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Salvadoran Maquila Workers Fired for Union Organizing
Maquila Solidarity Network, 30 November 1999
Within days after applying for registration of their union, SETDESA, 10 of 11 union executive members and at least 17 other workers have been fired by management at two DOALL maquila garment factories in El Salvador's San Marcos Free Trade Zone.
On November 22, the day their application was filed, Union President, Rosa Delia Dominguez, and Secretary of Organization, Maria Magdalena Valladarez de Diaz, were asked to sign a statement that they were voluntarily resigning. Both refused. Ms. Valladarez de Diaz was offered 5,000 colones (US$575), including three years severance pay, but she refused to sign or accept the money.
SETDESA and the Salvadoran Workers Central (CTS) to which it is affiliated, are demanding the immediate reinstatement of the fired workers and the elimination of sweatshop practices, including an end to verbal abuse by supervisors, no more forced overtime, lower work quotas and an end to arbitrary increases in quotas. Presently, DOALL employees work from 6:50 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Average salaries are $US46 a week.
The larger of the two factories produces for Liz Claiborne and other major US labels. Sweatshop abuses at the factory, including forced pregnancy testing, were exposed in a 1996 CBC Fifth Estate program. At that time, a spokesperson for Liz Claiborne pledged that her company would not tolerate the abuses.
Please send letters demanding the immediate reinstatement of the fired workers, recognition of their union, and an end to sweatshop abuses. Write:
Paul R. Charron, CEO
See sample letter below.
Also send a letter by e-mail to the President of El Salvador, Francisco Flores, demanding that his government ensure that the rights of DOALL workers to freedom of association be respected. Send letter to: <email@example.com
Please send us copies of your letters. We'll include updates on the situation at DOALL on our web-site in the coming weeks: http://www.web.net/~msn.
SAMPLE LETTER to Paul R. Charron, CEO, Liz Claiborne Inc. (Please write your own, and send us a copy.)
Dear Mr. Charron,
I am/We are writing to express my/our grave concern about the firing of nine union executive members and 10 other members of the union at two DOALL apparel factories in El Salvador, the larger of which produces apparel for your company. It has been brought to our attention that the workers were fired between November 22 and 25, a few days after applying for the registration of their union. I/we also understand that union members have been offered severance packages and other benefits if they would sign statements that they were resigning voluntarily.
These charges are particularly disturbing since your company has recently received positive media attention for releasing a report on working conditions in one of your supply factories in Guatemala, a report that included specific recommendations on steps the supplier needed to take to bring its practices in line with your code of conduct and local legal requirements. I would urge you to apply similar vigilance to what is happening at the DOALL factory in El Salvador.
I/We am/are also aware that your company was severely criticized in a 1996 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Fifth Estate program exposing sweatshop abuses, including forced pregnancy testing, at the DOALL factory. At that time, a representative of your company pledged that those abusive practices would not be tolerated. Yet, almost four years later, we hear new reports of sweatshop practices at the DOALL factory, including forced and excessive hours of overtime, unreasonable production quotas, verbal abuse by supervisors, and forced pregnancy testing.
I/We urge you to ensure that your Salvadoran supplier, DOALL, respects provisions in your code of conduct, the Apparel Industry Partnership code to which you are a signatory, and Salvadoran law concerning their workers right to freedom of association without punishment or discrimination. I/We urge you to ensure that the fired union supporters are immediately reinstated, that DOALL management recognizes their union, and that sweatshop practices are eliminated.
Please note that I/we are NOT asking Liz Claiborne to end or suspend orders to the DOALL factory. I/we are asking that you work with the contractor to ensure that the rights of their workers to organize and bargain collectively are respected, and their right to decent working conditions is guaranteed.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. I/We look forward to receiving a report on the steps your company is taking to ensure that these workers' rights are respected.