Apathy in Jordan: The Classic Fashion Factory Exposed
The Institute for Global Human Rights & Law's expose of the Classic Factory in Jordan is gaining increasing attention across media platforms. Interviews with several factory workers document the daily abuse inflicted by factory management and ignored by the Jordanian government, oversight organizations, and retail distributors.
Though the report was published in 2011, cases of of abuse have been documented since at least 2007; inhabitable dormitories, 13-18 hour work days, unfair wages, physical mistreatment, and sexual exploitation all frequent the worker's accusations. A Sri Lankan factory manager, Anil Santha, lies at the center of these abuses. Santha is accused of a range of misconduct including rape and withholding pay, a pattern of exploitation which he sustained by threatening to deport workers if they complained. Though workers overcame the barrier of fear he constructed, the response of the authorities and upper management was less than effective; after a factory wide strike in 2010, Anil was sent away only to resume terrorizing workers one month later. On June 18, Anil was arrested after an employee recounted her rape before a prosecutor. He was released only three days later.
The Jordanian labor ministry's failure to protect the rights of these workers is consistent with its wider migrant practices; for example, in 2007, Bangladeshi men were banned from working in Jordan after attempting to pursue their rights as prescribed under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. The ministry continues to fail to enforce the Free Trade Agreement's labor clause.; Better Works Jordan, a monitoring group largely sponsored the by the U.S. government, has placed the factory on its "Golden List" of institutes in full compliances with labor laws for the past five years. Given that complaints have been registered against the factory for several years, workers accuse the ministry of taking bribes from the factory. The Jordanian government's reactions discourage workers to report mistreatment, as they risk their lives and employment only be subjected to apathy and retaliatory abuse.
As migrant workers' voices are effectively silenced by ineffective ministries and oversight organizations, change must come from those in a position of power - most visibly, the distributors who purchase Classic Factory's clothing. Retailers who source from the factory include Wal-mart, Hanes, and Macy's. Though monitors are periodically sent to the factories, they only speak with workers selected and primed by the management. Students in Chicago have recognized the need for these brands to take a stronger stand against these inhumane and illegal conditions. The students distribute fliers near retailer stores to encourage consumers to pressure companies to comply with the law and end the chronic exploitation.