is the official summary report from the Collegiate Apparel
Research Initiative (CARI) in Indonesia. CARI is an immersion
program of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) that
conducts research and supports partnership building in
apparel producing regions around the world. For ten weeks
during the summer of 2000, the CARI Indonesia team lived
in Jakarta, researching the garment industry and how it
affects workers and communities. The team consisted of
two students, Deepinder Mayell, a junior at Boston College
majoring in Political Science, and Michael Burns, a second-year
graduate student at the Labor Center, University of Massachusetts,
Amherst. Jessica Champagne, a junior at Yale University,
assisted with project design and team orientation. Further
information about this project, including full interview
transcripts may be found at www.usasnet.org/CARI.
Over the last three years the sweatshop movement has
rapidly expanded across hundreds of North American college
campuses. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), leading
what is now the largest student campaign in the US, has
lobbied college and university administrations to adopt
measures to ensure that collegiate licensed apparel is
produced using sound labor practices: in clean and healthy
factories, with reasonable hours and decent pay, and with
the freedom for workers to organize and bargain collectively.
This work has focused on creating Codes of Conduct, which
regulate the conditions under which collegiate licensed
apparel is produced, and affiliating schools with the
Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) to verify Code compliance.
The WRC model is predicated on involving local Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) most familiar with the relevant worker
concerns. It is this larger context that shaped our research
We had a number of objectives in Indonesia: to build
and strengthen a network of contacts between USAS and
Indonesian NGOs, unions, students and workers, particularly
those focused on the garment industry; to evaluate NGOs
in terms of suitability for monitoring purposes; to share
our experiences with Indonesian students; to learn about
why and how Indonesian student groups have built ties
with labor unions; to obtain first-hand knowledge of the
conditions in collegiate apparel factories; and to investigate
how garment production impacts workers and communities.
In order to develop effective solutions to the sweatshop
problem, it is critical to study the complex local, national,
and international dynamics that create and perpetuate
sweatshop conditions. As we move towards enforcement of
collegiate Codes of Conduct, we must understand how the
locally-based verification model can and should operate.
Interviewing potential NGO partners is an important part
of this process. In an attempt to address these interrelated
issues as they relate to garment production in Indonesia,
our research and this report have two central components:
examining the factory and living conditions of garment
workers and investigating which local organizations can
most effectively facilitate monitoring and verification
of US-based collegiate Codes of Conduct.
Indonesia is in a period of transition and enormous change.
As Indonesia emerges from the Suharto era and consolidates
democratic institutions, it is clear that Indonesia is
an experiment the world is watching. This new era means
different things to different groups but will certainly
impact the garment industry, and therefore collegiate
For students, Democratic reforms mean access to ideas
and texts that were once suppressed. Pro-worker and pro-reform
demonstrations have been met with less fatal, though still
violent, police reaction. The new Indonesia is nonetheless
reliant on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to fill
in where the Government has abandoned its citizens. For
unions, the challenges of the future will be taking advantage
of now-freed leaders like Muchtar Pakpahan and Dita Sari,
creating and soliciting education and training programs,
and building organizations staffed and funded by workers.
These challenges, given the state of the unions we have
visited in during our stay, will take decades of tireless
work. Workers will only be able to see a 21st Century
free of brutal exploitation if existing policies that
leave them without protection from discrimination, abuse,
and arbitrary firing are transformed. Our analysis looks
at some of the work being done to confront these issues,
especially in the context of the garment sector.
This report focuses on four main groups in the Indonesian
labor movement: individual workers, Non-Governmental Organizations,
unions, and student organizations.
Worker Home Visits and Surveys; Based on the disclosure
information provided by universities, we set up homestays
with collegiate apparel factory workers. In addition,
we conducted a written survey of 123 questions given to
23 workers. These surveys were designed to learn about
factory conditions, wages, living expenses, and experiences
with monitors, unions, NGOs, and students.
Union Profiling. This section reports the findings from
our interviews with unions, about their experiences dealing
with worker complaints and their interactions with NGOs
and other unions. These questions are particularly important
when considering verification and monitoring relationships.
NGO Profiling; In Indonesia there are a number of NGOs
that deal with issues affecting factory workers. We surveyed
and interviewed nine of these NGOs. We asked them questions
about their work, their objectives, their previous experiences
responding to worker complaints, their staffing capacities,
and their relationships with other local organizations.
This information can be used to assist the selection of
local verification partners.
Sharing Experiences with Students. In several meetings
we spoke to students formally and informally about what
is happening in this unique period of Indonesian history.
We asked them to share specific details about how and
why students are working with unions and workers in the
pursuit of common goals. This section also describes the
student anti-sweatshop and other movements in the US,
and proposes ways the two movements can support one another.
Worker Home Visits and Surveys
From the disclosure information provided to American
universities, we learned where several collegiate apparel
factories were located. From conversations with unions
and NGOs we were able to locate additional factories.
We arranged to meet with collegiate apparel factory workers
and live in their homes for a week. During this period
we conducted an oral survey of 123 questions designed
to obtain information on factory conditions, wages and
purchasing power, and experiences with monitors, unions,
NGOs, and students. Since we were living in homestays,
we were able to witness firsthand the impacts of factory
work on these workers and their families.
The survey consists of 123 questions requesting quantitative
and qualitative information pertaining to factory life.
