Photo: "Zara" caught exploiting their workers
In efforts to end modern day slavery, Brazil’s Labor Public Ministry published the names of 251 companies found to be exploiting workers and Spanish retailer and U.S. tween fave “Zara” was on that list.
Just a week ago, a factory in Sao Paulo producing clothes for the Spanish retailer was closed when it was discovered that 15 illegal Bolivian immigrants and one Peruvian, were forced to sew clothes for 12-14 hours a day, with no lunch, water for showering or drinking and were unable to leave their post without the supervisor’s consent.
The factory’s working conditions were also found to be deplorable and unsafe: a fire extinguisher found in the factory had an expiration date of 1998.
The Brazilian government issued a list of 52 charges against Inditex, Zara’s parent company, after dismantling the sweatshop. One of the workers was 14 years of age.
They were being paid between 7-12 cents per sewn piece; crumbs, considering a pair of Zara’s jeans retails for up to $126.
Investigations overseen by the United Nations show that one of the most common forms of contemporary slavery in Brazil, is bonded labor, where workers from humble beginnings are forced to work in order to repay a loan, often granted to them to pay for the cost of their trip into supposed freedom, unaware of their fate and under the impression they were seizing a dream opportunity.
Slave labor typically encompasses young people, mainly immigrants, 15 and up who are forced to work long hours with little to no pay; they are often threatened and subjected to physical, psychological and in some cases sexual abuse.
These practices are more common in certain industries, like the sugar cane and cattle industries. With the publishing of the Brazil’s “Dirty List” these industries have not only been identified, but will be subjected to fines, exclusion from state benefits (grants, loans, agricultural credits, etc.), and jail time in some cases.
Companies such as McDonald’s, Walmart and Carrefour have signed a “National Pact for the Eradication of Slavery,” and committed to end their business relationships with any company named in the “Dirty List,” a measure that could put more than one company out of business, as their main buyers would refuse to keep them afloat.
Zara’s representatives issued a statement saying that the accusations of slave-labor made against them represent a “serious breach in accordance with the Code of Conduct for External Manufacturers and Workshops of Inditex,” adding that all factories responsible for “unauthorized outsourcing” have been asked to immediately compensate their workers properly, as the company wishes to “foster the best conditions possible in the Brazilian textile industry.”