Allegations of Workers’ Rights Violations at Pinehurst Factory, Honduras

To:WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova and Jessica Champagne
Date:October 5, 2011
Re:Allegations of Workers’ Rights Violations at Pinehurst Factory, Honduras

We write to inform you of a complaint we have received regarding the Pinehurst factory in Honduras.  Pinehurst produces collegiate apparel for adidas and also produces for Nike, Club 21 USA (which manufactures and retails a number of fashion brands, including A/X Armani Exchange and DKNY), Kenneth Cole, Phillips Van Heusen (PVH), Margaritaville, and Quiksilver.

Earlier this year, Pinehurst recognized and commenced collective bargaining with Sitrapinehurst, the union freely chosen as their representative by Pinehurst workers. This welcome development came after several months of engagement by the WRC, and by brands sourcing from the factory, in order to overcome serious labor rights violations previously committed by the factory.

Now, however, we have received complaints alleging a series of new violations at Pinehurst.  While we are still investigating these allegations, we wanted to inform our affiliates as quickly as possible since we know that the issue is being raised on some campuses. We are currently investigating these allegations and plan to release a full report on Pinehurst soon. 

Pinehurst workers have alleged that (1) Pinehurst owner Jeff Brischke and Pinehurst supervisors have attempted to discourage workers from exercising their associational rights through repeated, threatening expressions of anti-union animus and (2) union members and leaders were targeted in a series of layoffs in August 2011. Initial evidence gathering provides strong support for the first allegation, at least.

In addition to investigating these alleged violations by Pinehurst management, we have concerns regarding the role of the major buyers in the factory. Pinehurst management has reported that the dismissals are a direct result of substantial reductions in orders by major buyers. While cutbacks in production are not, of course, a violation of university codes in and of themselves, buyers do have a responsibility to reward and support factories that have made progress on labor rights. When brands fail to do so, this undermines the factory’s incentive to maintain compliance. We will be addressing this issue further in our report.

These allegations come almost exactly a year after the WRC was initially contacted regarding workers’ rights violations at Pinehurst. In August 2010, Pinehurst attempted to block workers’ decision to form an independent union, Sitrapinehurst, by firing workers in retaliation for forming the union, initiating and coordinating the formation of a management-controlled union, and coercing workers to leave or refrain from joining Sitrapinehurst. The company refused to cooperate with duly authorized representatives of the Honduran Labor Ministry and provided false information both to labor rights investigators and to its own customers. Pinehurst also fired half of the union’s leadership and tried to explain the firings as part of a mass dismissal. 

The WRC investigated, documented these violations, and then notified Nike, adidas, and PVH. While it took the brands some time before they moved aggressively on remediation, they ultimately pressed Pinehurst to end its support for the company union and to recognize the union chosen by the workers. The brands’ efforts involved a productive investigation by Coverco, acting on behalf of the brands, which uncovered additional evidence of violations. In January 2011, Pinehurst recognized Sitrapinehurst and agreed to bargain.

We will keep you apprised of our findings as we continue our investigation at Pinehurst.

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW 
Washington DC 20005 
ph 202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292