While we designed the survey to be given orally, due to
time constraints and the lack of adequate translation,
workers filled out a seventy-question abbreviated survey.
Our goal was to ask a consistent set of questions that
could give us a snapshot of life for each worker. We made
sure not to approach workers near the factories because
we did not want to make workers vulnerable to retaliation
by factory management.
We conducted our surveys at SBSI meetings where workers
were being trained on union rights and collective bargaining.
Our strategy for survey distribution was to meet with
workers in a group meeting at a central office, leave
surveys there for workers to complete, and to pick them
up several weeks later. We met with and left surveys for
workers at the Rawamangun central SBSI office in East
Jakarta, the SBSI branch office in North Jakarta, a SPSI
central office in Central Jakarta, a PMBB office in Serang,
and an SBSI branch office in Tangerang. In addition, we
interviewed workers in their homes in North Jakarta, Tangerang,
and Bekasi. In total we handed 70-80 surveys directly
to workers after brief discussions with them about the
factories. We left another 70-80 surveys for additional
workers. In total, we received 30 completed surveys.
We should mention several research difficulties and potential
biases before presenting the data. First, not all workers
answered all of the questions and in some instances the
answers that were provided did not directly pertain to
the question we asked. Unanswered questions were not aggregated
into percentages and totals. Secondly, by distributing
surveys at SBSI meetings we were not operating in completely
neutral territory. SBSI is a union with an agenda. Workers
who were at the meeting were potentially more politicized
and aware of Indonesian law than other Indonesian workers.
Finally, the survey sample is small. This makes it difficult
to compare the conditions in one factory to the conditions
in another. Rather, the data point to larger trends that
are prevalent in Indonesia's garment sectors.
Similarly, the data corroborate our understanding of
the garment industry based on informal conversations with
groups of Indonesian garment workers. We should point
out that in addition to these surveys we had numerous
informal discussions with workers and groups of workers
regarding working conditions at apparel factories, including
collegiate apparel factories. Many of these discussions
proved as informative as the formal surveys. Though corporations
have adopted Codes of Conduct promising a base level of
standards and principles, our interviews showed us that
in many instances, in the industry at large and in collegiate
apparel, in general, these principles have not been upheld.
Workers filled out 30 surveys, 23 of which were fully
completed. Though this number of surveys is not statistically
significant, we belief that like our interviews, these
surveys shed light on factory life, worker attitudes,
and management violations. The workers came from PT Konaan,
PT Pan Brothers, Dong One, Kharisma, PT Bailihides, PT
Dada Indonesia and Busana Rama (For aggregate survey data
to all 123 questions see Appendix A.)
The majority of the workers who responded, 74 percent,
were female with an average age of 23.4 years old. Most
were not married. These workers are 48 percent Javanese.
The rest are Sudanese, Lampung, Jeiwa, and Sumatran. They
come from all over of Indonesia. Many of them came with
the explicit goal of working in these export factories.
On average, workers reported working 10.1 hours per day.
All stated that they work overtime, averaging 22 hours
of weekly overtime. Eighteen of 23 workers stated that
they had worked everyday for 7 consecutive days.
With regard to factory conditions, a few workers stated
that factories had a lot of and; were dirty with; too
much dust and;, unclean; or unhealthy; More than half
stated that on-the-job accidents were common. Twenty-two
workers claimed that when they cannot fulfill a target
or when they make mistakes they receive warning letters
and are disciplined. Eighteen indicated that they were
verbally or physically abused on the job.
With regards to pay, 21 workers said that when they received
their jobs, the pay policies were not explained to them.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents believed they were
not well-paid and 95% were not satisfied with the amount
of money they were paid. More than half believed their
paycheck was not fairly calculated. A number of workers
did not understand the deductions withheld from their
paychecks. Most were given a quota that they had to complete,
81% believed the quota was too high and many were penalized
or reprimanded when they did not complete their quotas.
Nevertheless, half of the respondents sent money to their
families or friends at least some of the time. Most were
unable to put a portion of their paycheck towards savings.
While 22 of 23 workers stated that their pay went up when
the minimum wage was raised, 100% said they were not able
to buy more because prices of transportation, rent, and
other basics were increasing. 68% stated that they wanted
to continue their schooling but that money was the obstacle
preventing them. They cited the long hours and low pay
as features of their experience that they wanted American
students to know about. The majority said they do not
always have enough money to properly feed their families.
Living Conditions of Factory Workers
The factories in North Jakarta and Tangerang are all
located on a main road. Down unpaved roads 2-3km off of
this main road there are houses extending in all directions.
From 6:30 to 8 am and from 5 to 9 pm these streets are
packed with buses, motorcycles, smoke, food, shouting,
Islamic music, and thousands of workers. Looking out into
a group of 50 women you might very well see no more than
three of the same factory uniform.
Many of these workers and their families live in clusters
of single floor tenements. Perhaps twelve houses consisting
of 2 small 10x10 rooms face each other in 2 rows of 6
with a paved walk way in between them. Things like mandis
(washing basins) along with burners, trunks, sandals and
shoes, and cats or caged birds line this inner walkway.
