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CHENTEX ACCORD SIGNED


An Update on this Unprecedented, Anti-sweatshop Victory


On Thursday, May 10, the Sandinista union at Chentex garment factory signed an accord with management that will return to work four fired union officers and 17 workers fired for union sympathies. The agreement ends a year-long campaign which ignited support by trade unionists and human rights activists on four continents.

The four union leaders-chosen by the union from among the seven deemed acceptable by management (not including union general secretary Gladys Manzanares or labor affairs secretary Harling Bobadillo)-will return to work on Monday, May 14 at 9 am. They will receive all their back pay for the past 12 months. The other 17 will enter two by two each Wednesday beginning Wednesday, May 16. The rest of the union leadership will receive back pay, vacations, double severance pay, and an additional US$1,135 bonus. The union plans to divide up the bonuses among all the union leaders, including the four inside the plant.

Though the favorable ruling by the Managua Appeals Court on April 4th gave the union the right to have nine of the union officers reinstated by force, the organizers knew that Chentex management would make their lives impossible. They would probably fire them and force them to start the whole process over again. In addition, Pedro Ortega, general secretary of the Federation of Textile and Garment Workers, stated in a press conference that this decision means that 17 of the workers who supported the union would also get their jobs back, whereas the court ruling only applied to the union leadership.

Under the agreement, both sides promise to withdraw the remaining suits that were still pending in Nicaraguan and foreign courts. Chentex will withdraw its suit demanding the dissolution of the union and the criminal charges against the union officers. The suits demanding rehiring of union leaders in Managua's labor court will be withdrawn by the union as well as the case against Chentex and its parent company Nien Hsing in United States District Court in California.

The international campaign (which Chentex manager Carlos Yiin falsely characterized as a boycott at the press conference) is officially called off as part of this agreement. The workers repeated numerous times their appreciation of the international solidarity movement its our continued support in this long process. They said that they were all glad to have come to a resolution.

The signing was public with many representatives of the press in attendance. Among the leaders in the long struggle who attended the signing were Vilma Nuņez and Bayardo Isaba from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Gustavo Porras from the FNT, Luis Barboza and Miguel Ruiz from the Jose Benito Escobar Confederation (CST/JBE), Pedro Ortega of the Textile and Garment Workers' Federation, all the Chentex union leaders, as well as Carlos Yiin and Chen Yu Po, the general managers of Chentex.

Congratulatory messages were not slow in coming in. Among the first was a message from the group "Taiwanese Solidarity for Nicaraguan Workers" which had held protests at the stock holders' meetings of Chentex's parent company Nien Hsing, among other actions. Their message read: "Please convey our sincere congratulations to CST, the unionists and members of CST Chentex union, and everyone involved in the Chentex campaign for the signing of the accord. This is a struggle we will never forget. We, like all of you, have learned a lot and feel very proud of it. We will strive to contribute more to international solidarity in the future!"

Activists in the United States carried out hundreds of actions over the length of the year-long campaign, many of them at Kohl's Department Stores around the country. European activists took up the campaign and a trade union leader from Lesotho in southern Africa, where Nien Hsing also has factories, journeyed to Nicaragua to express his solidarity with the Chentex workers. But the principle credit, of course, goes to the Nicaraguan workers and union leaders whose courage and patience brought them through to the successful end of this long fight. As Pedro Ortega has said, "This is truly a victory for us all."

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Background and Links to Analysis, Campaign History, and Other Information

Chentex is a factory in the Las Mercedes Free Trade Zone outside of Managua, Nicaragua. It is owned by a Taiwanese business consortium named Nien Hsing. The factory employs 1,800 workers who produce 25,000 pairs of jeans each day. These workers, mostly young single moms, make on average 20 cents per pair of jeans they sew. The jeans get sold in Kohl's stores in the U.S. for 30 dollars. In April and May of last year, the factory's management fired 700 workers for who were affiliated with a union that was working to get an 8 cents wage increase. Since that time, solidarity activists in the U.S., Taiwan, and internationally have mobilized in support of the Chentex workers right to organize. There have been over 400 actions at Kohl's stores, and about 4,000 letters have been written to Kohl's, Nien Hsing, and officials in Nicaragua. The Chentex struggle has been instrumental in encouraging union organizing drives in several factories in the Las Mercedes FTZ. On Wednesday April 4th, 2001, the Managua Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 decision, ruled in favor of Chentex union leaders in their third and final legal appeal to be reinstated to their jobs. This court ruling increased the pressure on Chentex management, and on May 10, the management and the union signed an historic agreement providing for the re-hiring of 4 union leaders and 17 union members. This is a precedent setting victory for us all!

For more information contact:

1. Campaign for Labor Rights, CLRDC@afgj.org, 202-544-9355

Or check the following internet links:

1. Nicaragua Network, nicanet@afgj.org

2. Nien Hsing Textile Company: www.nht.com.tw

3. Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional: www.fsln.org.ni

4. Maria Elena Cuadra: www.tmx.com.ni/~mec/

5. Campaign for Labor Rights: www.summersault.com/~agj/clr/

6. Maquiladora Solidarity Network: www.maquilasolidarity.org

7. Clean Clothes Campaign: www.cleanclothes.org

8. International Confederation of Free Trade Unions: www.icftu.org

9. International Forum on Globalization: www.ifg.org

10. People's Global Action: www.agp.org

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END.

Solidarity,
Daisy Pitkin
National Campaigns Coordinator
Campaign for Labor Rights
CLRDC@afgj.org
(202) 544-9355

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