At a news conference held Wednesday (5-28) on Capitol Hill, a fifteen-year-old girl told of abuses in a sweatshop in her native Honduras that made clothing for retail giant Wal-Mart’s Kathlie Lee Gifford line of clothing. Wendy Diaz said about 100 minors as young as 12 years old worked 13 hours a day for a wage of 31 cents an hour in the factory. She spoke of verbal and physical abuse by employers toward the children, as well as sexual harassment and intimidation to keep them working until 6:30 a.m. at times. Diaz said the Global Fashions company tried to force pregnant women to quit in order to avoid paying maternity leave, forcing the women to stand for 12 hours in the heat of the pressing room. Workers were only allowed two trips to the bathroom all day, and were fired if they tried to organize a union, Diaz said.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) commented on rampant abuses of child labor laws and called for U.S. companies to certify that their products were created without child or exploited labor by adopting the use of a “No Sweat” label. Diaz said U.S. contractors visited the sweatshop several times, checking only on the quality of the work but never talking to the workers. Diaz, who quit her job at the factory two weeks ago, spoke on behalf of her co-workers and called for better wages, an end to verbal and physical abuse by employers, and the opportunity to attend night school and to organize to protect their rights as workers.