It leads to a concrete toilet, washing stall, and well
at either end of the cluster. The rooms, or, in several
cases a single room, typically have plastic tile floors,
a shelf, 2-3 cabinets, a dish rack with cups and plates,
a coat rack, a television, a collection of tapes, 1-2
fans, a small light, a calendar, and often, photos of
Soekarno, the revered first President of Indonesia. During
our stay there was never food was never stored or prepared
in the house. Some clusters were covered by warehouse-like
roofs. Because there is no lighting, the roofs keep them
completely dark after sunset.
Our hosts purchased meals for us for approximately Rp
1000 per person per meal. A typical factory worker makes
about Rp 10,000 per day. Both the morning meal and the
other 2 meals consist of the same types of foods. Some
common dishes are tempeh, fried rice with egg, white rice
with egg and chili relish, noodles with spices and vegetables,
fried noodles with soy sauce and vegetables, fried chicken,
deep fried onions in batter, deep fried bananas and or
fried tofu with bean sprouts.
We asked unions a variety of questions about their experiences
dealing with worker complaints and about their interactions
with NGOs. We also discussed the politics between them
and other unions. We have a base list of questions plus
a few additional questions that we asked of several unions.
These can be found in appendix B.
Above all, we learned that Indonesian unions are operating
in uncharted territory. They are struggling to create
a strong labor movement with real power for workers. Some
of their goals include: substantial labor law reform;
allowing union members, rather than external finding sources,
to finance their unions; demilitarization of anti-union
forces; coalition-building of like-minded organizations;
wide-spread trainings on workers; rights; and expansion
of their international ties. While the situation is hopeful,
the road ahead is long. Unions are severely under-funded
and understaffed. In some cases, resources are insufficient
even to maintain a small office. Meanwhile, aided by a
sympathetic bureaucracy, employers regularly ignore existing
labor laws with impunity. From these interviews, we learned
that a successful labor movement is made up of a number
of units working together towards a common cause. Currently,
in Indonesia these units are struggling for a voice and
for a coherent identity in a changing county. They are
fighting for the confidence of the workers in many sectors
of the economy.
Front National Perjuangan Buruh Indonesia (FNBPI): FNPBI
is a one year old federation, founded in 1998 after the
breakdown of the Suharto regime. Comprised largely of
students, it now has 13 branches. Two of its primary goals
are the improvement of wages and an increase in worker
Our goal is to increase wages for workers 100% which
is our big campaign- that workers deserve this kind of
thing instead of the current wage; results of the economic
crisis. We think the government should do this and we
refuse the increase of an average of 25% been implemented.
Daily needs have gone up nearly 100% along with government
refusal to provide fuel and electricity subsidies. In
our calculation the new wages will only cover 50% of the
very, very minimum costs of the workers. There is so much
manipulation in the government numbers. The are so many
problems with the minimum wage.
They believe workplace democracy is an integral component
to political democracy: In order to know if you have a
democracy or not, you have to see if there is democracy
among the workers. Looking at the government doesn't tell
you if you have a democracy.
GSBI: GSBI is a federation, comprised of a trade unions
from different sectors. It has a 10,000 worker membership,
4000 of which are footwear workers and 3000 of which are
garment and textile workers. In discussing the record
of Western corporations, Emily Yanti from GSBI stated:Nike,
Reebok and Levis have ethic codes, codes of conduct. However,
these companies do not socialize the ethics to their workers
properly. Therefore many workers are unaware that their
ethics and rules and codes govern the subcontractors for
each factory. For example two Indonesian subcontractors,;
Sandrafin and Ulinda, Öpaid under the minimum wage
and they also worked employees 75 hours per week and many
other rights were not given to workers, for example, social
security and rights for pregnant women to get leave. It
happened once before that a woman laborer had a miscarriage
in the factory.
Perbupas: Perbupas is a collection of ten local and factory
level trade unions. It focuses on footwear and footwear
accessory production. It is one of the GSBI federation
unions. In discussing the minimum wage, Perbupas stated,
When prices were skyrocketing and there was an increase
in minimum wage, the price for rental houses and the prices
for daily needs rose as well so therefore the raise in
minimum wage was nothing special, it didn't help them
more. They believe a living wage would be Rp 370,000/month.
This stands in contrast with the actual amount that many
workers receive, which varies widely but is most often
far below this. When asked if they thought students are
important in improving worker conditions they said, Yes,
I think they are very important. We need the students
to push the government.They described why organizing in
Indonesia is particularly difficult:
Where there is such high unemployment and competitiveness
between workers, the workers are so afraid of losing what
they have and having to compete again. This has a psychological
impact on the workers. They are afraid of losing their
job. The management actually stops organizing, they hate
new trade unions because for 32 years the Suharto regime
controlled trade unions with one single trade union. They
consider trade unions a pest to the factory. Intimidation
through dismissal and suspensions still happens to our
SBSI: SBSI was founded in April of 1992 as an independent
union in opposition to the only officially recognized
union, SPSI. SBSI was integrally involved in the protests
that led to the toppling of the Suharto regime. SBSI currently
has 13 sectors (journalism, transportation, metal industry,
forestry, banking, chemical, hotel, mining, educating,
contracting, garment/textile, migrant workers, and street
performers/artists). SBSI is one of the largest and most
influential independent trade unions in Indonesia and
has attained international attention, especially, with
the arrest, imprisonment, and eventual release of SBSI's
president, Muchtar Pakpahan. SBSI works well with local
NGO's and considers them vital for worker advocacy. Patvan
Samosir of SBSI stated,
"During the Suharto regime, only one trade union
existed, SPSI, and it was created by the government, so
they were not working for the laborers attention but instead
for the government and sometimes the employer. So this
is why it was very important to create one independent
"About two months ago we had a campaign in Europe
especially against Adidas because their salaries are particularly
bad. If there is a large gain in profits by the company
there is no balance between the profits and the salaries
of workers. So especially companies like Adidas, Nike,
and others we want to force them give salaries based on
life needs not according to the minimum wage but instead
according to their living costs."
