Above: Wendy Diaz and other Honduran sweatshop workers.
ON THIS DATE in 1996, fifteen-year-old Wendy Diaz revealed the dreadful working conditions at a Honduran factory that made products for the Kathie Lee Gifford clothing line. “If I could talk with Kathie Lee I would ask her to help us, to end all the maltreatment, so that they would stop yelling at us and hitting us,” she said at the press conference hosted by U.S. Representative George Miller.
Earlier, the National Labor Committee had revealed that child laborers had been overworked and abused at Global Fashion in Honduras, which made clothes for Eddie Bauer and J. Crew as well as talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford’s clothing line for Wal-Mart. Diaz said about 100 minors, some as young as twelve, worked up to 70 hours a week while making less than $22 and were mistreated by supervisors who “insult us and yell at us to work faster. Sometimes they throw the garment in your face, or grab and shove you.” She reported that bosses often molested the girls, and that the workers were sometimes made to work all night after the end of a day shift.
The Honduran’s testimony made her a hero to New York City garment workers; the New York Daily News reported one woman yelling “Keep fighting, Wendy,” and another saying “You are our voice” when she walked along 37th Street and Eighth Avenue in early June. A minister in Brooklyn later announced that a scholarship fund was being established for Diaz.