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and overtime should be limited
to two hours. Because if we work two hours, it’s good, no problem, but beyond that, our body, our
mind cannot take exercise ... So it’s better to only work two hours [overtime], which means we can
make some money, but it is tolerant labor.”
These Bangladeshi workers are not slackers. Quite the opposite: they are some of the hardest workers anywhere in the world, and they are more than willing to work an 11-hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.,
six days a week.
Working a regular 12-hour shift would be their limit.
“If paid correctly, then we would work, but not past 8:00 [p.m.]. We can at maximum work until
8:00. Our body punishes us if we work past 8:00.”
3.) Give us one day off a week:
“Yes, we want a day off in a week. If we continue to work, we may feel sick and feel uneasy. Our body
needs some rest, so if we take one day off, we can have enough rest to work for the next week.”
4.) Stop beating us and pay our overtime correctly:
“Overtime should be legally paid and the company should stop beating us, shouting at us, calling us
names... We don’t want to work without getting any money.”
5.) A Dream: To earn enough to climb out of misery and into poverty:
“The inflation rate is increasing. But our salaries are decreasing. The rent is increasing, the rent of
the house, rice, the cost of living. The price of everything is going up, but the salary is not ... The
prices are going up. After some time we will have to go without food ... We cannot support our lives
with the money we are earning at the Hanes [Harvest Rich] factory.”
In fact, there has not been an increase in the minimum wage in Bangladesh for the last 12 years, since 1994,
while over the same period, the compounded inflation rate has reached 87 percent. The workers’ real wages
are seriously falling, sinking them ever deeper into misery.
Among the workers there is a consensus that, “if we can make 5,000 to 6,000 taka [a month], we can live
decently ... have a decent life ... I could support my family and we could live better ... That would be
“We work very hard, we sweat in the factory, and we would like to make an appeal to the American
people that we want to get a salary around 5,000 or 6,000 taka, including overtime and regular
What is 5,000 taka a month? It is just $74.63 a month—36 cents an hour! Even 6,000 taka is just $87.55
a month, 43 cents an hour. Would paying a wage of 36 cents an hour, or even 43 cents, break the backs of
Hanes, Puma and Wal-Mart?
These workers are not asking for $1.00 or $2.00 or $3.00 an hour. They would settle for 36 cents an hour.
Why must such a modest demand remain an impossible dream in the global economy? Where is the moral
compass of our companies?
“I hope. But in reality, I don’t see any future, because if the company, the management did not think
over this issue, so how could we have a dream at all?”
The missing link here is the American people. If we raised our voices, surely we could embarrass Hanes,
Puma and Wal-Mart into demanding that the Harvest Rich factory pay at least 36 cents an hour. It would
be that simple.
What Happened To The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights?
More than anyone else, it was Eleanor Roosevelt’s great spirit and dedication
that created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted
by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. As a country, as a people, we
committed ourselves to respect the human rights enshrined in this great declaration. Yet today, in the global economy, we have allowed multinational corporations to throw the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the ground
as if it were a worthless scrap of paper.
These are our rights and we need to take them back.
of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to work … to just and favorable conditions of
Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration,
ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human
Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health
and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing and
medical care …
What the U.S. Companies Must Do:
Send every under aged child worker to school:
Children belong in school, not locked in sweatshops. Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart,
J.C. Penney must take responsibility to see to it that every under aged child
worker at the Harvest Rich factory is sent to school. To do this correctly, the
companies must provide monthly stipends sufficient to replace the highest
wages earned by the children—this is critical so that their families do not
suffer further—as well as to meet basic educational expenses such as uniforms,
textbooks, and other basic school supplies. Initial estimates place the cost
per child as low as $70 per month, which is mere pocket change for these
huge corporations. The companies must also move quickly, before factory
management secretly terrorizes and fires as many of its child workers as they
think they can get away with.