There were two reasons why we surveyed NGOs in West Java.
First, we hoped that because these organizations were
involved with worker training, education, and support,
that they could provide us with an informed analysis of
the evolving worker situation in Indonesia. Second, we
hoped they could inform US Code of Conduct verification
efforts that center on the role of independent local NGOs.
The results of our interviews with NGOs provide valuable
information about the role of these organizations. As
might be expected, NGOs work on many of the issues facing
Indonesia: health and welfare of its people, concerns
regarding the IMF and World Bank, foreign debt, widespread
environmental degradation, military repression of labor
conflicts, ethnic fighting and massacres, and an unstable
government. Many of these issues are intertwined with
sweatshops and have effects on workers in Indonesia. These
interviews place worker concerns in the context of the
larger political economy.
Profiling NGOs is necessary for evaluating potential
verification partners. After surveying and interviewing
the NGOs and compiling details about each organization,
such as usual work, past experience responding to workers
complaints, staffing capacities, and relationships with
other organizations in Indonesia, it is possible to offer
suggestions for verification partnering groups. In considering
verification, we consider the following questions:
-Is this NGO comfortable with and experienced with interviewing,
surveying, and talking with workers about their working
-What role does the NGO feel unions can or should have
in the process of improving working conditions?
-Does this NGO staff understand the subtle details of
the garment industry including how products are made,
different job classifications in factories, and common
problems and hardships faced by workers on the job?
-Does this NGO have a good reputation among other groups,
including other NGOs, and independent, grassroots labor
unions, in its geographical area?
We feel that the strength of a worker's complaint is
further legitimized by the confirmation of an qualified
investigatory organization. While other organizations,
such as unions, are capable of objectivity, their loyalties
may make them susceptible to accusations of partiality
or fabrication. To avoid this, we strongly recommend the
use of local research NGOs as monitors whenever possible.
While we had heard of some organizations before our arrival
in Indonesia, via activists and organizations that have
regular contact with the US, some we discovered here.
The NGOs we chose are not the only NGOs working on labor
issues in or around Jakarta, but they are some of the
most highly esteemed with respect to factory issues in
concentrated industrial areas. Interview questions can
be found in Appendix C.
After the each NGO interview, we wrote evaluations, which
are printed below along with interesting quotes from our
interviews. Full interview transcripts for each NGO are
available at www.usasnet.org/CARI. NGO contact information
is available at the end of the report. Below are some
excerpts from those transcripts.
Akatiga: Akatiga is involved in many research projects
in conjunction with a number of other NGOs. While Akatiga
does not attempt to organize workers or act as a union,
their research and practical worker rights trainings are
designed to build a workers movement with real bottom
up power. Akatiga is prestigious and financially stable.
They also have substantial experience interviewing and
surveying workers in a manner that respects worker safety
and achieves meaningful results. For these reasons Akatiga
has garnered respect in West Java. It has the capacity,
experience and esteem to assist with verification of factory
Michael One thing that we hear from people in the US
is that if the workers get too loud in their fight to
improve conditions that the factories will close and move
to other counties- is this why factories close or are
their other reasons?
Akatiga No. In the Indonesian context, especially in
these last 6 months, there was a presidential decree declaring
the right to organize. Several companies threatened to
close down their factories and move God knows where. However
at present none of them have carried it out. Here, if
there is an investor moving out of Indonesia, it is not
because the workers are fighting, but because counties
that are becoming more capitalist like Indonesia, Vietnam,
Laos, and China, are opening the gates to foreign investors,
they can provide much cheaper labor compared to Indonesia.
So in my opinion the main reason why they move is to get
the highest revenue possible, because the main base in
Vietnam is lower than Indonesia and anyway these other
governments are making incentives for investors to invest
in the country.
APIK: This organization specializes in research and advocacy
surrounding women's issues. Specifically, APIK informs
women workers of their reproductive rights, including
issues of wage discrimination based on gender, as well
as pregnancy and menstruation entitlements. They also
uncover instances of sexual harassment. APIK does this
through forums that are run independent of company management.
They are members of KPKB and thus have synchronized their
agenda accordingly. Their focus is on monitoring and enforcing
codes of conduct, especially in the footwear sector.
APIK Many factories still disobey menstruation rights
and pregnancy rights. In fact, they overturned the law
and pushed the women workers to agree not to take any
leave. They are force to sign something when they first
get to the company, to not take their menstrual leave
and also that they should not get pregnant for 2 years.
It is called a work agreement. If a woman is found pregnant
she is not prioritized to work at the factory.
ELSAM: ELSAM views worker rights as a type of human rights.
In our interview, they expressed concern regarding the
role America has played and continues to play in Indonesia's
development process. ELSAM cited minimum wage figures
for areas outside of Jarbotabek, including Jakarta, Bogor,
Tangerang, and Bekasi. ELSAM has also contributed to the
publishing of many books on human and workers; rights.
