Honduran Factory Workers Chose to Wear Diapers on the Job

Kernaghan says that fines for companies that break the rules are miniscule and regulators are weak. He pointed out that in the Kyungshin-Lear case, inspectors from the Honduran Ministry of Labor were prevented from entering the factory on numerous occasions, and did nothing but slap $20 fines on the company every time they were turned back.

Kernaghan is currently in Honduras with a delegation of American union leaders that is trying to meet with Kyungshin-Lear management and check out the factory for themselves.

He believes that the Honduran government will only be goaded into taking action over labor abuses if the U.S. threatens to take trade benefits away from that country.

"It's really important for the major countries, the big players to come in and promote fair labor laws," Kernaghan said. "We have told them that they can bring all their products into the U.S. duty free, and in response what we're saying, is, treat workers like human beings."

The Obama administration has not threatened to remove trade privileges from Honduras.

But there are other efforts to pressure Kyungshin-Lear that are starting to bear fruit.

In December Kernaghan's organization, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, received a letter from Kyunshing-Lear's partner in the United States, the Michigan-based Lear Corporation, in which the company's CEO promises to investigate "every accusation" raised by the Honduran workers.

Lear is a Fortune 500 company that focuses on making car seats and electrical systems for all sorts of vehicles. It makes billions of dollars each year, and while the company says that it does not have direct control over management at its Honduran affiliate, it certainly has some leverage.

Kernaghan described this letter as a sign of progress. He also pointed out that a representative of the Lear Corporation joined the delegation of union leaders that wants to inspect the Kyunshing-Lear factory.

But Kernaghan emphasized that workers at the factory still have a long way to go for better labor conditions to be achieved. He has been researching this particular case for the past two years.

"Something's changing," Kernaghan said, "but it's been a long time coming."

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