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Article

21 Jan 2022

Author:
Jasmin Malik Chua, Sourcing Journal

El Salvador: Striking garment workers manufacturing 'Grey's Anatomy' medical scrubs win $1 million in back pay & severance after 8 months

"They Sewed ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Scrubs. Fighting Wage Theft Was its Own Drama.", 21 January 2022

...Nery Ramirez toiled eight hours a day, six days a week as a line operator at Industrias Florenzi, a garment factory in El Salvador...she specialized in piecing together medical scrubs, including “Grey’s Anatomy”-branded styles based on...ABC network’s...medical drama.

It was when Barco Uniforms, the Los Angeles company that sells the “Grey’s Anatomy” scrubs, unexpectedly pulled production from the factory...in December 2019 that Ramirez began noticing “symptoms” that something was wrong...

Industrias Florenzi’s management, Ramirez said, started doling out only partial salaries. Vacation pay evaporated, as did maternity benefits. Factory owner Sergio Pineda López continued making payroll deductions for healthcare and social security as required by law, but failed to deposit the money with the government programs.

...By the time the factory permanently closed its doors in July 2020, its 207 workers didn’t even have clean drinking water...Labor campaigners estimate that Industrias Florenzi owed its employees $1.3 million in unpaid wages and severance, which Ramirez said López refused to pay...

López later passed away, leaving union leaders to deal with his son instead...

...Ramirez and her colleagues protested outside the facility, forming a barricade to prevent the owners from removing—and then selling off—any remaining equipment...Some of them went on hunger strikes…

…labor organizations such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, Maquila Solidarity Network and the Worker Rights Consortium, along with the #PayYourWorkers campaign...carried the workers’ pleas not only to Barco...but also the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC and the license to “Grey’s Anatomy.”…

Tara Mathur, field director for the Americas at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank…thinks it was Disney’s...recognition and the potential damage to a multi-billion-dollar brand that...led Barco to dispense a $1 million “humanitarian contribution” to the former Industrias Florenzi workers...While the sum falls short of the full amount...owed, it provides roughly $5,000 of back pay and severance to each of the factory’s erstwhile employees...

It’s unclear if Disney contributed any money… Barco Uniforms declined to comment and Disney…did not respond to a request for a statement. The Salvadorian courts are also working through the case: López’s son could face criminal charges and the factory could be sold and its contents liquidated to pay workers the remainder of what they’re owed.

[...]