Physical Attack on Workers at Tecnotex (Nicaragua)
To: WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From: Scott Nova and Jessica Champagne
Date: March 20, 2013
Re: Physical Attack on Workers at Tecnotex (Nicaragua)
We write to inform you of workers’ rights violations at a plant in Tipitapa, Nicaragua, owned by the multinational manufacturing firm SAE-A. The plant, Tecnotex, is disclosed by Gear for Sport International (GFSI) and Under Armour (UA), as producing collegiate apparel for GFSI under a licensing agreement with UA. According to worker testimony and import data, Tecnotex, and a sister facility, EINS, also produce non-collegiate apparel for Wal-Mart, Target, JC Penney, and Kohl’s. Because the two factories have the same owner and because some violations appear to have been a product of coordination between managers of the two plants, which are in close physical proximity to each other, we have included both plants in our investigation.
As detailed in this memo sent on March 8, 2013, to SAE-A and the buyers listed above, the WRC is carrying out an investigation into allegations that SAE-A has violated workers’ associational rights at its Nicaraguan facilities. On February 21, 2013, workers wrote to SAE-A, buyers and the WRC alleging a series of violations, including the termination of 16 workers (nine at EINS and seven at Tecnotex) in retaliation for workers’ lawful exercise of their associational rights. Subsequently, workers reported to the WRC that on March 4, 2013, SAE-A management fomented a violent mob attack on workers who were engaged in peaceful protest outside the Tecnotex and EINS facilities.
Based on initial investigative work, which has uncovered clear, unambiguous and convincing evidence, it is the WRC’s preliminary conclusion that, on March 4, SAE-A violated EINS and Tecnotex workers’ associational rights by directing and paying a mob of more than 300 other workers – while on paid company time – to attack these employees, using scissors, metal pipes, and other weapons. During this attack, one worker’s leg was broken in three places. This same person was also stabbed in the face with scissors, causing internal bleeding that is currently impairing his vision. According to a medical report, workers suffered severe bruising on their face, ears, necks, legs, arms, and torsos. Witnesses have also reported that other workers suffered broken ribs and a broken nose.
The WRC has also found, based on evidence gathered to date, that the allegations of retaliatory and illegal dismissals in this case are sufficiently credible and of such seriousness to shift the burden to the company to either present evidence that it has not engaged in such retaliation or take remedial action to remedy the dismissals and the chilling effect on workers’ associational rights. As described in the March 8 memo, the WRC requested that SAE-A provide any such exculpatory evidence.
In its written response to the WRC on March 12, 2013, SAE-A did not provide any such evidence or indicate any willingness to do so. SAE-A also did not respond to the specific WRC recommendations or identify any remedial actions that the firm is taking.
Given SAE-A’s unwillingness or inability to provide any exculpatory evidence, the company is obligated to proceed without delay to remedy the violations identified at Tecnotex, as required by university labor codes. We are urging similar corrective action at EINS.
SAE-A stated in its March 12 letter that it is waiting for the Nicaraguan legal system to address these issues. This response is not adequate. There is no reason, based on the well-established track record of the Nicaraguan authorities and on their actions to date, to believe that the Nicaraguan government and court system will act in a fair and timely fashion to address the events at these factories. Prompt remedial action is required to prevent irreparable damage to workers’ fundamental rights and physical safety, and the government cannot be relied upon to bring about such remedies.
The facts regarding the assault on workers are clear and, since SAE-A has declined to provide any exculpatory information regarding the other allegations, the only way forward is swift and effective corrective action.
The WRC will be following up with SAE-A, UA and GFSI, as well as the non-collegiate buyers. The WRC will also continue to investigate those issues on which we have yet to reach firm conclusions. We will keep you posted.
As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292