Organic Consumers Association

Gap Sweatshop Labor in Tainan

From United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)
Posted 3/10/2003

You probably know that most clothes from the Gap and other major American apparel manufacturers are made in sweatshops. In factory after factory in the United States and around the world, workers who make products for Gap tell of desperately low wages, unsafe working conditions, physical abuse, sexual harassment and harsh repression when they stand up for their rights.

A new report compiled by UNITE shows a pattern of abuse in 43 factories producing Gap clothes across 3 continents. Workers report beatings, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and harsh repression of union organizing. The pay is so low that workers making Gap clothes are trapped in desperate poverty. For the cost of a few dimes per garment, the Gap could double the pay of workers in these factories.

In El Salvador, Gap workers who tried to form a union called the STIT (Textile Industry Workers Union) lost their jobs when the Gap pulled the work out of their factory and union supporters were being "blacklisted" in the entire export-processing zone. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) affiliates hosted these workers on a speaking tour in the fall of 2002, and organized dozens of GAP actions in the following months. Then, at the end of a USAS Week of Resistance that featured actions supporting the STIT, the GAP-contractor Tainan Enterprises Co. Ltd. agreed to reopen the factory and to recognize the union!

The STIT thanks the Solidarity Center, Focus on Globalization, the Center for Studies and Labor Support and Studies (CEAL), USLEAP, CLR, UNITE, and USAS for their support. But the GAP has yet to place an order with the newly-reopened and unionized Tainan factory.

The STIT has called on consumers to pressure the GAP into placing an order there, so that production can return and the factory can rehire its old workers. Meanwhile, the Gap denies responsibility for the sweatshop conditions in the factories around the world producing its clothes. But as the largest brand-name clothing retailer in the United States, the Gap sets the prices for goods and labor worldwide, creating a global sweatshop system. The Gap is responsible for the conditions of workers making its products.

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