Child Labor 2005 Report

The Apparel Industry and Codes of Conduct: Footnotes Chapter III

III. Implementation Experiences of Codes of conduct in the U.S. Apparel Industry


1 The majority of the field visits took place over the period September 3-14, 1996.

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 in Sweatshops."

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 further investigation.

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).

12 However, all seven Indian apparel exporters (as distinguished from manufacturers) visited were aware of U.S. buyers' policies that child labor not be used.

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 Macor's, 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.

21 The reference is to the code being developed by the Apparel and Textile Industry Commission of the Association of Exporters of Non-Traditional Products (VESTEX).

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 visit.

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.

Child Labor 2005 Report

Child Labor

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