WRC Factory Investigation

BJ&B

Factory: BJ&B

Key Buyers: adidas, Nike, Reebok

Year: 2007

Case Summary

Labor rights concerns at BJ&B were first publicized by student anti-sweatshop activists in 1998 when workers from the factory visited college campuses as part of the students’ effort to promote the adoption of university codes of conduct. In late 2001, the WRC received a complaint from workers at BJ&B alleging that they had been fired in retaliation for their efforts to form a trade union at the factory.

The WRC found that the dismissals had in fact been unlawful and contacted licensees in early 2002. After Nike and Reebok intervened, the workers in question were reinstated and a process of remediation ensued that led to the elimination of long-standing problems at the plant, including of forced overtime, verbal harassment of workers by supervisors, and repeated efforts to coerce and intimidate workers who sought unionization.

In the fall of 2002, BJ&B management recognized the union that a majority of workers had elected to join, and a few months later signed a collective bargaining agreement — the first in any free trade zone factory in the Dominican Republic to provide for wages above the legal minimum. Following these breakthroughs, BJ&B was widely recognized as a stand-out facility in terms of its labor rights compliance and a key example of the positive impact that university codes of conduct can have on workers producing collegiate apparel. Unfortunately, beginning shortly after the collective bargaining agreement was signed, BJ&B’s parent company began reducing the size of the workforce.

During 2005 and 2006, the WRC expressed concern about the shift of production away from BJ&B to facilities with inferior labor rights records. In late February of 2007, the factory announced it would be closing and nearly the entire workforce was immediately laid off. In the following months, the WRC became closely involved at BJ&B once again, both in an effort to assess the reasons for the closure and in response to worker complaints regarding irregularities in the severance process. This latter issue was positively resolved in late May when BJ&B and its parent company initiated genuine severance negotiations with the union and an agreement was reached.

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