WRC Secures Five Months’ Wages in Unpaid Severance for Workers of Former Workwear Factory in Haiti

This past holiday season, former workers of Horizon Manufacturing, a garment factory in Haiti that made work uniforms for export to the United States, received more than $300,000 to correct nonpayment of severance they had been owed by the facility owner, since the factory closed in April 2022. Top workwear companies, Edwards Garment and Aramark Uniform Services), which had been supplied by the factory before its closure, enabled the factory’s 532 workers to receive all the money they were due through a voluntary humanitarian contribution to the former employees, which was distributed in December 2023 and January 2024.

Nonpayment to workers of legally due severance when garment factories close is pervasive in export garment manufacturing, not just in Haiti but worldwide. The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), which engaged with Horizon Manufacturing’s former buyers to secure their voluntary contributions to assist the workers, has estimated that, since 2010, garment workers, globally, have been denied more than $4 billion in legally due compensation when they lost their jobs.

The humanitarian contributions from the factory’s former buyers, which were made because the factory owner failed to pay statutory severance when the factory closed, provided the former Horizon Manufacturing workers with the equivalent of five months’ wages for each worker. These legally earned, but previously unpaid, funds represent a vital lifeline for these workers and their families, as their payment has come in the midst of widespread gang violence, political instability, and social unrest that has consumed Haiti over the past several years and severely disrupted its export garment manufacturing industry and workforce.

In the last two years, the WRC has worked with other major North American apparel companies, including Gildan Activewear, Hanesbrands, and PVH Corporation, to provide for payments where factory owners failed to pay severance to workers when factories in Haiti producing these brands’ apparel have closed.

In the case of Horizon Manufacturing, the WRC investigated the nonpayment of legally due severance to workers on behalf of the City of Los Angeles, California, for whose municipal government the WRC monitors compliance with the City’s Sweat Free Procurement Ordinance. The ordinance requires respect for basic worker rights and adherence with local labor laws in overseas factories, like Horizon before it closed, which produce apparel purchased for use by the City’s uniformed employees.

Prior to Horizon’s closure in April 2022, Edwards Garment and Aramark Uniform Services had fully paid the factory for their orders so that the workers could be paid. However, because Horizon failed to provide the workers their severance when it ceased operations, Edwards and Aramark made the additional voluntary payments to ensure workers were made whole.

Receiving the humanitarian assistance funds from the factory’s former buyers provided much needed relief to the Horizon Manufacturing workers, who had faced severe deprivation from not being paid by the factory owner the severance they were due when the factory closed, 20 months before. Workers told the WRC they had gone deeply into debt since the factory shut down, borrowing simply to buy food and other basic necessities.

One worker said, “I owed a lot of people money and was very ashamed when I would see them.” Another worker told the WRC’s interviewers, “After fighting for payment for almost two years, we had given up hope that we would ever receive the money we were owed …. [But] after I received it … I was able to pay for my children’s school fees and pay-off my other debts.”

The WRC recognizes the importance of the humanitarian assistance provided to the former Horizon Manufacturing workers by Edwards Garment and Aramark in remedying the nonpayment of workers’ earned compensation in this case and encourages other apparel companies to also act responsibly and ethically when they encounter similar violations in their overseas supply chains.