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Workers Call for Holiday Gap Boycott

The Associated Press State & Local Wire
November 28, 2002
By IAN STEWART, Associated Press Writer

Garment workers from Indonesia are appealing to consumers in the United States to boycott Gap products during the holiday season to protest labor conditions at factories in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Calling many of the Gap-contracted factories sweatshops, the workers said conditions were inhumane.

"We are treated like animals," Sudaryanti, a 23-year-old garment worker from a Gap factory in Indonesia, said Wednesday through an interpreter. "We are abused if we do not work the way the supervisor wants." Sudaryanti, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, was in the United States with several other Indonesian workers to raise awareness of poor labor conditions in factories used by Gap.

With the holiday shopping season going into high gear, laborer advocates have stepped up an ongoing campaign against the San Francisco-based Gap Inc.

In a new 24-page study on working conditions in Gap factories, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, known as UNITE, accused the Gap of poor health and safety conditions in factories contracted by the multibillion dollar company.

While the Gap does pay minimum wage in most of the countries where it hires factories, it is still hard for most workers to make ends meet, said Ginny Coughlin, the director of UNITE's Global Justice for Garment Workers Campaign.

The report also cited union busting activities by management, low wages and, in some instances, corporal punishment to force laborers to meet quotas.

Wages are so low in Indonesia, Lesotho and El Salvador that many workers are forced to live in ramshackle huts without running water or electricity, UNITE said.

A spokeswoman for the Gap said the factories were not owned by the Gap, but were independently contracted by the Gap and other companies.

"We share the concerns and are aware of these conditions," said Stacy MacLean. "We're doing more than most people and are committed to work on it through the long term."

UNITE's study cited abuses at Gap factories in Cambodia, Lesotho, Indonesia, Bangladesh, El Salvador and Mexico.

Like most major garment manufacturers, the gap employs clothing subcontractors to produce their line of products. Some of the worst labor rights violators are factories owned by Taiwanese and South Korean companies, Coughlin said.

While Gap men's pants cost between $39.50 and $59.50, many workers in the company's Lesotho factories earn about 30 cents an hour.

For the first three quarters of its fiscal year, Gap earned $228.7 million, or 26 cents per share, on sales of $9.8 billion. At the same juncture last year, Gap had earned $26.4 million, or 3 cents per share, on sales of $9.76 billion.


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