Factory: Premium Apparel
Key Buyers: Gildan, New Agenda, Top of the World
Last Updated: 2021
The WRC investigated and worked to remedy Premium Apparel’s unlawful, mass retaliatory firing of nearly 50 workers, nearly all of whom were union leaders and activists at factory. The dismissals occurred in July 2020 following a nonviolent protest in support of workers who were sent home without pay, after being called in to work on the promise of a day’s wage.
The WRC engaged with the factory’s primary buyer, Gildan Activewear, who supplied collegiate licensed apparel to the licensees New Agenda and Top of the World (which, subsequent to these violations occurring, was purchased by the licensee, Fanatics, Inc.).
Under university codes of conduct and international labor standards, workers who are terminated in retaliation for associational activities have the right to both reinstatement to their jobs and back pay from the date of their termination to the date they receive the reinstatement offer. However, in June 2021, the dismissed workers told the WRC that, due to the time that had elapsed since their dismissal, they no longer wished to return to work at the factory but were still seeking compensation from the company for having unlawfully terminated them.
The fired workers and their union met with Premium Apparel’s management, which agreed to make payments to all 47 of the dismissed workers that were roughly equivalent to eight months’ wages per worker. The WRC determined, however, that the amounts paid by the factory were significantly less than the full amount of the back wages the fired workers were owed and—in light of the fact that they were not returning to their jobs—the severance payments which they were also due.
Through the WRC’s engagement with Gildan, Premium ultimately agreed to make additional payments to the workers in order to adequately resolve the freedom of association violations at the factory. The factory committed to making these payments, which was the equivalent of nearly 13 months’ wages per employee, no later than August 30, 2021.
Since 2011, the International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation’s Better Work Haiti factory monitoring program has consistently reported overwhelming noncompliance by Haitian export garment factories with the country’s legal minimum wage. A report from Better Work Haiti in April 2013 indicated that every one of the country’s export garment factories was violating the law. The WRC’s new report details for the first time, however, the massive scale of the unlawful denial of wages taking place in Haitian garment factories and its severe impact on Haitian garment workers and their families, revealing that these workers—some of the poorest in the world—are seeing roughly a third of their legally earned wages being effectively stolen every pay period. The report urges licensees and other North American apparel companies doing business in Haiti to immediately require their supplier factories in the country to begin paying their workers in accordance with the minimum wage law and to provide full back-pay to workers for past wage-and-hour violations. As already noted, the fact that there have been ongoing and widespread minimum wage violations in the country’s garment sector has, or should have, been known to licensees and other companies sourcing from Haiti—both from the public reporting of Better Work Haiti and, we must assume, from each company’s own supply chain monitoring—for some time. Yet this epidemic of wage theft, which, as this report details, leaves Haitian garment workers and their families without access to adequate food, shelter and medical care, has continued unabated for several years, with buyers failing to take effective corrective action.’ In response to the WRC’s report, Premium Apparel’s primary buyer, Gildan Activewear, has committed to bring their Haitian supplier factories into compliance with the minimum wage. In addition, Gildan Activewear has committed to negotiate directly with worker representatives in Haiti to remedy past non-compliance and make workers whole for past wage theft.
- WRC Factory Report: Premium Apparel (Haiti) – August 24, 2021
- Remediation at Premium Apparel (Haiti) – January 25, 2017
- Stealing from the Poor: Wage Theft in the Haitian Apparel Industry – October 15, 2013
In the News:
- “Gildan vows minimum wage for Haitian Garment Workers,” The Toronto Star – November 18, 2013
- “Group Says Haitian Garment Workers Are Shortchanged on Pay,” The New York Times – October 15, 2013