Reinstatement, Full Back Pay for Illegally Fired Workers at El Salvador Collegiate Apparel Factory

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Tara Mathur and Ben Hensler
Date:March 5, 2024
Re:Reinstatement, Full Back Pay for Illegally Fired, Suspended Workers Who Made Collegiate Apparel in El Salvador

Please find here a new report on the Worker Rights Consortium’s investigation and the remediation of violations of university and buyer codes of conduct at Westtex Apparel, a garment factory in El Salvador supplying collegiate apparel to the university licensees, 47 Brand, Gorilla Marketing, and Spirit Clothing Co. (Spirit Activewear and Spirit Jersey). The factory, which employs approximately 900 workers, also produces Disney-licensed apparel for Spirit Clothing Co., as well as non-collegiate apparel for Gap and Next Level.
The WRC’s investigation, which began in March 2023, found that Westtex violated university and brand codes of conduct by first illegally and discriminatorily firing five workers and, later, suspending for two months 13 other employees—all of whom were leaders of unions which had been formed at the factory to address worker complaints of abusive treatment and unpaid benefits. The Fair Labor Association also conducted an inquiry into the terminations of the five union leaders and, like the WRC, found the firings to have been unlawful. 
However, despite extensive engagement by the WRC, over the next six months, with the licensee, 47 Brand, and the non-collegiate buyers, Gap and Next Level, these brands were only willing to ensure partial remediation of the violations. Moreover, the university licensee, Gorilla Marketing, was even less responsive and did not engage in any substantive way to help achieve remediation.
To its credit, however, the university (and Disney) licensee, Spirit Clothing Co., worked closely with the WRC to ensure full remediation of Westtex’s violations of university and buyer codes of conduct. Ultimately, with Spirit’s assistance, all five dismissed union leaders were reinstated, and all 18 fired or suspended workers received full payment of back pay for the period that they were not receiving wages, with some employees receiving more than two years’ back wages.
Given this eventual positive outcome, the WRC considers that the violations of university and brand codes of conduct related to Westtex’s illegal firings and suspensions now have been fully remedied. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.