El Salvador Update and Remediation at Impression Apparel

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Jessica Champagne
Date:April 17, 2015
Re:El Salvador Update and Remediation at Impression Apparel

In January, the WRC published Unholy Alliancesa joint report with the Center for Global Workers’ Rights at Pennsylvania State University on patterns of violations of workers’ associational rights in the Salvadoran garment industry. These trends include the collusion of factory owners and managers with an array of illegitimate, corrupt, and even violent organizations. These organizations include “company unions” that are created, supported, and controlled by the employer, the labor federation known as Fenastras, and violent street gangs. All three kinds of organizations are employed by factory owners to thwart independent labor organizing in the Salvadoran garment sector.

This new memo summarizes licensees’ responses to this report as well as steps taken by the WRC and the licensee Tailgate Clothing Company to address violations at a Tailgate supplier factory, Impression Apparel, that are typical of the abuses described in the report. The WRC shared the report with all licensees producing collegiate apparel in El Salvador, as well as their supplier factories. Six licensees responded to the WRC stating that they will incorporate the WRC’s recommendations into their code of conduct compliance programs and supplier factory audits.

On February 18, less than one month after the report was published, the WRC received a complaint from the Federacion Sindical de El Salvador (FESS) stating that, in January 2015, a Salvadoran garment factory known as Impression Apparel illegally fired three union leaders, all of whom were protected under Salvadoran law from dismissal without prior government authorization. Workers alleged that Impression Apparel management was colluding with the union federation Fenastras, a corrupt labor federation, which is, as the January report documents, actively working to prevent workers from joining or forming independent union organizations.

After completing an investigation including interviews with key witnesses and a review of documentary evidence, the WRC recommended that the collegiate licensee at the factory, Tailgate Clothing Company, intervene with the company to ensure that the violations were remedied, including reinstatement of the workers to their former positions and payment of back wages from the time of dismissal to the date of reinstatement. The WRC is pleased to report that Tailgate responded promptly to the request of the WRC to intervene and was able to press Impression Apparel to reverse the terminations, offering each impacted worker reinstatement with back pay for the time off the job.

The WRC will continue to monitor the issues outlined in the report and similar issues in other apparel producing countries.

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor 
Washington DC 20005 
ph  202 387 4884 
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