Geared Labour
November 29, 2002 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Boycott GAP. Several groups see sweatshops as dangerous and inhumane. Yet there remains rejuvenation through globalization.
posted by the fire you left me (28 comments total)
I am a former GAP corp. office employee.

GAP is a great retailer (with sense of design), the Fisher family (GAP founders) are wonderful people, I have spent some of time with them on their ranch in San Rafael, CA and in San Francisco.

The "Animals" from the 3rd world should be happy that they have some kind of job, because if it wasn't for Fishers they would be starving to death.

This article is a lie,to read more about GAP and their social responsibility programs to the "Animals" from the 3rd world click here
posted by bureaustyle at 3:43 PM on November 29, 2002

If Gap cared so much about working practices, it wouldn't contract the work out to third-party labour factories and it would pay the staff American wages.

But the simple fact is that these Asian workhouses are used so that companies like Gap can wipe their hands of the dirty work of actually producing clothes, leaving the US offices, by and large, to look after the fun stuff like building brands.
posted by skylar at 3:49 PM on November 29, 2002

bureaustyle - are you trolling, racist, or just being ironic? or what?
posted by PrinceValium at 3:50 PM on November 29, 2002

bureaustyle is trying out a whole new form of viral advertising.
posted by interrobang at 3:51 PM on November 29, 2002

bureaustyle is trying out a whole new form of IP ban -- well, he/she soon will be, anyway
posted by matteo at 3:59 PM on November 29, 2002

To PrinceValium :

In the Salon article they compared themselves to animals, right ? I just repeat what they said. I did not insult any race, did I ?

Nobody is forcing them to work for GAP, it's their choice.

Are you willing to spend 150.00 USD for your pants ? If not just be happy that we the Westerners have the choice to pay 29.99 for 150.00 USD pants quality.

Long live the Western Way Of Life
posted by bureaustyle at 4:08 PM on November 29, 2002

Yeah Matteo...

Let's ban everyone with dissenting opinions!
posted by SweetJesus at 4:09 PM on November 29, 2002

GAP is a great retailer
and hitler was a great philosopher.
[thread veers off road, impacts tree.]
posted by quonsar at 4:24 PM on November 29, 2002

Let's start with this quote:

"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."

What is the supervisor asking for? Without any background information, I hardly think anyone can make an informed discussion. They could be using whips..... or they could be asking that they don't chit-chat for 1/2 of their shift.

Wages are also based on cost-of-living for the area in which you are employed. A US dollar goes a lot further in the 3rd world, not only for the employers who are getting cheaper labor, but for the laborers as well.
posted by benjh at 4:25 PM on November 29, 2002

bureaustyle: While "If they don't like it, they shouldn't work there." sounds all well and good, why do you suppose we have so many labour laws here in the west?

Do you honestly think that your boss should be allowed to physically assault you?
posted by ODiV at 4:36 PM on November 29, 2002

They could be using whips..... or they could be asking that they don't chit-chat for 1/2 of their shift.

Isn't it a pretty fair assumption that the workers were asking for reasonable requests (like breaks to use the restroom)? Has anyone ever heard of workers in sweatshops chit-chatting, or asking for other requests?

Thanks for that link, bureaustyle, but I'm still skeptical. It sounds like a good plan, with the vendor compliance officers, and such, but they're called sweatshops for a reason--long hours, low pay, poor conditions. Yes, a dollar goes further in Thailand than the US, but still, I don't think children should have to work 12 hour days in these factories to support their families, and risk losing fingers and limbs.
posted by gramcracker at 4:48 PM on November 29, 2002

Sorry to post a picture, but this is pummeling:

posted by The Jesse Helms at 5:08 PM on November 29, 2002

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 San Francisco-based Gap Inc.

I'm just wondering, how the HELL did she get to the US? I'm sure that plane ticket was worth many meals in Indonesia...

