Honduran workers' union under attack.

Author:Lucker, Andy
Position:Collapse of Capitalism? - Worker Rights Consortium

On the Worker Rights Consortium's website, there are Factory Reports on textile factories around the world. Recently, the sweatshop spotlight has been stolen by the recent WRC Factory Reports on the Jerzees factory in Choloma, Honduras, owned by Russell Athletic. (1) The factory was later, partially sold to Fruit of the Loom and currently produces Russell and Fruit of the Loom clothing. Fruit of the Loom had a more antagonistic management strategy, and as workers and labor organizers from the factory told United Students Against Sweatshops on the phone in October 2008, the company promised workers they "would never coexist with a union." (2)

When trying to unionize, the bosses tried to beat them to it by forming their own union at the factory, organized by and for management; these are often called "yellow unions" in Mexico. (3) But the workers were too strong. The workers' union had so much support from workers at Jerzees, the bosses could not contend. Throughout the workers' struggle, they have faced death threats, blacklisting, and countless other horrors, only to reach 2009, when the Jerzees factory was shut down.

Russell and Fruit of the Loom claimed the factory was "closing for production reasons," feigning this as a way to divide workers and fuel anti-union sentiment. Fruit of the Loom attempted to pit workers against the union by convincing them it excused laziness and unproductiveness. Throughout much of the most intense struggle (October 2008-January 2009), the workplace was split, 50/50, with union workers being on the defensive from anti-union pabulums about the union forcing Fruit of the Loom to leave.

Russell had three factories in Honduras. Yet, this was their only factory that had a union, and they were also the only one currently negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. Russell and Fruit of the Loom claimed the current economic crisis forced them to cut back on production, and because the Jerzees union gave workers a voice and protected their rights, Russell and Fruit of the Loom saw the Jerzees factory as the most cost effective factory to close.

Intimidation was conducted in several ways, but blacklisting was the predominate tactic. Blacklists were made by using references before hiring to ask questions about any potential union background. Companies network to carry out illegal anti-union strategies in Export Processing Zones (EPZ). (4) They enter union workers' and organizers' identification numbers and names into a centralized computer system, which allows (due to relaxed EPZ policies) businesses to disseminate information on them...

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