The Worker Rights Consortium is pleased to report that Southern California-based Barco Uniforms, Inc. has made a humanitarian contribution of more than $1 million to the approximately 200 former employees of Barco’s former supplier, the Industrias Florenzi factory in El Salvador. The purpose of this contribution is to successfully resolve the issue of unpaid severance benefits, as well as wages and other compensation, which have been legally owed to the workers by the factory’s Salvadoran owners since the facility closed last year. The factory’s workers made medical scrubs for Barco, including Barco’s popular “Grey’s Anatomy” branded scrubs, which it sells under a license from Disney. The workers also sewed garments for other US buyers.
Following the WRC’s engagement with Barco, concerning the failure of Industrias Florenzi’s owners to pay workers the compensation legally owed them when the factory closed, Barco agreed to make the $1 million-plus contribution. This will provide, on average, roughly $5,000—almost 14 months wages—to each of the factory’s 207 former employees. Many of the factory’s former employees have been in dire financial straits since losing their jobs when the plant closed in July 2020 without paying them due compensation. The contribution, which is solely funded by Barco, will help workers and their families recover from the financial, health, housing, educational, and nutritional challenges they have experienced.
The positive resolution of the case through Barco’s contribution comes after more than a year of efforts by the former Florenzi workers, the Worker Rights Consortium, and Salvadoran labor unions and women’s rights organizations to raise attention to the workers’ plight and the need for them to be paid their legally owed severance and other compensation. Several other civil society organizations raised concerns over the workers’ situation, including the US healthcare workers unions, California Nurses Association / National Nurses United and Service Employees International Union, and the labor rights nongovernmental organizations Clean Clothes Campaign, Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, and Maquila Solidarity Network.
The WRC is working with a Salvadoran women’s organization, ORMUSA (Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace), to carry out the distribution of Barco’s contribution to workers.
The WRC’s Field Director for the Americas, Tara Mathur, said, “Factories closing without paying legally mandated severance is a chronic problem across the supply chains of leading apparel brands and retailers. The WRC supports the creation of a Global Severance Guarantee Fund; the problem won’t end until such a safeguard is in place. In the meantime, we celebrate every time workers who were not paid by their employer obtain such strong financial support from buyer brands.”