We had a server outage, and we're rebuilding the site. Most of the site features won't work. Thank you for your patience.
imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

El Salvador's Sweatshop Economy

by Stephen Lendman Sunday, Feb. 06, 2011 at 9:28 AM


El Salvador's Sweatshop Economy - by Stephen Lendman

A previous article addressed global sweatshop wage slavery, accessed through the following link:


Definition of a Sweatshop

The term has been around since the 19th century.

Definitions vary but essentially refer to workplaces where employees work for poor pay, few or no benefits, in unsafe, unfavorable, harsh, and/or hazardous environments, are treated inhumanely by employers, and are prevented from organizing for redress.

The term itself refers to the technique of "sweating" the maximum profit from each worker, a practice that thrived in the late 19th century.

Webster calls them "A shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages under unhealthy conditions."

According to the group Sweatshop Watch:

"A sweatshop is a workplace that violates the law and where workers are subject to:

-- extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or long hours;

-- poor working conditions, such as health and safety hazards;

-- arbitrary discipline, such as verbal or physical abuse, or

-- fear and intimidation when they speak out, organize, or attempt to form a union."

It's mainly a women's rights issue as 90% of the workforce is female, between the ages of 15 - 25. But it's also an environmental one as the global economy exacts a huge price through air pollution, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, ocean and fresh water contamination, and an overtaxed ecosystem producing unhealthy, unsafe living conditions globally.

Wage Slavery in America

In America, the US Department of Labor estimates that half or more of the nation's 22,000 garment factories are sweatshops, mostly in the apparel centers of New York, California, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta, but also offshore in US territories like Saipan, Guam and American Samoa where merchandise is labeled "Made in the USA."

In all locations, wages are below subsistence, benefits few if any, unions banned or powerless, and regulatory enforcement lax or absent. Moreover, hours are long, working conditions unsafe, and those complaining are fired and replaced.

Conditions are also horrific for around two million farm workers. They're ruthlessly exploited, living in impoverished misery, without benefits, a living wage, overtime pay, or other job protections, even for children.

Domestic servitude is another problem, affecting many thousands, usually foreign women taking jobs as live-in workers, mostly for the wealthy, foreign diplomats, or other domestic or foreign officials.

Excluded from labor law protections, they're underpaid, overworked, abused, given limited freedom, denied medical care, proper food and nutrition, and are subjected to unsafe working conditions.

So are many restaurant and hotel workers. They're also underpaid, get few benefits, worked long hours with no overtime pay, fired if they complain, and these practices exist for lack of regulation and a growing demand for cheap labor. As a result, unscrupulous employers exploit powerless workers for profit.

If it's common in America, what chance have workers in developing countries with lax labor laws, offering few protections, even for children, to attract business.

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

Its campaigns include stopping sweatshops in El Salvador and at home, urging consumers boycott companies profiting from worker exploitation. It's also promoting Violation-Free Zones in El Salvador's Free Trade ones, assuring fundamental worker rights to organize collectively for better pay and working conditions. Currently, workers there have no rights. More below explains.

New Report on El Salvador's Sweatshop Economy

The National Labor Committee (NLC), now called the Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights (IGLHR), prepared it. Issued January 24, it was prepared jointly with Mujeres Transformando/Women Transforming (a Salvadoran women's rights NGO), discussing El Savador's sweatshop economy "where women are paid just eight cents for each NFL shirt they sew at Ocean Sky Sweatshop." It represents six-tenths of 1% of each shirt's retail price.

IGLHR's Executive Director, Charles Kernaghan authored the report with help from a six-member research team, including himself. Its findings are discussed below.

About 1,500 mostly women are affected, "locked in a Free Zone, surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by guards armed with shotguns."

Besides the NFL, Ocean Sky produces garments for Reebok, Puma, Old Navy (GAP), Columbia, Talbots and Penguin (Munsingwear). Merchandise enters America duty-free even though El Salvador "is in blatant violation" of CAFTA-DR's loophole-ridden labor standards.

Workers are treated like prisoners. Under scorching heat, they report being drenched in their own sweat, constantly cursed at and humiliated. Moreover, security cameras monitor them. Illegal overtime is mandatory. They're constantly pressured. Factory water is contaminated with fecal coli, causing diarrhea, intestinal illnesses and infections. For alerting fellow workers of the problem, six were fired.

They earn a below-subsistence 72 cents an hour base wage, up to 92 cents with a good attendance bonus. Even El Salvador's Ministry of the Economy admits wages meet only one-fourth of a family's basic needs. Moreover, even mentioning the word "union" assures termination.

Sweatshop Sewing Lines (Modules)

Each one has 14 workers, required to complete 1,500 T-shirts in daily nine-hour shifts. Workers have no rights. Each one must finish 12 T-shirts hourly (five minutes per shirt), 167 per module.

Sky International Limited

Headquartered in Singapore, it operates facilities there, in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Madagascar, and three El Salvador ones. Initially it was under its Hoons Apparel International name, later changed to Ocean Sky Apparel in January 2008.

