Surrounded by congressmen, labor advocates and human rights workers, a 15-year-old Honduran girl yesterday appealed to celebrity Kathie Lee Gifford to help end the abuse of children in sweatshops that make garments bearing Gifford's name.

"I want to talk to Kathie Lee to ask her to help us put an end to all this maltreatment," said Wendy Diaz, a former worker at a factory in her native Honduras that made Gifford's line of clothing for the Wal-Mart retail giant. She said she was among about 100 minors, some as young as 12 years old, who routinely worked 13 hours a day for 31 cents an hour and were subjected to threats, physical abuse and sexual harassment by the sweatshop's South Korean owners.

The diminutive Honduran girl told her story at a Capitol Hill news conference aimed at promoting congressional efforts to hold retailers, manufacturers and celebrities more accountable for the labor practices behind the clothing that they produce and market.

"Parents have a right to know that the toys and clothes they buy for their children are not made by exploited children," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif). "The fact is, despite laws against the use of child labor and laws protecting the minimum wage, labor exploitation is rampant, both domestically and abroad."

He called on U.S. companies voluntarily to adopt the use of a "No Sweat" label certifying that "this product {was} not made with child or exploited labor." Otherwise, he said, Congress should enact legislation to ban the importation of products made with child labor and prohibit U.S. aid to countries that knowingly use child labor.

At the same news conference, Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said he would invite Gifford to a hearing of the House International Relations subcommittee on international operations and human rights next month.

In emotional statements on her syndicated television talk show, "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee," Gifford has denied knowing of the conditions at sweatshops in Honduras and New York City. Wal-Mart Stores, with 1995 sales of more than $93 billion, says it has severed its connections to both sweatshops.

Charles Kernaghan, a labor rights advocate who has helped expose sweatshop practices, said other U.S. retail chains and celebrities are also to blame. He said girls as young as 13 told of physical and verbal abuse while working 14 to 16 hours daily at another Korean-owned sweatshop in Honduras that makes clothes bearing the Jaclyn Smith label for Kmart.

Diaz, an orphan, said she started working at the Global Fashions company at the age of 13 to help support her three small brothers. She said she worked on women's pants bearing Gifford's label last year, sometimes toiling at the sweltering factory until 6:30 a.m. to fill rush orders.

The Korean supervisors would "insult us and yell at us to work faster," she said. Managers also would "touch our legs or buttocks, pretending it's a joke," she said, and would punish the girls if they complained.

She said pregnant women among the approximately 600 employees were sent to the pressing department, where they had to work 12 or 13 hours a day on their feet in tremendous heat. Diaz said the company used this tactic to force the women to quit so it could avoid paying maternity benefits.

She said employees were allowed to use the bathroom only twice a day and punished if they talked on the job. Workers who tried to organize a union were summarily fired, she said.

Diaz said Americans from a U.S. contractor visited the sweatshop several times but never talked to the workers.

"They only went to see if the quality of the work was good," Kernaghan said. He said the New York contractor, About Sportswear, shifted production of Gifford's clothing to Nicaragua in December -- not because of child labor abuse but because it found a cheaper manufacturer. For making a pair of pants that Wal-Mart sold for $19.96, he said, the Honduran workers were paid a total of 25 cents.

"We want Kathie Lee to return her work to our factory, but with better working conditions and a just wage," Diaz said. Before quitting two weeks ago, she said, her co-workers at the plant also asked her to seek Gifford's help so that the owners "would stop yelling at us and hitting us, and so they would let us go to night school and let us organize to protect our rights." CAPTION: Wendy Diaz, 15, formerly a worker at a Honduran factory, at Capitol Hill news conference tells of physical and verbal abuse of employees at plant.