They have extensive experience discussing factory conditions
with workers and in providing them with education and
training regarding the factories. Finally, they work with
students and respect cooperative worker action. This organization
may be a good candidate for verification efforts.
ELSAM The most important problem is the minimum wage.
It can be as low 93; Rp 5700 per day. In the outskirts
of Jakarta some factories pay less than 5700, in East
Java or Medan in Sumatra it could be even less than 5700.
If a worker asks for an increase they'll be dismissed.
In Jakarta some are only giving 5700; 7500 according to
their studies. The workers are demanding more, some workers
are paid only 3000, these workers are fighting for 7500.
Some company owners put transportation and food into the
wage to add up to 7500.;
INFID: In our discussion with INFID, Mr. Bahagijo framed
his analysis within an international and historical context.
He emphasized the role of the IMF and World Bank in Indonesian
economic and social development. The organization aspires
towards formation of a movement that questions the priorities
and motivations of the global investment community. Since
INFID's works at a policy level and does not come into
regular contact with workers, their strengths do not include
Code of Conduct verification.
Michael What are some common things- reforms and austerity
programs- that the IMF insists Indonesia do?;
Mr. Bahagijo ìOf course thereís privatization,
subsidy reductionÖ and like before they argue surplus
of the budget- during the hardest time the government
said, yes yes yes. But privatization is going on now along
with subsidy reduction. We agree with subsidy reduction
for the rich. It should be revoked, but for poor people
it should be maintained. Because of the simple fact that
UNICEF say we will have a list generation- dozens of millions
of Indonesians- because their parents lost their jobs.
These dozens of millions will be malnourished and undereducated
so we will have a threat of a lost generation who are
stupid who are physically week, not capable of competing
in the job market. That's UNICEF saying that, not me.;
LBH Bandung: Because LBH Bandung is a legal advocacy
organization, we do not recommend them for local monitoring
or verification efforts. The discussion with LBH Bandung
touched on issues of living wage and worker advocacy.
LBH Bandung alerted us to several new issues including
the centralized nature of the legal process, bribery at
all levels of government, and Indonesia's growing interest
in progressive and radical politics.
LBH Bandung There's one happy piece of news, workers
are starting to see themselves as workers with rights.
No one can keep it a secret any more, not as involvement
of NGOs on the national or international level, with the
students and with NGOs. They are understanding of the
capitalist system. Marxism. They have read such things
here. They are eager to study further but they have no
access to newspapers and books; if only there was a way
to help form the students, LBH, or other NGOs.
LBH Jakarta: LBH is a central hub for worker advocacy.
The organization spends the bulk of its time consulting
with workers and working though a legal process that is
often tedious and long. The discussion with Mr.Tiandra
was informative, especially concerning wages. Tiandra
believes the living wage in Jakarta currently hovers at
approximately Rp 10,000/day, a commonly cited figure.
He offered comments pertaining to unemployment and the
types of problems that workers face. He offered the names
of several organizations that he believed could work on
Code of Conduct monitoring or verification, though he
did not cite his own organization. Though they have time
and staffing constraints, there is no reason to rule them
out as a candidate for Code verification, especially considering
their substantial expertise and intimate knowledge of
workers; most serious job problems.
LBH Jakarta In Nike factories in Tangerang they always
claim that they pay more than the minimum wage- the claim
this- about Rp 330,000 but the problem is what the worker
really needs in much more than that wage. So that's a
problem. So its not really a big deal, actually, even
if you get paid 30,000 more than the minimum wage. The
minimum wage is about Rp 10,000 a day now with the rupiah
at 8600. Before the crisis it was 6000 with the rupiah
at Rp 2700 in 1997.
Sisbikum: is involved in a variety of projects, produce
materials in English, and are networked to several other
groups. They are popular among other garment worker NGOs.
Tim Ryan of the AFL-CIO'S Solidarity Center office in
Jakarta described Sisbikum as a kind of workers' communications
forum; which comprises, at last count, workers in 10 factories,
some of whom are unionized, some of whom are not.; Their
willingness to cooperate and share ideas was evident through
our interactions with them on more than one occasion.
Sisbikum has an understanding of independent monitoring
and an opinion of what good and bad monitoring consists
of. They have been affiliated with the Fair Labor Association
(FLA). Though not ideal, their capability is promising
as a monitoring or verification partner.
Sisbikum It is like a suicide, you know? With the wage
nowadays. It is like a suicide. The standard regional
wage is only Rp 280,000. So, Rp 280,000 per month mean
9500 per day, barely $1.1. Actually, the normal level
of, ah, people to live in a day, they have to spend Rp
28,000. That's about $3. $3.25 US.
UCM: UCM sets high standards regarding groups that claim
to help workers, including itself. While their research
and work is admirable, personal disagreements made collaborative
work difficult. Cooperation and trust are necessary criteria
when it comes to international solidarity work and independent
monitoring. The fact that this organization lacked these
qualities made them an unfavorable choice for verification
WALHI: This NGO specializes in environmental issues.
Because of their focus, the interview centered on the
ecological impacts of factories, rather than on working
conditions. Because of WALHI's specialty, we do not recommend
WALHI as a verification candidate. Nevertheless, WALHI
offers a broader analysis that helps contextualize how
factories affect communities.
Deepinder Many people say that sweatshops and factories
are good for Indonesia because they provide jobs- what
do you say to that?
