III. Implementation Experiences of Codes of conduct in the U.S. Apparel Industry
2 The companies found not to be exporting apparel to the
United States at this time (or at least no doing so directly) are Duke Fabrics
and R.B. Knit Exports, both located in Ludhiana, India, and Tokyo Dress
Corporation and Ten Bears, Inc, located in Cebu, the Philippines.
3 Three of the subcontracting firms were located in
Guatemala and the other six in the Philippines. In Guatemala, they were
sub-maquilas producing for Camisas Modernas, a contractor for Phillips-Van
Heusen. In the Philippines, three subcontracting firms did sewing for
Castleberry, a contractor to JCPenney; A La Mode Garments was a subcontractor to
Triumph, Ltd., in Hong Kong, which sells to The Gap; Ten Bears and Go-Thong are
subcontractors to Nike. Ten Bears was not producing for export to the United
States at the time the company was visited. See Boxes III-3 and III-6.
4 ILO Convention 138 states that the minimum age for work
should be not less than the age of compulsory schooling, and in any case not
less than 15 years for developed nations and 14 years for developing nations
(with some exceptions regarding conditions and hours of work). See
Appendix F for full text of ILO Convention 138.
5 In 1994, Lesly Rodriguez, a fifteen year old who had
been working for two years in a Honduran maquiladora producing for Liz
Claiborne, traveled to the United States under the auspices of the National
Labor Committee to present testimony at a Congressional hearing about labor
practices in the Honduran garment industry. At the hearing, information was
provided that 2% of the Honduran maquila workforce were between the ages of
12-13; 11% were between the ages of 14-15. The figures were based upon a survey
of women maquila workers conducted by the Honduran Committee for the Defense of
Human Rights (CODEH) between November 1992 and March 1993.
6 In September 1996, representatives of CODEH told a
Department of Labor official that there has been a significant reduction
recently in the use of 14-15 year olds, and that most maquilas now hire
teenagers 17 years or older. A recent New York Times article on the
labor situation in the Honduran garment industry supports the observation that
children have been removed from the industry over the past two years. See
Larry Rohter, "Hondurans in `Sweatshops' See Opportunity," The New
York Times, July 13, 1996 [hereinafter "Hondurans in Sweatshops"].
7 Guatemalan labor law provides that 14-15 year olds may
work a maximum of six hours per day; 16-17 year olds a maximum of seven hours
per day. The labor code prohibits unhealthy or dangerous work by children under
16, as well as night work and overtime.
8 This was observed in Honduras by a New York Times
reporter who wrote that " . . . children . . . are buying fake documents in
an effort to sneak their way back into the apparel plants." See "Hondurans
9 The minimum age for work in El Salvador is 14, with a
few exceptions. Children under 16 are only permitted to work 6 hours per day,
34 hours per week. Night work is not permitted for children under eighteen.
10 A 1996 ILO study reported that in the Filipino
clothing industry, "there are an estimated 214,000 workers in small family
enterprises, mostly clandestine, in addition to the 450,000 to 500,000
homeworkers who also work in local subcontracting systems for national export
industries." See ILO Textile Report at 72. There is no oversight
of these firms because they are clandestine; labor conditions are notoriously
worse in these areas than in the formal factories. The actual number of
children found in garment subcontracting shops and in home settings needs
11 Although these producers indicated that they were not
aware of the concept of codes of conduct, two workers - and union officials - at
these two plants said to a Department of Labor official that they had provided
copies of the "Codes for [Korean] Overseas Investment Companies" to
the managers of the two plants. The "Codes of Conduct for [Korean]
Overseas Investment Companies" were adopted by the Economic Organizations
Council of Korea on February 23, 1996. The five economic organizations forming
the Council are the National Businessmen Association, Korea Commercial and
Industrial Office, Korea Trade Association, Center of the Medium/Small-Sized
Enterprises Cooperative, and the Korea Employers' Federation. Department of
Labor officials learned that representatives of the American Institute for Free
Labor Development (AIFLD) made this document available to the Federation of
Unionized Workers of Honduras (FESITRANH).
13 The companies indicating they received some training
in the codes of conduct from U.S. importers are: Dominican Republic - Hanes
Caribe, Grupo M, Interamericana Products, D'Clase Corporation, and RK Fashions;
El Salvador - Textiles Lourdes Limitadas; Guatemala - Camisas Modernas and Villa
Exportadora; India - Ambattur Clothing Company and Orient Craft; and Philippines
- Levi Strauss, Prago-Praxis, Mactan Apparels, and Globalwear Manufacturing.
14 In a short plant visit, it was difficult for
Department of Labor officials to determine how seriously the foreign producers
took this certification step. Some companies interviewed had difficulty finding
copies of the applicable codes of conduct or the certificates they signed. In
the Dominican Republic, for example, Denisse Fashion, located in the
Zona Franca San Francisco de Macorµs, and Polanco Fashion, located in Zona
Franca La Vega, stated that they signed and faxed to their U.S. purchaser [Dave
Goldberg Industries] a document certifying that they were aware of, and had
complied with, the code of conduct. However, company officials stated that they
had not retained copies of the signed document.
15 The Labor Code of El Salvador requires that every
private sector employer with more than 10 employees as well as government
organizations develop internal work rules, which have to be approved by the
Ministry of Labor (Article 302). Rules must be in accord with the Labor Code
(Article 303) and address the following topics: a) hours of work; b) rest
periods; c) place and time for receiving pay; d) person with whom complaints may
be filed; e) disciplinary provisions; f) activities that women and children may
not perform; g) medical examinations; h) safety and health; and i) other topics
that the Ministry of Labor might direct. Employers are required to inform
workers about the rules and post them in places that are easily accessible to
workers (Article 306).
16 Department of Labor officials conducting the field
visits did not ascertain for how long the codes of conduct had been posted. In
some instances, the copies that they viewed appeared to be very new, suggesting
that posting might have been a recent action.
17 In the summer of 1995, the U.S.-based National Labor
Committee publicized allegations of violations of worker rights in the Mandarin
plant. As a result of the adverse publicity generated, The Gap and other U.S.
companies sourcing from Mandarin canceled their orders. In December 1995, The
Gap agreed to source again from Mandarin under a system of safeguards that
includes independent monitoring for its code of conduct.
18 This startling result may be explained by two factors:
1) workers in the age group that was surveyed by CENTRA typically have very
short job tenure and may not yet have been exposed to codes of conduct in their
workplace; and 2) the study may have posed the question about codes of conduct
using the term "codigos de conducta," which young workers may have
interpreted as a code of ethical behavior of workers in the workplace rather
than as guidelines on the behavior of employers.
19 As mentioned above, the policy of only hiring workers
who are 18 or over seems to be a voluntary decision taken by El Salvador's
garment export industry and is higher than the legal minimum age for employment
set out in the Salvadoran Labor Code.
22 During an interview with Mr. Francisco Polanco, Human
Resources Manager of RK Fashion (Zona Franca La Vega) - a Levi Strauss
contractor - he stated that Levi Strauss' monitors have asked many of the same
questions regarding the implementation of its code of conduct as the Department
of Labor official visiting the plant.
23 U.S. companies interviewed in Chapter II stated that
even where there is contractual monitoring, representatives of the importer
verifying quality of product would get involved in addressing violations of
labor standards that might come to the inspector"s attention during the
24 In a follow-up telephone interview with management of
D'Clase Corporation, the Department of Labor was informed that California Safety
Compliance Corporation (CSCC) had been hired to audit the Kellwood contract.
CSCC auditors have already interviewed 8 workers at the D'Clase plant.