Over 75% of its workers are women. Plant No. 1 operates the main production lines and packing department. Plant No. 2 has the cutting section and two small sewing lines, producing samples, as well as a storage warehouse. Plant No. 3 operates printing and embroidery departments.

Its web site promotes its "Vision-Mission-Values," including "Fun and Warmth," saying Ocean Sky strives:

"To provide a happy and caring environment. 'Find a job that you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life.' (The company stresses) teamwork. We encourage employee involvement and participation, and respect the individual contribution to our success. (It's also committed) to enhance the quality of life and protect the environment of the communities in which we do our business."

According to one worker, "We're treated like animals. I tolerate working at the factory only because of my children."

El Salvador's Free Zone a Virtual Prison

Patrolled by shotgun-carrying guards, its walls are topped with razor wire. Workers must show ID cards to enter. Others aren't let in. Surveillance cameras monitor everything. Workers are harassed, threatened and abused. Talking is prohibited. Another worker said:

"I feel my hands shake because of the constant pressure we are under. There is a man that is constantly measuring the time we spend on sewing a garment. Supervisors and group leaders are the ones that mistreat the workers the most. They tell us to quit if we don't like the work....Even the general manager insults the workers who cannot reach their goals," cursing them.

"We are told that we have no right to demand anything 'because you're in the factory to obey and work, (and) don't ever contradict what we say because we are your boss.' "

A former senior worker called Ocean Sky "an awful experience because there was so much pressure and too much shouting. We faced injustice....we were treated like children. They took away our time for lunch (and) kept us" overtime without pay to complete daily quotas.

They said if their shirts didn't sell in America, "we are going to be left without work and with nothing to eat." But "we are always hungry anyway. If someone has a conscience in the US, they should feel guilty to be wearing such an expensive shirt while they don't understand what it costs us here, being exploited."

CATFA-DR Provisions

Though one-way favoring corporate giants, it ostensibly "guarantees that the government of El Salvador and the apparel companies respect the legal rights of Ocean Sky workers." Yet, they're unaware that laws prohibit forced overtime, require they be treated with respect and correctly paid, and have the right to organize and bargain collectively with management.

Moreover, apparel companies have good conduct codes, affirming worker rights, and are supposed to conduct surprise audits to assure them. In fact, labor rights aren't enforced, so companies freely exploit poor women and men, unaware of their rights with no power to demand them.

Horrific Working Conditions

Despite year round tropical temperatures, Ocean Sky sealed all factory windows and keeps doors shut once worker shifts begin. They say dust extractors are installed, but ventilators don't circulate fresh air. In late April, temperatures reached 98 degrees, and assembly lines are so closely packed that sewing machines increase heat levels.

"We feel dizzy from the heat," one worker said. Others complained of headaches and exhaustion by 2PM, and if not for loud music to maintain alertness, they'd doze off from extreme exposure. One sewing machine operator explained:

"We can feel the sweat running down our legs. We sweat so much our shirts stick to our bodies. It feels so uncomfortable. When I get onto the shuttle bus, I am ashamed because I smell so bad every day."

Filthy Drinking Water Not Fit for Washing

Gotten from factory taps, they fill small plastic bottles to use at work stations, but it tastes bad, they say. Yet supervisors call the water "filtered and good to drink." In April and August 2010, lab results showed it contained fecal coli, meaning it was contaminated with raw sewage liable to cause diarrhea and salmonella poisoning. Pseudomona aeruginosa and heterotrophic bacteria were also found, a lab report saying:

"We have found a large amount of bacteria in the water, and it is serious. The water is totally polluted, and can cause sickness in humans such as diarrhea, stomach pain, stomach infections, nausea, vomiting, and can foster conditions for parasites and amoebas. The Pseudomona aeruginosa bacteria can grow in small cuts in the skin and can cause skin infections even for workers who have small cuts on their hands if they wash with this water."

"We recommend an investigation of the water pipes, a cleaning of the pipes using chlorine, and to check and clean the filters, or install new" ones.

For mentioning polluted water, six workers were fired. Afterward, management announced that water quality would improve. Late in May they said new filters were installed, and "the water was now purified and 100 percent safe to drink." However, August tests showed it was "too polluted to be used as drinking water."

In fact, Ocean Sky "is run pretty much like a minimum security prison where the workers, or 'inmates,' are prohibited from speaking or questioning anything regarding how management runs the factory."

Omnipresent Surveillance Cameras

Installed throughout the factory, they're in locker areas, on the production floor, in the packing department, even outside worker bathrooms. All their moves are monitored, pressuring and intimidating them to perform and obey all rules, including minimal use of toilets, no loitering and no talking while working.

Illegal Forced Overtime

Regular El Salvador work weeks are 44 hours. At Ocean Sky, factory hours are from 6:45AM - 4:30PM with 45 minutes for lunch, and no other breaks, totaling nine and three-quarter hour days, an hour less on Fridays.

According to state labor law, all overtime must be voluntary. Coercion is prohibited. The Salvadoran Labor Code's Article 170 stipulates:

"Overtime work may only be agreed upon on an occasional basis when unforeseen or necessary circumstances demand it," and must be voluntary and limited.