The thing I've always wondered about is why do we single out these companies (Gap, Nike) when countless others do exactly the same thing? It's not a problem with Gap really (I do personally own some Gap and Banana Republic stuff), it's a problem with how the whole world works. I don't think boycotting Gap helps much - that makes it personal when this isn't a personal issue.
posted by swank6 at 5:16 PM on November 29, 2002

This is not an easy issue on either side. If they don't work, they starve, so a small decrease in the amount of gap clothes that people buy will cause a small increase in the number of unemployed, impoverished, and starving people in 3rd world countries. At least if they are working in a sweat shop they are supposedly earning their keep.

I think this requires government action. We really need to start imposing bans on imports of goods made with labor that does not meet certain criteria (minimum wage above the poverty line in that country (rules out even some US goods), certain work conditions, and no child labor under 14 or so.). Unfortunately, any person that will be elected to office knows both that this would hurt the economy, and their campaign finance pocketbook when companies start giving money to their opponents to block an act like this, so it will never be passed.

In summary, I'm afraid we're screwed on this one.
posted by statusquo at 5:17 PM on November 29, 2002

“Chocolate isn’t the only American staple tainted by slavery. In addition to being the king of cocoa, Cote d’Avoire is the world’s fourth-largest Robusta coffee grower, after Vietnam, Indonesia and Uganda. The two crops often are grown together, so the taller cacao trees can shade the coffee bushes, and on some farms, young slaves harvest coffee beans as well as the cacao pods that yield cocoa beans.” In the U.S., about 5% of Robusta beans come from the Cote d’Avoire. “As with cocoa, there’s no way to tell whether a shipment of coffee beans contains beans picked by slaves or those picked by paid workers,” the article states.
In Kenya for example, “casual” coffee workers make approximately 1000 shillings a month (roughly U.S. $12), while the minimum wage required by law is 3 to 4 times that amount.

The Plight of Coffee's Children


Covered in coal dust, an Afghan girl grabs spilled charcoal at an aid relief distribution in Kabul. Children are often seen picking up scraps of wood and coal for small wages, or for their families.
Images here
posted by matteo at 5:24 PM on November 29, 2002

Wow...this is some f**ked up stuff.

I have honestly felt that companies that make no effort should not be rewarded with my business, but I agree with swank6. We do tend to single out the large, well known companies; the ones that we can point large fingers at and expect them to stop. Everytime someone goes into a Wal-Mart, or Sears for that matter, chances are tons of the clothing has been pieced together in third world countries.

Matteo's link made me wonder if the third world is really just about one hundred years behind the western world...Perhaps if western media/union/labour people didn't show up, the workers wouldn't really think their lot sucked? Of course, beatings suck, but the actual working long hours, etc....Perhaps this is part of the third world's progression, and we can't be expected to force them into the modern world? Geez, I don't know...

I do think that the GAP sounds like they are willing to spend some of their profits on attempting to effect change.

Yes? No? Perhaps we can only try an make informed choices, and buy local whenever possible?
posted by Richat at 5:48 PM on November 29, 2002

The reason activists tend to go toward the largest "offenders" is so that they can piggyback on their marketing department. When people succeeded in getting Starbucks to use some fair-trade coffee, Starbucks was able to use that in their advertisements. A beneficial situation for both sides.

Going after enough small-guys to add up to the total sales of one big company would leave most of the human-rights organizations completely broke. Going after the largest can lead to a trickle down effect, if only through greater public awareness.

I think this requires government action.

No sense in waiting around for someone else to do it. If you want things to change, vote with your dollars.

posted by a_green_man at 6:26 PM on November 29, 2002

Global Exchange recently announced that the Gap settled the Saipan lawsuit, agreeing to pay laborers back wages and allow monitoring of working conditions. They've been campaiging against the Gap's labor abuses for a long time, but they never called it a "boycott," from what I understand. The workers didn't want the jobs to go elsewhere.
posted by judlew at 9:44 PM on November 29, 2002

