$1.3 Million Wage Theft from Salvadoran Workers Who Made Disney and Grey’s Anatomy Scrubs

One year after the factory closed, workers are still owed an estimated $1.3 million

The Industrias Florenzi factory in San Salvador, El Salvador, dismissed its 210 workers in the first half of 2020, finally ceasing operations in July. One year later, however, workers still have not been paid the $1.3 million in terminal compensation which they are legally owed under Salvadoran law for unpaid wages, severance, and bonuses. Moreover, the company also cheated workers by deducting money from workers’ paychecks for healthcare and pension coverage and then unlawfully pocketing these funds, rather than depositing them with government social security programs. The Salvadoran Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare has confirmed that the factory’s owners never paid the money it deducted from workers’ wages to the government healthcare and pension funds as the law required.

For months, the Industrias Florenzi workers pressed the factory’s owner to pay them the money they are owed, with no response. In early 2021, desperate for funds to support their families, workers went on a hunger strike for seven weeks.

Industrias Florenzi was a longtime supplier of Disney-branded goods to Disney’s licensee, Barco Uniforms. The decision of Barco Uniforms, which had been producing Disney-branded goods at the factory for more than 15 years, to end its production at the factory in December 2019 was a major cause of the plant’s closure. In January 2020, just one month after the last Disney goods were boxed and shipped, the factory began suspending workers en masse without pay or severance. In March 2020, after the Salvadoran government ordered nonessential businesses to temporarily shut down operations, Industrias Florenzi suspended additional workers, whom the company never called back. By June 2020, only eight workers were still employed at the factory. The next month, it closed permanently.

The WRC has called on Disney and its vendor, Barco, to fulfill their responsibility to ensure that the workers who made their product receive the estimated $1.3 million they are owed in unpaid wages and severance alone. (As noted above, there are additional arrears owed to workers, whose exact amount has not been calculated, in the form of unpaid contributions that were deducted from workers’ paychecks for healthcare and pension, which also must be addressed.) To date, neither Barco nor Disney have specified an amount that they are willing to contribute to ensure workers receive the funds they are owed and desperately need.

“I am a single mother and, since the factory closed, I have been very worried because it is very hard to find a job at another factory. I was receiving medical treatment but now I don’t have health insurance. And I don’t have the money to pay for my kids to go to school. I have had to borrow money. This has been very difficult.”

– Ana Vilma García

“I worked for ten years making clothes for Barco and Pierre Cardin. Now I am owed more than $6,000 in severance. We haven’t had any healthcare and so I haven’t been able to go to the doctor. We have had to reduce how much food we eat since I lost my job.”

– Concepción Cruz

“As a result of the closure, I have had to borrow a lot of money. I am a single mother and I have to take care of my kids and my mother.”

– Karla Ivonne Henríquez

“I worked at Industrias Florenzi for 18 years, and now I am owed more than $5,000 in severance. I take care of my mother, and my salary was the only source of income for our family. Now I am behind on making my house payments. I would give thanks to God if I was able to receive the money I am owed.”

– Maria Esperanza Aguilar

“I worked for Industrias Florenzi for 15 years. We made scrubs for Grey’s Anatomy. I take care of my parents and now I don’t know what to do. The closure of the factory has had a big effect on our family. We have had to take out a lot of debt because we don’t have enough money for food, medication, and other things.”

– Nuria Martínez

“Since the factory closed, my son had to drop out of school. I am also behind on my house payments. The closure had a big economic effect on us. If I receive the payment of my severance, my son will be able to start studying again.”

– Silvia Rodríguez Castillo

The WRC has previously reported on the Industrias Florenzi case in Fired, Then Robbed: Fashion brands’ complicity in wage theft during Covid-19.

Cover photo credit: Emerson Flores, Gato Encerrado (CC BY-NC 4.0)