However, Ocean Sky management has its own rules, requiring mandatory overtime, clear signs reading:

"Given the nature of the work carried out, your work shift will be, without further process, subject to overtime work according to the needs of the company, whenever this is required" to complete quotas.

As a result, operations sometimes continue until 8:30PM, including a 30 minute supper break. On a six-day schedule from April through June, workers spend 68 and a half hours at the factory, working 62 and a half hours, including 18 and a half mandatory overtime hours.

During especially busy April weeks, 13 and three-fourths daily hours are required Monday - Friday. In July and August, production slows somewhat to 63 factory hours present, 58 and one-half spent working, including 14 and one-half mandatory overtime hours. By September and October, lower production means little or no overtime for a 44-hour work week for 5.41 a month, a fraction of what a family needs to survive.

Well Below Subsistence Wages

Base wage is 72 cents an hour, raised to 92 cents if workers miss no workdays and arrive regularly on time. Nonetheless, at below subsistence levels, it traps them and their families in poverty, earning from ,650 - ,100 annually.

Other benefits include .05 vacation pay, and with one to three years at the same factory another .76 Christmas bonus. Workers there longer get .85.

They're paid every two weeks by direct bank deposit with no pay slips except to review briefly and sign. Workers complain that they're written in Spanish and English. They're also too complicated to check if they've been correctly paid.

Clearly, they get well below subsistence pay. In December 2009, El Salvador's Ministry of Economy said families of 3.81 people need 9 a month to meet basic needs, including housing, food, utilities, transport, education, shoes, and other essentials.

A Final Comment

IGLHR's Kernaghan notes that efforts to "promote and protect human, women's and worker rights in the globally economy have hit a brick wall." Corporate codes of conduct are meaningless. Workers have no rights. These "codes existed side by side with slave labor conditions."

Guilty parties include Wall-Mart, Kohl's, Sears, Nike, GAP, LL Bean, Hanes, Gloria Vanderbilt, Wrangler, and many others. Under CAFTA-DR, workers "have no rights or voice." Those complaining are fired and blacklisted.

Above all, Washington bears most responsibility, letting corporate allies brutally exploit workers. Unless that changes, nothing else will, and, in fact, conditions are worsening. The "reality on the ground is exploitation and the creation of a permanent underclass to service our economy."

Moreover, since the late 1970s, it's been US policy. Corporate power runs America. Unions have been crushed. Full-time, high-paying jobs have been sacrificed for part-time, low-paying ones with few or no benefits, and under Obama rampant unemployment, homelessness, hunger and despair have grown unabated, heading the nation for third world status.

Kernaghan asked if Washington "will give workers across the developing world a voice and empower them to exercise their legal rights?" Examining where America is headed suggests no chance whatever for workers globally.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Report this post as:

Local News

Woolsey Fire: Worst News of 2018? J01 12:18AM

Oppose Environmentally-Harmful Development D10 4:03AM

Oppose Environmentally-Harmful Development D10 3:58AM

OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center Presents Night for Hope O30 5:38PM

Marshall Tuck’s racist dog whistle O27 5:01AM

Marshall Tuck’s ethnocentrism contradicts Californian values O27 4:32AM

Contra Costa-Hawkins O25 3:48AM

Debunking Some Anti-Prop 10 Propaganda O12 6:56AM

Why Should California Choose De Leon Over Feinstein? O10 9:55PM

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News


PR Debt Cancel, Judge Reviews Cofina Debt J16 9:04PM

Réseautage, fragmentation du capital J16 4:20PM

Paraphysique de manipulation mentale et sociale J15 9:51AM

The Global Justice Project and Human Survival: We're Badly Off Track J15 5:08AM

The Global Justice Project and Human Survival: We're Badly Off Track J15 5:08AM

The Global Justice Project and Human Survival: We're Badly Off Track J15 5:08AM

Markets as a Fetish, Globalization, and Dissent Management J14 1:03PM

State Debts - The Primal German Fear J13 5:09PM

Sans liberté, sans égalité, sans fraternité J13 8:09AM

From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump - and Beyond J12 9:22PM

Copper Cures Cancer J11 1:42PM

Steven Taylor, Investor who Evicts J11 9:24AM

Du sectarisme, des sectes, des clans J11 8:10AM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen J10 6:34PM

Patrick Kilpatrick discusses and signs Dying for Living J09 11:51PM

SexActs vs Sexuality USA 2018 Invitations to Power Marriages without Affection J09 8:36PM

Changer de mentalité, changer de société J09 9:17AM

Teacher Strike? Time for Labor Studies J09 6:26AM

December 2018 Honduras Coup Update J08 10:12PM

Paraphysique de la désespérance J07 9:38AM

The Unification Church with Rev Moon is in La and Orange Counnties J07 9:07AM

Time to Start Imagineering a Post-Ayatollah Iran J05 10:00PM

L'écomorphisme, du culturel et du temporel J05 10:33AM

Sexual Harassment Charges of Men Suing Women who are accused of Harassing Men are now 10% J05 4:08AM

Stases psychiques et stases sexuelles J04 11:34AM

Paraphysique de la sous-vie J02 9:01AM

Paraphysique de la biomasse mondialisée J01 9:45AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy