Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 16:34:17 -0500 (CDT)
Maquila workers win a round in Hondoras. Developments at the Yoo Yang and Kimi factories
Labor Alerts, 10 August 1999
Maquila workers at an apparel-for-export factory in Honduras won an important round in an effort to form a new union when leaders were reinstated within 72 hours of being fired last week. Workers at the Yoo Yang factory in Continental Park held an assembly to form a union on Saturday, July 31. At the end of the next work day, Monday, August 2, management fired key leaders of the union. The company also brought in a new personnel manager with a history of union-busting and who reportedly has ties to the police. Yoo Yang is a 550-person plant that produces for major U.S. companies including Dayton-Hudson, Phillips-Van Heusen, JC Penney, Kohl's and Salant.
The entire workforce engaged in a work stoppage on August 3, forcing management to agree to reinstate the workers. The leaders were allowed to enter management's office on the afternoon of August 3 but then were sequestered in an effort to persuade them to sign documents, which they refused to do. The next morning, when the union leaders showed up for work on August 4, management reneged on the reinstatement pledge and refused to let them enter the factory. The work force responded by resuming their work stoppage. Fully-equipped riot police reportedly armed with tear gas lined up outside Continental Park but the workers persisted. Meanwhile, limited but timely international pressure was applied (events moved too quickly to produce a broad-based action alert).
Later in the day, Yoo Yang management once again agreed to reinstate the fired workers and this time honored their agreement, reinstating the workers on August 5.
More than 50% of the workforce has joined the union, which is now preparing to file a petition for legal recognition from the Honduran government. The government is supposed to act within three weeks on a union application for legal recognition once it is filed. The union is also drawing up a list of demands for a collective bargaining agreement proposal.
Workers formed the union in an effort to improve wages and working conditions. Worker complaints include failure to be paid when they are sick, no coverage for medical costs, forced overtime, verbal abuse and no social security.
Continental Park is a controversial free trade zone outside of San Pedro Sula. Earlier this year, workers at the Kimi plant in Continental Park won a collective bargaining agreement after a two-year struggle. Park owner Jaime Rosenthal then informed Kimi management that he wouldn't renew Kimi's lease, leading to an international campaign in support of the workers who protested against a move to a new location at significant some distance from the current factory.
[Note: The Kimi move has been delayed for several months and efforts are underway to reach an acceptable resolution. Further action on the Kimi situation may be recommended shortly, but no specific action is requested at this time.]
Further action suggestions are likely in the next few weeks as the Yoo Yang union moves forward with its efforts to receive legal recognition and to obtain a collective bargaining agreement. At this point, letters of congratulations and support (see below) would be useful in trying to prevent any backsliding by management.
Please fill in and return the following information (not this entire alert!) to Campaign for Labor Rights <CLR@igc.org> or fax: (541) 431-0523 so that you can be included in the sign-on letter to the general manager of Yoo Yang. These letters will be sent on the letterhead of the U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project.
Please fill in:
Mr. S. A. Kang, General Manager
Dear Mr. Kang:
I write to congratulate you for deciding to respect the rights of your workers by reinstating union leaders after they were fired on August 2.
I encourage you to continue to respect the basic rights of your workers and to negotiate with the union in good faith. As you know, people in the U.S. are increasingly concerned about the conditions under which their clothing is produced abroad. Respecting the basic rights of your workers and negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with them would make your factory a rare model in Central America that will be attractive to U.S. consumers and companies.
CLR SWEATSHOP ACTIVIST ORGANIZING PACKET
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