WALHI In the sort term it's true. In the short term.
But in the long run in so many factories we see health
quality decreasing and life quality decreasing. For example
the Orian case. The company has 6000 workers but their
activity affected 200,000 people and if they continue
to operation it will suffer at least 3 or 4 generations
because of the decrease in the environment quality.
In these meetings we spoke formally and informally with
students about this unique period in Indonesia's history.
In addition, we discussed how and why students are working
with unions and workers in the pursuit of common goals.
We also described student movements in the US, such as
the anti-sweatshop movement, and how we can support each
Student groups in Indonesia are in a stage of transition.
After the mass unification of power that the student groups
experienced with the fall of Suharto, the political climate
in the country cooled considerably. There are cases of
occasional violence and political instability. The majority
of the country is not as unified behind the student movement
as it was in 1998 as the Suharto regime toppled. The student
groups are focusing their criticism towards the corruption
in the newly formed government. Even though the students
do not have as much support as before, they are still
active in fighting for their goals. The student groups
are a vocal part of the political community, often staging
demonstrations. They are regarded as a voice pushing for
reform. They are also addressing problems associated with
international financial institutions, similar to the US
groups but with a clearer view of leftist ideology.
Indonesian student groups are not closely affiliated
with the labor struggle in their own country. They are
fighting parallel but non-unified battles. However, some
groups like FNPBI, connect workers; fights with students;
fights in the pursuit of social change. All student groups
are vital in the establishment of grassroots ties and
can provide USAS and other groups in the US with first-hand
experience and knowledge about the international situation.
As more US students become aware of global problems, ties
with Indonesian student groups will provide a network
of direct information.
Dita Sari, a prominent student leader says that the most
significant change we have here today is now we have more
spaces to operate to set up trade unions, especially at
the plant level. And now we also have more chance to set
up a union on the national level. Before Suharto went
down, it was only one federation that was allowed to be
set up, that was the federation of all Indonesian Trade
Unions, SPSUI which was very much co-opted by the ruling
party at the time.; However, despite the very different
political climate, Dita Sari does not see a shift in the
economic regime. I don't see any changes or any significant
difference economically. Even though the nominal figure
is going up, the cutting of subsidies for oil and such
means that the meaning of the wage is going down; She
characterizes the incipient labor movement as competitive
based on economic, political and personal interests, rather
than cooperative. Nonetheless, she foresees that unions
will be the significant powers in the future.
General Findings: Forms of Exploitation
This section examines some of the ways, based on our
research and conversations, that companies and governments
contribute to worker exploitation in Indonesia. It should
be noted that we can only speak with authority in regards
to the situations of garment manufacturing workers. Some
of the factors that contribute to this are deploying the
military on striking workers, requiring or coercing excessive
overtime, offering perverse incentives for workers to
ignore their rights, dumping chemicals that endanger health,
and maintaining a large short-term workforce.
The Indonesian military has a frequent role in labor
conflict "settlement." Although this practice,
according to some of our interviews, is less frequent
now, it is not completely gone, nor are the memories of
strikes and picket lines were workers were killed for
standing with their fellow workers. Ministry of Manpower
officials have often come from military backgrounds where
workers are expected to be unconditionally loyal and always
obedient or ready to face the harsh consequences. As the
Legal Aid Institute Bandung representative told us, historically
companies; relationships with government forces were solidified
by a shadow fee that ensured protection from labor stoppages
Overtime is carefully arranged and implemented as to
make it essentially, while not officially, forced. Workers
regular wages per hour are set so low that, in order to
earn something close to a decent wage, they must work
overtime;which, according to the workers we surveyed,
averages about 20 hours more a week. Several pay stubs
that we collected indicate that these 20 overtime hours
often amounts to nearly as much pay, and sometimes more,
than the 40-50 hours of regular-hour pay for a given pay
period. In addition to this financial pressure, if workers
decide to not work overtime there is evidence that they
will be warned, then fired.
The pay system presents perverse incentives for workers
to ignore their rights. This can be seen through close
examination of pay stubs. For example, workers have a
menstrual leave line listed on the stub. At one factory,
if they decided to exercise their right to take their
leave the line was left blank, while if they did not opt
for the leave there was Rp 50,000 added to their total
pay. Additionally, workers may lose their attendance bonus
for taking their rightful menstrual leave even for one
day. On one pay stub, the total lost was nearly Rp100,000
out of a check that was potentially only about 400,000.
Workers are also affected by chemical dumping at the
factories. While a worker may not feel the effects while
they are at work, the river, canal, and water systems
are often all interconnected and dumping of dies and chemicals
in one area creates a traceable trail of pollution into
village water supplies. Of course, everyone living in
these communities or using these waterways is affected
by the dumping, not only workers.
The contract system is another very important way in
which workers are left powerless. When workers begin work
at a factory, they are required to sign contracts. These
contracts are often for only a single year and serve several
purposes for the employer. First, the contract allows
employers to quickly adjust their workforce to the size
of their orders coming in, without regard for an individual
workers needs. Second, it gives the employer an opportunity
to not renew contracts of workers who try to improve conditions
in the factory, workers who are experienced and perhaps
not as docile, and workers who are pregnant or who want
to start a family, as they may be less productive. Third,
it helps the employer avoid having to pay benefits and
extend privileges to "permanent" employees who
have certain rights under the law that contract or temporary
workers do not. For example, to fire a permanent worker
requires a process unavailable to contract workers. Several
groups like Akatiga and FNPBI identified the contract
system as one of the most necessary reforms needed to
improve the situation of workers.
