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Copyright 2002 Associated
Associated Press Worldstream
November 20, 2002 Wednesday
Union, students demand Gap end 'sweatshop' production
Seeking to hit the Gap
where it would hurt most, textile union activists mounted a pre-holiday
campaign to force the giant retailer to stop producing clothing in what
it called sweatshops.
Spokesmen for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees,
joined by the Africa Forum and a college group, told a midtown Manhattan
news conference on Wednesday that the Gap
was encouraging the exploitation of workers in six countries.
Recent research had documented "abusive working conditions" at 40 Gap-contracted
clothing factories in Cambodia, Lesotho, Indonesia, Bangladesh, El Salvador
and Mexico, UNITE officials
said. The activists set up mannequins in Gap
clothing in front of a Gap
store and distributed handbills reading, "Don't buy me GAP
this holiday season."
UNITE officials said
their campaign includes a strategy of e-mailings to 13 million union members
and hundreds of students and church leaders, urging recipients to fax protests
over Gap's alleged use
of sweatshops to company CEO Paul Pressler.
"We want the Gap to
stop exploiting sweatshop labor around the world," said union official Steve
Weingarten. "We want them to pay a wage that allows a decent standard of
living and allow workers to organize unions to improve conditions in their
Gap spokeswoman Stacy
MacLean said the company makes a concerted effort to assure that its contract
vendors abroad meet legal and acceptable standards on wages, working conditions
and other factors affecting employees.
"Overall we share these concerns, and we work with factories to make sure
that standards are maintained," MacLean said. "To the extent that we can
influence that, we do."
To support their claims of exploitation, the organizers presented workers
from Indonesia, Lesotho and El Salvador, who described low pay, long hours,
health hazards and brutal working conditions at factories turning out Gap
Gap Inc. is one of the
nation's largest clothing retailers, with sales of close to $14 billion
last year. It has 4,300 stores in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom,
France, Germany and Japan. Besides the Gap
brand, it owns Banana Republic and Old Navy stores.
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