Unpaid Health Benefits and Two Worker Deaths in Haiti

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova, Tara Mathur, and Ben Hensler
Date:June 17, 2021
Re:Unpaid Health Benefits and Two Worker Deaths in Haiti

We write to share a new WRC report concerning two factories in Haiti making university logo apparel, Palm Apparel and Sewing International, that failed to pay legally mandated health benefits for their workforce. Evidence gathered by the WRC indicated that these violations of Haitian law and university codes were a contributing factor in the deaths of two workers, who died after the nonpayment of benefits impeded their access to medical care for life-threatening conditions. One worker died because he was unable to obtain dialysis treatment. The other worker died because she could not access urgent care to address complications of pregnancy; she died in childbirth at home, along with her child.

The two factories have a single owner: Palm Apparel Group. Gildan Activewear is the direct vendor to the licensees sourcing university goods from Palm Apparel Group, which include New Agenda, MV Sport, and Top of the World.

After engagement from the WRC, Gildan, which has the direct relationship with Palm Apparel Group, agreed to press the company to end the violations, pay health benefits, and provide substantial compensation to the families of the deceased workers. Palm Apparel Group agreed to take, and has taken, these steps. These actions serve as sufficient remedies for the specific violations of university codes identified by the WRC and will protect the workforce at these facilities going forward. These actions obviously cannot fully compensate these two families for their loss.

These violations are part of a broader pattern of nonpayment of health benefits at Haitian garment factories, which we are concerned may be endangering workers at other factories in the country making university logo apparel. The WRC has asked all licensees sourcing university apparel from Haiti to take several actions designed to determine whether health benefits are being properly paid by their Haitian suppliers and to correct any nonpayment identified. The following licensees have committed to take the steps the WRC requested: College Concepts, Gorilla Marketing, Knights Apparel, MV Sport, New Agenda, New Era Cap, Top of the World by Fanatics, and Uscape Apparel. 

It is imperative that all workers at university-related facilities have access to medical care, consistent with national law in Haiti.  We will work with these licensees, and Gildan, on implementation, and we will update universities at the next appropriate juncture. 

One licensee, Uniform Shoppe, which appears to work with only one university, has not responded to the WRC.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or would like to discuss.