Don’t cut and run—stay and fix the problem:
Cutting and running, and pulling production from the factory is the worst
thing the companies can do. It does nothing other than further harm the
workers, who have already been exploited, as hundreds of workers—including
children—are thrown out on the street with nothing. Hanes, Puma, WalMart, J.C. Penney should make a commitment to Harvest Rich, to work
together with their contractor to clean up the factory, while at the same time
implementing concrete structural improvements in factory management that
will guarantee that the most fundamental rights of the workers will finally be
respected. It is the current ‘hear nothing, see nothing, do nothing’ relationships
that multinationals adopt with their suppliers all across the developing world
that is exacerbating the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy.
Children belong in school,
not locked in sweatshops.
Cutting and running, and
pulling production from the
factory is the worst thing the
companies can do.
Transparency—disclose the names and addresses of factories:
One very simple, concrete and easily doable step that Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart
and J.C. Penney should take to restore consumer confidence is to release to the
American people just the names and addresses of the factories they use around
the world to make the goods we purchase. This single act of transparency
would go a long way in reassuring the American people that these companies
are not trying to hide other abusive factories. If Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and
J.C. Penney have nothing to hide, then why not publicly release their factories’
names and locations.
If Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart
and J.C. Penney have
nothing to hide, then
why not publicly release
their factories’ names and
In Bangladesh the garment
workers tell us that if they
could only earn 36 cents an
could afford to live with a
modicum of dignity.
Ending child labor by hiring adults and paying them a fair wage:
Ending child labor is very doable. It is not rocket science. Whenever you find
the exploitation of child labor you also find high unemployment rates among
adults. Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney could immediately put an end,
once and for all, to child labor in any of their supplier plants by urging their
contractors to instead hire the parents and older brothers and sisters of the
children, and paying them a wage sufficient for them and their families
to at least climb out of abject misery and into poverty. In Bangladesh the
garment workers tell us that if they could only earn 36 cents an hour—
their dream—they could afford to live with a modicum of dignity.
Surly Hanes, Puma, Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney cold easily afford this. If these
corporations fail to act on such a modest request, they should explain to the
American people what the problem is.
The label is protected,
but not the human being . . .
What sense does that make?
It does not have to be this way.
How is it possible in the United States in the year 2006, that the corporate
label is protected by all sorts of enforceable laws backed up by sanctions, while
these same companies continue to oppose similar laws meant to protect the
basic human rights of the 16-year-old girl who made the garment?
As we have seen repeatedly over the years, voluntary corporate codes of conduct
and private monitoring schemes have never worked, and in fact, are leading us
down a dead end, namely the privatization of respect for human and worker
We need laws to protect human and worker rights in the global economy
which are at least every bit as strong as the laws corporations demanded and
won to protect their company trademarks, labels and products.
In 2006, Senator Byron Dorgan (ND) introduced anti-sweatshop legislation
which for the first time ever will hold corporations accountable to respect
internationally recognized fundamental human and worker rights standards.
Under the legislation, goods made under sweatshop conditions which violate
the core United Nations/International Labor Organization worker rights
standards—no child labor, no forced labor, freedom of association, the right
to organize and to bargain collectively, and decent working conditions—can
no longer be imported, sold, or exported from the U.S.
The bill already has 55 co-sponsors in the House (H.5635) and 4 in the Senate
We have protected the corporate label. Now it is time to protect the 16-yearold girl in Bangladesh who made the garment.
We need laws to protect
human and worker rights
in the global economy
which are at least every
bit as strong as the laws
and won to protect their
company trademarks, labels
Based on U.S. Customs Documents
Harvest Rich Ltd.
Star Centre, 2A 6th Floor, Block-C
Rd. No. 138, Gushan-1,
Dhaka 1212 BD
1000 East Hanes Mill Road
Winston Salem, NC 27105 US
Keith L. Shelley, Customs Import
SaraLee Branded Apparel,
1000 East Hanes mill Road
Winston, Salem NC 27105 US
UTI United States, Inc.
