A group of Thai and Latino immigrant sweatshop workers who were freed from slave labor in 1995 by a federal raid, won a lawsuit against the garment industry yesterday.
B.U.M. International, L.F. Sportswear, Mervyn’s and Montgomery Ward agreed to pay 150 workers $2 million, and Hub Distributors/Miller’s Outpost will pay an undisclosed amount. As part of the agreement, the companies do not have to admit they had any knowledge of the working conditions or the existence of sweatshops. The settlement will be divided between workers according to how much time each spent working in the sweatshop.
“This is a victory not only for these workers but for all workers who suffer in sweatshops. And it sends the garment industry a message,” said Julie Su, a lawyer with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, who represented the workers.
The sweatshop workers had been forced to work up to 20 hours a day for less than $1 an hour, and were barricaded inside a compound with high walls and barbed wire. Some workers had been there for several years. The Thai workers have already received $1 million in back pay, most of which was seized from the sweatshop during the raid. The Thais, who were illegal immigrants, were also allowed to get work permits and now work at regular factories.