Manzanarez v. C&Y Sportswear, Nien Hsing Textile Co., Ltd. and Chentex Garments is a case that highlighted workers’ rights violations committed by C&Y Sportswear, Nien Hsing Textile Co., Ltd., and Chentex Garments in Nicaragua.
In December of 2000, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed suit against the factory Chentex Garments; Nien Hsing, its parent company; and its U.S. subsidiary, on behalf of four union leaders fired by Chentex. The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and alleged that Chentex and Nien Hsing violated internationally recognized labor rights, including the right to organize and to free assembly. This was the first suit brought under the ATS that alleged that union busting and other anti-labor practices violated the “Law of Nations.”
In Nicaragua, the employees of Nien Hsing sewed clothing for American retailers and the U.S. military, earning 18 cents per garment they completed. The work is dangerous and the hours are long, while the workers’ wages are not enough to provide a subsistence income. When workers tried to organize a union to negotiate an eight-cent wage increase, they were harassed and beaten and some were arrested on false charges. Several organizers were fired, and others quit because they feared for their lives.
In May 2001, facing negative publicity and the possibility of substantial monetary damages if they lost, Nien Hsing reached a settlement that reinstated all workers and allowed them to organize an independent union. The following day however, the case was dismissed, and the district court judge held that there were no labor rights recognized under international law. CCR’s experience is that in many cases that break new legal ground, the precedent-setting victories are achieved only after an appeal to the Court of Appeals. Since Nien Hsing and Chentex continued to honor the settlement agreement, no appeal was necessary. CCR is committed to help establish labor rights under international law and the ATS and continues to address these issues when the opportunities arise.