2001 Old Greenbrier Road
Chesapeake, V 23320
Norfolk, Port 1401
Date of Arrival:
Men’s Brief Underwear
Quantity: 1,340 Cartons
Based on U.S. Customs Documents
Maersk Logisitics (BD) Ltd., O/B of
Harvest Rich Limited
Star Centre, 2A (6th Floor)
Unto the Order o:
Rupali Bank Ltd.
34 Dilkusha C/A, Dhaka Bangladesh
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
601 N. Walton Bentonville,
Arkansas 72716-0410, USA
Charleston, Port 1601
Date of Arrival:
Men’s 100 PCT Cotton Woven Pants
Style No: NB36D001, NB36D001C
Quantity: 1,830 Cartons
Labor Law of Bangladesh
Bangladeshi Law Prohibits Child Labor. Bangladesh’s labor law strictly prohibits factories from hiring children under the age of 14.
If a factory hires children and adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17, they are prohibited from working more than five hours a day and 30 hours a week.
Children and adolescents may never under any circumstances be obligated to work at
night—between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
8-hour day, 6-day week.
48-hour regular work week.
Overtime must be voluntary.
Overtime not to exceed 12 hours (for a maximum 60- hour workweek) and should
not average more than 8 hours a week (for a 56-hour workweek).
Overtimes must be paid at double the standard rate.
Women may not work night shifts or past 8:00 p.m.
There must be one rest day off per week.
930 taka a month = $13.88 a month (based on a 48-hour workweek). This comes to 6
½ cents an hour, 53 cents a day, $3.20 a week and $166.57 a year.
All forms of physical punishment are outlawed and punishable under Bangladeshi law.
Company Contact Information
1000 East Hanes Mill Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Executive Chairman: Lee Chaden
Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility: Christopher Fox
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716
Phone: (479) 273-4000
CEO: Lee Scott
Director of Compliance: Rajan Kamalanathan
PUMA North America
5 Lyberty Way
Westford, MA 01886
Phone: (1) 978 698 1000
Fax: (1) 978 698 1174
Chairman and CEO: Jochen Zeitz
President and General Manager, PUMA North America: Jay Piccola
J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.
6501 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 75024 – 3698
Chairman and CEO: Myron Ullman
This is what we can do to end child labor and sweatshop abuses.
Write the companies:
Children belong in schools and not locked in sweatshops.
Child workers are already being fired at the Harvest Rich factory. We and our partners in Bangladesh are committed
to immediately assisting these children by replacing their salaries and providing stipends so they can return to school
where they belong. To do this will cost as little as $70 per month per child. You may want to “adopt” one of these
child workers and send them to school. Every single cent raised will go to Bangladesh to end child labor.
The Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity will head up this effort. Please contribute!
WHY IS THE “LABEL” PROTECTED, BUT NOT THE HUMAN?
Do you know that corporations have demanded and won all sorts of laws, backed up by sanctions, to protect their
company labels, trademarks, logos and products? Yet these same corporations say that extending similar laws to
protect the rights of the 16-year-old girl in Bangladesh who sewed their garment would be “an impediment to free
trade.” So in today’s global economy, the label is protected, but not the human being.
IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!
Please ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the “Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act”
(introduced in the Senate as S3485 by Senator Byron Dorgan and in the House as HR 5635 by Representative Sherrod
Brown) which for the first time will hold corporations legally accountable to respect fundamental human, women’s
and worker rights standards.
(You can read this watershed human rights legislation and see the list of current co-sponsors at http://www.nlcnet.org/live/
PLEASE HELP END THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM IN THE GLOBAL SWEATSHOP ECONOMY.
“Portrait of a Textile Worker” by Terese Agnew
National Labor Committee
540 W. 48th St., 3rd Fl.
New York, NY 10036
fax: (212) 242-3821