WRC Report on Chong Won Fashion, Inc. (Philippines)

To:Primary Contacts, WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova
Date:February 21, 2007
Re:WRC Report on Chong Won Fashion, Inc. (Philippines)

Please click here to read our new report detailing the findings and recommendations of a WRC factory assessment of Chong Won Fashion, Inc., a clothing factory in the Philippines. According to factory disclosure data, Chong Won has produced university logo goods for Oarsman Sportswear. The factory’s primary customer is a Wal-Mart supplier called One Step Up.

The investigation was conducted in late October and early November, in response to a worker complaint. The WRC Assessment Team spent five days on-site, and carried out substantial additional research both before and after the on-site work.

The WRC identified serious violations of worker rights and university codes of conduct at Chong Won: most importantly, failure to pay the legal minimum wage to a large number of workers, forced and excessive overtime, and some of the worst violations of the right to freedom of association that we have witnessed at any factory. Workers engaged in a legally authorized and peaceful strike have been subjected to repeated violent attacks by government agents acting at the behest of factory management.

The WRC has been attempting to achieve remediation at this facility, through communications with factory management and buyers, since November; however, no meaningful progress has been achieved. Factory management has refused to accept the findings of violations and has taken no corrective action. The university licensee, Oarsman, has been unwilling to acknowledge a relationship with the factory and has played no role in the remediation effort. Because of this, and because Wal-Mart is a far more important customer of the factory, the WRC’s main focus has been on Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, after initial indications that the retailer would be responsive, Wal-Mart has failed entirely to take action to compel remediation by Chong Won. The WRC is releasing this public report in the hope that this will motivate Wal-Mart to act.

One special aspect of this report is a concluding section that addresses the burgeoning human rights crisis in the Philippines. Over the last several years, a tide of political violence has washed over the country, involving hundreds of political murders; labor rights advocates and trade unionists have been among the primary targets. Much of the violence is apparently being carried out with the collusion or tacit approval of elements of the government and the armed forces — according to reports from respected human rights groups. The situation has become a subject of large and growing international concern.

Because violence against labor rights advocates and trade unionists has a severe impact on the ability of workers to defend their rights and on the ability of labor rights monitors to carry out their work, the WRC decided to look in some depth at the Philippines crisis. We reviewed a range of international and national human rights reports, spoke with NGOs and government officials, and, at the request of human rights advocates in the Philippines, looked closely at the recent murder of a prominent clergyman who founded a worker rights group that has been deeply involved in the efforts of the union at Chong Won.

It is clear from our review of the situation that the murders of trade unionists and labor rights advocates, and the broader climate of violence, represent a grave threat to the rights of workers at all factories in the Philippines. Violence of this magnitude must inevitably have a severe chilling effect on the ability of workers to exercise their associational rights, robbing them of a vital tool to defend all of the rights guaranteed them under university codes of conduct.

For this reason, we recommended in this report that all university licensees that source from the Philippines communicate their concerns to the Filipino government and to their suppliers (a list of licensees that source from the Philippines is included in the final section of the report). A number of non-university brands have already sent a letter to the government; if the licensees lend their voice to this effort, it may help persuade the government to take action. The WRC will communicate this request directly to licensees and we are prepared to assist them with the process of communicating with the government of the Philippines.

Universities that have strong relationships with these licensees may wish to consider communicating with them to urge them to comply with the WRC’s request.

With respect to Oarsman, it is important to note that the company’s refusal to acknowledge a recent relationship with the factory is in direct conflict with the factory disclosure data provided to the WRC, by the CLC, on Oarsman’s behalf. This data shows a relationship running right up to the present. If the data is wrong, this is an example of a broader problem of licensees listing factories in the disclosure data that they do not use and for which they will not take responsibility. The WRC has communicated our concerns about this situation to Oarsman and will consult further on the issue with CLC.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about this report.

Scott Nova
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292
[email protected]