Clothing factories employed by large, socially responsible brands receive lots of visits from social-responsibility auditors looking to ensure fair treatment for workers and a safe, healthy work environment. But small, U.S.-based operations like Trupart typically do not get audited. A visit to Trupart from Patagonia’s social and environmental responsibility team in May 2012 marked the company’s first audit for social compliance. Our three staff members spent seven hours in the shop, interviewing employees, inspecting machinery and going through records.
Trupart employees are paid hourly and everyone makes well over California minimum wage, which in 2012 is $8 per hour. They typically work from 7 am to 4 pm, with a 10-minute break in the morning, a 10-minute break in the afternoon, and a 30-minute lunch break, as required by California law. Holidays are paid, full-time employees receive health insurance benefits and one week of vacation after one year on the job. The latter are benefits that are not required by law. The facility is not associated with a union or trade association.
Working with Patagonia can be a challenge. Our demands for quality are high. As a member of the Fair Labor Association® (FLA®), our environmental, health and safety, and social responsibility principles are strict. Trupart President Shane Prukop and his employees were helpful and forthcoming during our visit. Shane takes justifiable pride in his operation, so the results of the audit came as a bit of a surprise to him. Patagonia auditors found 35 areas that needed improvement, most of them health and safety issues. We drafted a corrective action plan, which Trupart readily agreed to. Shane and his crew have since corrected 25 concerns and are working on the others.