There is a fair amount of debate on how to improve labor standards in developing countries, however. It's not like we can just say "ok, no more products from you, Indonesia" and have it all trickle down and work. I read about Ratcheting Labor Standards, which is a proposal to improve conditions gradually while putting a monitoring policy in place. There is a good book about it put out by Beacon Press, which also gives an introduction to the issues surrounding labor regulations in countries which don't have as strong a labor movement as in the US.
posted by CommaTheWaterseller at 10:00 PM on November 29, 2002

my roommate is vietnamese, first generation. his parents venture back home at least once a year. he has relatives that work in these 'sweatshops.' accordingly, people are thankful to have these jobs there that pay as much as these do. they make in a day what the average, non-sweatshop employee makes in a week or two.

it's easy to jump on the humanitarian bandwagon based on facts printed in some brochure -- but i believe the first hand accounts, personally. the people that actually do it. and they don't seem to mind; whether it's because they have no other choice or, god forbid, it really *IS* better for them and their families.
posted by aenemated at 4:35 AM on November 30, 2002

Surely if people stopped buying from Gap, the people in the sweat shops would lose their jobs, thus be in an even worse position...the exploitation of third world labour isn't a good thing, and should be stopped, but boycotting Gap won't help them get more money...
posted by Orange Goblin at 5:20 AM on November 30, 2002

From the Article:
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

That statement makes it appear that the problem is the minimum wage levels in these countries. Increase that and foreign companies would have no choice but to pay better wages.

OG states: Surely if people stopped buying from Gap, the people in the sweat shops would lose their jobs, thus be in an even worse position

Also, if the boycott is successful in raising the workers pay to 1st world levels, then companies will keep their factories in their home countries, and these workers will lose their jobs again. Why would a company produce overseas when it costs the same as staying local?
posted by jsonic at 8:23 AM on November 30, 2002

Unfortunately I agree with swank6. Really, are there *any* clothes or shoes out there (besides, maybe, Hanes--aren't they made in the US?) that *aren't* made in sweatshops?

Boycotting doesn't seem like an effective technique, because the problem is so rampant.
posted by gramcracker at 9:00 AM on November 30, 2002

And of course if one company starts paying first-world wages while every other company is using third-world wages, you would cause an imbalance in the economics of that country. Inflation would be rampant throughout the country because 'people can afford it now' which in turn would put them right back where they started.
posted by benjh at 9:32 AM on November 30, 2002

We really need to start imposing bans on imports of goods

Since America should not police the world, it should not be the American government's job to protect the sweatshop workers of foreign countries. It is the responsibility of their own governments and people.

This is probably an idealistic and naive idea but this would be my simplistic solution for making things better.

Governments that truly cared about their own sweatshop workers could probably work out agreements with corporations to manufacture in their areas with wages less than American but more than the current, which would be beneficial to all involved, the workers, the US economy, the businesses and the 3rd world economy.

If a band of countries did this, boycotts and activists could apply pressure to companies to use these areas and maybe eventually more and more countries would do the same to stay competitive.
posted by Recockulous at 3:56 PM on November 30, 2002

I have to agree with swank6 and the other posters that any boycott of the Gap is pointless. While politically-based boycotts may have been effective back in the first half of the 20th century when everything was manufactured domestically, they'd barely register in the total income that a huge multi-national chain of stores rake in every day.

Making these actions publicly known and getting public and governmental support is a more direct and less damaging approach than an ineffective boycott, which would send a rather remote (or invisible) message to the corporation and would only punish the workers on the short end of the stick, who would only get fired because there'd be less clothing to make.

These days, companies need to know WHY they're being avoided, or they won't change.
posted by Down10 at 11:45 PM on November 30, 2002

Most people in this thread seem to be working on the assumption that it's fair for this labour to be done outside of the US. Why? Is it because no-one in the States would like to do this work? Or because companies like the Gap aren't willing to pay wages that would keep Americans alive? Why is that? Do other nations deserve less than Westerners?

And if foreign nations fall under American-style justice when it comes to terrorism, what about when it comes to manufacturing clothes? Isn't it right that American laws should apply to foreign factories, when American products are being manufactured?
posted by skylar at 12:22 AM on December 2, 2002

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