Falls Church, VA October 15, 2008 – The national Vietnamese-American nonprofit Boat People SOS, along with its partners in the Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery (CAMSA), on Wednesday called on giant clothing wholesaler Aramark to pressure one of its suppliers, the W&D Apparel factory in Jordan, to end sweatshop practices that have subjected Vietnamese guest workers to illegal wage cuts, dangerous overwork, and physical abuse.
“Aramark bills itself as a champion of fairness and accountability to the community, and we believe that sourcing clothing to sweatshops like W&D Apparel is out of line with that image,” said Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, executive director of BPSOS, which has 14 branches in the United States. “Our investigations have uncovered that Vietnamese guest workers at W&D Apparel have been beaten, worked for 14 to 16 hours a day, and cheated out of wages, and we’re not ready to see them get battered and ripped off this way.”
From late 2007 to early 2008, 261 Vietnamese workers, all but four of them women, were recruited to work at W&D Apparel. They faced slashed wages, grueling 16-hour workdays, passport confiscation, and even beatings by factory security and the local police. Resolving the situation took the intervention of the national Vietnamese-American nonprofit Boat People SOS, along with diplomatic, labor, human rights, and religious leaders from around the globe.
Today, some 105 remaining Vietnamese guest workers are still being cheated and forced to work inhumane hours. They, too, have petitioned to be allowed to go home. But they, too, have been stonewalled by W&D Apparel – even those among them who are ill.
“We are mobilizing community, business, diplomatic, and religious leaders to call on Aramark to make W&D change its ways,” said Nguyen. “Student leaders nationwide will be spearheading campus campaigns, because Aramark supplies many schools with sportswear.”
“We are calling on Aramark to do something very simple: Use its clout as a huge purchaser to press W&D Apparel’s Taiwanese owners to eliminate all sweatshop practices at their factory,” added Nguyen. “The owners also need to release the passports of the workers who want to go home, and compensate them for lost wages and physical and emotional damages.”
The campaign for justice for the W&D Apparel workers is coordinated by BPSOS, which in 2000 helped over 250 Vietnamese and Chinese workers escape from near-slavery at the Daewoosa Company in American Samoa. As part of the international Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA), BPSOS this year has secured compensation for 2,700 Vietnamese, Indonesian, Nepalese, Chinese, Burmese, and Bangladeshi guest workers in Malaysia.