Update: Konffetty (Vive La Fete)

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova
Date:March 8, 2019
Re:Update: Konffetty (Vive La Fete)

I write to inform you that, despite the WRC’s best efforts, we have been unable to secure from Vive La Fete adequate commitments to remedy the labor rights violations by its supplier factory in El Salvador, Konffetty. Vive La Fete and Konffetty have proven unwilling to provide adequate back pay to address past violations and are unwilling to comply with the law going forward.

The WRC worked for several months with Vive La Fete’s owner to try to secure the necessary commitments. We felt the investment of time, and the resulting delay in our ability to deliver a final assessment to our affiliates, was warranted, because effective remediation was in the best interest of the affected workers. As long as there was a prospect of a positive resolution, we felt bound to exhaust all efforts to achieve it.

As part of that process, the WRC reviewed financial information provided by Vive La Fete for itself and Konffetty and, on the basis of that analysis, we concluded that the licensee’s financial constraints warranted a substantial reduction in the back pay due, provided the women’s organization advocating for the workers, Mujeres Transformando, was comfortable with such a reduction. The women’s organization agreed. We also worked with Mujeres Transformando to identify means through which Konffetty could achieve effective compliance with Salvadoran law, despite its unwillingness to formalize its relationship with its home embroidery workers.

Despite these efforts to find solutions that are consistent with university code requirements and workable for Vive La Fete, the licensee was unwilling to make the necessary commitments. Vive La Fete has asserted to the WRC that it is financially unable to implement the pay increases we identified as the minimum increases necessary to provide workers with the Salvadoran legal minimum wage of $1.23 per hour and legally mandated benefits. As we explained to Vive La Fete, its position boils down to claiming that the factory can’t operate unless it is allowed to ignore Salvadoran labor laws.

Vive La Fete has advised the WRC of its concern that our reporting may lead to the company’s loss of additional collegiate licenses and that this may affect the ability of Vive La Fete and Konffetty to continue operations. This may be true and, if it is, the consequences for workers will be significant. However, this does not alter our obligation to report the facts of the licensee’s noncompliance with university labor standards to our affiliates.

It is an unfortunate reality in the global garment industry that lax labor law enforcement in many countries has allowed some employers to become accustomed to operating outside the law and not all such employers are willing and able to adjust to operating lawfully – a phenomenon that has led to the closure of many unsafe factories in Bangladesh, for example. Building a culture of compliance and respect for law in the garment industry means that some employers will leave the industry, and it is a sad reality that the process of their departure will sometimes visit additional injustice on workers.

We appreciate universities’ attention to this important case. We are available to answer any questions you may have, and we will keep you apprised if there are further significant developments.

Scott Nova
Executive Director
Worker Rights Consortium

[email protected]