After months of illegally smuggling sewing machines out of the factory, Rising Sun shut down last week. This is yet another example of garment factories cutting and running to save their profits by stealing from workers.
Workers at Rising Sun led massive strikes in 2003 to win union recognition which resulted in major improvements in the factory, including increased pay and better working conditions. By 2005, however, the collective bargaining agreement expired and Rising Sun began aggressively trying to kick out the union by refusing to negotiate with workers' elected leaders. This May, Rising Sun illegally fired all union members in the factory and replaced them with casual workers who are paid less, receive no benefits and cannot join the union. None of the fired workers were paid their full terminal benefits. Now that workers are fighting back, the factory owners would rather shut down than treat their workers fairly and pay them what they are owed.
The struggle is not over! Yesterday, workers were able to win a court order blocking the remaining property at Rising Sun from leaving the zone. This means that now police will be guarding the factory 24 hours per day to prevent the remaining 200 sewing machines, factory vehicles and other equipment from leaving the country until the court case is resolved. To win this major victory, the workers collectively contributed over $200 for court and legal fees. Workers are staying strong and organized - and they need our support!
What can we do now?
- Tell Steve and Barry's University Sportswear and Jones Apparel Group that cutting and running from Kenya is NOT acceptable! Rising Sun should be reopened under fair conditions that respect workers rights. Buyers should give firm commitments that they will place longterm orders at Rising Sun if they agree to pay all locked-out workers their terminal dues, end all blacklisting of worker leaders and negotiate fairly with the workers' elected union.
- Keep screening the video and protesting Steve and Barry's and Jones to demand justice for the locked-out Rising Sun workers!