Jerseys made in a Honduran sweatshop bearing the names of NBA and NFL stars, supplied to the pro leagues by Reebok, were on display at a press conference today in front of the NBA retail store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the National Labor Committee (NLC), the labor rights watchdog who discovered Kathie Lee Gifford's and P. Diddy's use of Honduran sweatshops, presented documents showing that many of the garments on sale for $75 a piece at the NBA shop on Fifth Avenue were made in a factory owned by the Korean Han Soll company under contract to Reebok. The workers were paid 19 cents per jersey to sew them.
"This is the third time over the past several years that we have found the NBA using sweatshops. Each time a league spokesperson tells us that they're investigating to make sure it'll never happen again. I would bet that the players whose names appear on the jerseys have no idea where these shirts were made. When will the players, their agents and the players' association put a stop to this?", said Kernaghan.
"If the NBA and NFL or their licensee, Reebok, would pay even 20 cents more per shirt, the workers could climb out of misery into poverty. Right now, the women who sew these shirts live in tiny hovels without windows, electricity or potable water" Kernaghan added.
"At the last moment, after Reebok and Han Soll learned of our investigation, obligatory over time hours at the plant were cut back and a preliminary agreement was signed by which the company appears to recognize the workers' right to organize a union. We see this as a positive first step but want Reebok and the pro leagues to keep their work in the factory and ensure that the workers' rights are respected," he concluded.
-- A note on how the research was conducted:
This report is a rare opportunity to hear directly from the workers in Honduras who sew NFL and NBA jerseys. Unlike Reebok, which spends over $150 million dollars a year on advertising and has no trouble making its voice heard, the Han-Soll workers repeatedly warned NLC that if management ever found out that they were meeting with the NLC, they would all be fired immediately. It took great courage, and trust, for these workers to come forward to tell the truth about factory conditions and the violations they endured.
The NLC interviewed dozens of Han-Soll workers between April and July 2005, our last interviews being on Sunday, July 17. At each meeting NLC spoke with different groups of Han-Soll workers, repeating the same questions to verify our information. The meetings were conducted in safe locations and under the condition that the workers' identities would remain strictly confidential to protect them from being fired. NLC received numerous worker pay stubs, and visited the workers in their poor homes. Such home visits more than anything else graphically illustrated the below subsistence wages earned by workers sewing $75 jerseys for the NFL and NBA. On two occasions, NLC filmed the workers locked in the Han-Soll factory compound, having to purchase their lunch from outside vendors by stretching their arms over the fence and through the barbwire.
Using PIERS (Port Import Export Research Service) data, which is compiled from U.S. Customs documents, NLC was able to track millions of dollars worth of NFL and NBA jerseys shipped from the Han-Soll factory in Honduras to Reebok in the U.S. In this way, we also discovered that the landed customs value of the $75 jerseys was just $5.03 each.
CONDITIONS AT HAN SOLL FACTORY USED BY REEBOK TO SUPPPLY NBA AND NFL:
Women who sew the jerseys are:
-- Locked in a factory compound ten to thirteen hours a day;
-- Discriminated against if they become pregnant;
-- Paid just 19 cents for every $75 jersey they sew -- meaning their wages amount to just 3/10 of one percent of the jersey's retail price!;
-- Insulted, shouted and cursed at by supervisors who are constantly speeding up the production lines;
-- Discouraged from speaking and need permission to use the bathroom -- and if they take too long, supervisors come to get them out;
-- Who can be docked three days' wages for taking a sick day; Forced to work overtime and can be at the factory up to 64 hours a week;
-- Earn a base wage of just 65 cents an hour, which meets only 60 percent of a family's basic food needs, leaving them trapped in deplorable living conditions;
-- Have no idea that Reebok, the NFL, or the NBA even have codes of conduct which are supposed to protect their rights -- many instead thinking the codes are rules demanding overtime to meet production goals;
-- Have no rights, who could be fired for even meeting with NLC, and surely would be fired and blacklisted if management even suspected they were organizing.
National Football League
Paul J. Tagliabue, Commissioner
280 Park Avenue
New York, BY 10017
Phone: (212) 450-2000