Of course these are just some examples of what's happening
on the ground to suppress workers' rights. Other abuses
such as the lack of company facilities, inadequate subsidies,
verbal abuse, unrealistic performance standards, and,
of course, inadequate wages, companies are often successful
in their attempt to exploit and discard workers, while
governments are able to sustain desperately needed jobs.
The following are recommendations to United Students
Against Sweatshops and to anti-sweatshop activists in
general. We are looking to address not only strategies
to fight sweatshop connections on campuses, but what USAS
and other activists can do to strengthen the larger movement
for corporate accountability.
1. We must create a plan to go along with our sentimentality.
Too often activists talk about solidarity but do not know
what to do about it. Generating an implementable strategy
prepares the road for change. It is important also to
think about future projects in terms of practical result:
specifically, whether and how a proposed project will
lead to improving conditions.
We need to focus our attention more on the governmental
role in perpetuating sweatshop abuses. Governments work
together with companies to keep workers powerless and
to keep investment flowing in. Unfortunately, workers'
human rights are sacrificed in the process for the benefit
of government and business elites. International attention
on governments that promote an environment where sweatshops
can flourish and prosper will help workers and their allies
fight to establish a base level of fair treatment. Government
attention is not only necessary for countries abroad,
but also for our own, which has historically played and
continues to play a role in supporting repressive government
We should continue to push for widespread adoption of
the WRC, the most appropriate monitoring system available
to enforce schools' Codes of Conduct. It is crucial that
students and schools carry out our promises and our threats,
so as to avoid prolonging ties with companies and subcontractors
who continue to violate workers rights.
USAS should facilitate distribution of information between
US NGOs and organizations in apparel producing regions.
Facilitating communication will strengthen USAS'; ties
to workers and will increase communication among workers
and worker groups in producing regions around the world.
For reasons examined in this report, we recommend that
the WRC and other monitoring efforts not rely solely on
unions as independent monitors.
We must continue to draw connections between the corporate
unaccountability that perpetuates sweatshops and the other
forms of exploitation and objectification of workers that
exist here and abroad. Broadening our analysis to include
the values and positions that lie at the core of sweatshop
abuse will ensure that we do not inadvertently limit reform
to just one aspect of a much larger problem. As Dita Sari
advised the students in the US, we must "be consistent."
USAS and other organizations should continue to send
long-term delegations to other counties like they did
in this summer (2000) to Honduras and Indonesia. International
solidarity is not just about sharing information, but
about building personal relationships. If we want to coordinate
actions, protests, and events, and build a communication
or exchange network with activists abroad, we need personal
contacts. Attempting this work through short-term delegations
makes it very hard if not impossible to build the necessary
trust for what we're trying to accomplish on the international
We should make presentations in classes at our colleges
and universities. Professors and TAs are interested in
our movement not only because such movement for social
change are such important parts of college life, but because
they are real, live debates with real consequences to
be discussed. Students that have begun to do this on the
campus have seen remarkable results. Additionally, preparing
and making presentations at high schools is an invaluable
addition to a young person's education, an education which
normally fails to include any substantial critique of
American companies or government, nor any account of current
of social movements or activism.
Finally, we highly recommend that activists find new
and creative ways to get together and spend time together,
even live together when possible. The ability to develop
an analysis of anything, not just social justice movements,
is magnified when you are immersed with other activists.
This is not a conventional recommendation, but we strongly
feel, after spending so much time questioning and learning
from each other, that proximity to like-minded people
can yield unpredictable results.
More than Profit: The social causes of sweatshops
By, Deepinder Mayell
USAS students spend a considerable amount of time trying
to convince other Americans that sweatshops exist. While
in Indonesia, we have been able to detach ourselves from
this mindset and entertain the fundamental question: why
do sweatshops exist? In addition to the profit motive,
there are social structures that contribute to the creation
of exploitative sweatshop conditions.
After talking to many Indonesian factory workers, students,
service workers, union, and NGO leaders, it is clear that
many Indonesian people suffer from the detrimental effects
of racism. As our conversations with Indonesians become
more informal we have begun to hear comments such as,
;You are more handsome than me,; I wish my skin was white,;
;Indonesian people are ugly,; and Your clothes look better
on you.; Many Indonesians that we met felt inferior when
compared to Americans, particularly white Americans. Indonesians
are exposed to a huge amount of western media. They watch
television shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose
Place, where rich white Americans are depicted as the
most interesting and important class in the world. These
media portrayals have had a tremendous effect on the way
the Indonesian mindset, but is not the only force contributing
to these feelings of inferiority.
In America, racism is often conceived of as simply holding
negative pre-conceptions about a group of people based
on ethnicity or race. We are taught the history of the
Civil Rights Movement as how an oppressive class was shown
that racism is wrong, that one should not judge on the
basis of color. We learn about lone black fighters such
as Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr standing up and
fighting for equal rights. But we are not taught about
the legions of activists who fought for their rights.
This history does not address the effects that racism
has had on the majority of the oppressed class. In high
school, we do not study how the mentality of an oppressed
class changes when they are constantly told they are inferior.
