New Factory Report: Premium Apparel (Haiti)

WRC-Header
To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Tara Mathur and Ben Hensler
Date:August 24, 2021
Re:New Factory Report: Premium Apparel (Haiti)

Please find here a new report from the WRC on Premium Apparel, a garment factory in Haiti that supplies the Canadian company, Gildan Activewear (“Gildan”), with collegiate apparel that Gildan supplied to the university licensees, New Agenda and Top of the World (which, subsequent to these violations occurring, was purchased by the licensee, Fanatics, Inc.). The report discusses the WRC’s investigation of and work to remediate Premium Apparel’s unlawful, mass retaliatory firing of nearly 50 workers, nearly all of whom were union leaders and activists at factory, in July 2020—following a nonviolent protest in support of workers who were sent home without pay, after being called in to work on the promise of a day’s wage. 

Given that Gildan was the party directly sourcing from Premium Apparel on behalf of university licensees (and, because, after Top of the World was acquired by Fanatics, it had ceased sourcing from this factory), the WRC engaged directly and extensively with Gildan to investigate and secure remediation for these workers. As a result of this extensive engagement, in May 2021, the factory management of Premium Apparel reached out to the fired workers and their union to discuss a settlement. 

Under university codes of conduct and international labor standards, workers who are terminated in retaliation for associational activities have the right to both reinstatement to their jobs and back pay from the date of their termination to the date they receive the reinstatement offer. In June 2021, the workers who had been fired from Premium Apparel in July 2020 told the WRC that, due to the time that had elapsed since their dismissal, they no longer wished to return to work at the factory but were still seeking compensation from the company for having unlawfully terminated them. 

Shortly thereafter, the fired workers and their union met with Premium Apparel’s management, which agreed to make payments to all 47 of the dismissed workers that were roughly equivalent to eight months’ wages per worker. The WRC determined, however, that the amounts of these payments from the factory were significantly less than the full amount of the back wages the fired workers were owed and—in light of the fact that they were not returning to their jobs—the severance payments which they were also due. 

The WRC communicated to Gildan that adequate remediation of university labor standards required that the terminated workers receive the full amount of back wages that were due for the period from their termination in July 2020 plus statutory severance benefits for their prior years of service. The WRC calculated and informed Gildan of the additional amount that workers had to receive in order to adequately resolve the freedom of association violations at the factory.

Following further engagement with the factory management, Gildan confirmed to the WRC that these additional payments, which will bring the total compensation that the terminated workers receive to nearly 13 months’ wages per employee, will be made to the dismissed workers by no later than August 30, 2021. Once these additional payments have been made to the 47 former employees of Premium Apparel, the WRC will consider the freedom of association violations resulting from their retaliatory terminations to have been significantly remedied. 

However, the WRC notes that the fired workers’ ultimate decision in this case not to return to the factory was a result, to a large degree, of the factory management’s refusal to reinstate them to their jobs in a timely fashion, an intransigence which both exacerbated the original violations and undermined the potential for achieving further remediation. The WRC will continue to stress the need, in cases of this kind, for factory owners to refrain from retaliating against workers for nonviolent associational activities in the first place and, where such retaliation nonetheless does occur, for remediation and provision of back pay to be secured and implemented as quickly as possible.

As always, we are available to discuss the report and answer any questions you may have.