We do not learn that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King
Jr's greatest challenges were convincing black Americans
of their value and that their system has created their
suffering. We do not learn about those black Americans
who have been taught from their youth that white faces
are more successful, happier, more important, more worthy
of their rights. We do not learn that the minority class
still is a victim of a racist culture. This internalized
racism, this feeling of inadequacy is the actual effect
A similar internalization of racist views is present
in Indonesia, as well. Indonesia has been subject to colonialism
for hundreds of years as European countries struggled
for control of the Spice Islands.; As the colonial powers
took control of the economies of countries like Indonesia
the sense of inferiority began to form in the people just
as it continues today. Because their history has always
shown foreigners such as Europeans, and today Americans,
as successful, Indonesians begin to associate whiteness
or nationality with success. The Indonesian poor work
hard within this system to become successful but ultimately
cannot succeed because the system is based on and created
by eurocentric structures. Indonesian people may work
70-80 hours per week but the system is structured so that
they are simply a colonial provider and their labor is
a resource we exploit.
A second social characteristic that may contribute to
poverty in Indonesia is a strong sense of community. Although
they look at Americans as something to strive to be, they
hold on to their cultural ties of community and generosity.
Within the capitalist system these community-focused ideals
are not rewarded. The workers we have stayed with have
shocked us with their generosity and I find myself feeling
safer here in Jakarta than I do in New York. The capitalist
society does not put value on morals such as honesty,
integrity, or wisdom. Instead it values the material possession
of money no matter how it is attained. Americans look
up to and read books and magazines about celebrities and
royalty. In Indonesia there are strong ties to religion,
Islam; money is not the end goal. There are, of course,
many Indonesians who have the capitalist mindset, who
work with foreign imperialists, achieving success at the
cost of their fellow Indonesians. These Indonesians have
become the corrupt government officials, military or upper-class
business owners. Indonesian policy involves capitalist
integration into the world economy. However, the majority
of people in the country, the poor, still consider their
fellow humans to be their brothers and sisters, regardless
of race, class, or religion. Despite these economic forces,
Indonesia's poor continue to define success; through this
sense of community.
This sense of racial inferiority is no doubt disempowering.
Perhaps it contributes to the willingness of Indonesia's
poor to endure such harsh occupational conditions.
Promoting Unionism versus Enforcing Codes: A False Dichotomy
By, Michael Burns
What does international solidarity mean? What can we
do from the states to aid garment workers? Are collegiate
Codes of Conduct meaningful in the long run or do they
actually distract from worker empowerment?
Students, activists and others concerned with the sweatshop
problem need to recognize that unionization is a necessary
step in the fight against sweatshops. Ideally, governmental
reforms to ensure basic health, safety, organizing, and
wage assurances would supplement a strong labor movement.
However, how do we promote this stance, this conviction
towards unionization? Steering away from monitoring efforts
and only supporting unions is not a worthwhile project
for USAS. We need to support both. We feel this way for
First, students are already conditioning their Codes
on the right to organize and bargain collectively. We
are doing so, of course, to ensure that codes of conducts
are not replacing unions and operating in repressive regimes.
If we want to get serious about this provision, we need
to identify companies and subcontractors that directly
or indirectly violate this code requirement and prepare
to take action.
Second, we think USAS should be realistic about its capabilities.
We are one of the strongest student groups in American
history. We are capable, as a network of affiliated organizations
with shared goals, of a high level of coordinated response
to problems and abuses. We are capable of talking about
what changes are necessary, staging demonstrations on
our campuses and in public spaces, and lobbying political
powers to view human beings as more than a commodity.
However, we can only set the stage for workers to take
hold of their own destines and to form the collective
organizations that will improve their work lives. Our
strategy for supporting organizing needs to start on our
campuses, by changing the way that products are made and
by confronting the violations of schools; Codes of Conduct
because this is where we have influence. This can and
must be done in order to complement and accelerate any
independent union organizing efforts.
Third, simply advocating for a union is not necessarily
a good idea. For over 30 years Indonesia, for example,
has had a union, a union that takes workers to the beach
and on picnics, rather than to the arbitration table.
We cannot simply compel companies to recognize a union;
or we risk a creating company-controlled entity that is
not responsive to workers.
Of course, students concerned that Codes promote a top-down
strategy instead of a bottom- up one are correct. If top
down changes from the company, however, accelerate the
process toward baseline conditions, then I believe this
is a positive step. Who knows what workers will be capable
of given the space to breathe? Let's let the workers articulate
their problems. We must listen attentively and do everything
we can to communicate our vision of unionism, and to escalate
our fight to the government level. In the meantime, LEt's
honor the workers by fighting for at least a base minimum
of wages and working conditions however we can. Creating
this base will not impede workers in their struggles.
It will enable them to take their struggles to the next
As we see it, solidarity means, first and foremost, doing
something about the problem. We are capable of doing virtually
anything, but ultimately, the Indonesian labor movement
is something that must live and grow and prosper on its
own. We have been lucky enough to see that the Indonesian
people are strong enough to take on their own fight. Attacking
the problem from every angle possible is where we come
in. By doing this, we just might be able to reach an economic
base from which to start the more serious discussions
that we all hope will take place. Doing all we can, while
being clear about our broader vision is where our power
College and the Movement
Apparel Research Initiative (CARI) in Indonesia
Comparative Look: FLA vs. WRC