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Human Rights

Gap Sweatshops Campaign
Click here to read about the recent Gap banner hang

With clothing production in numerous countries, the Gap, Inc, owner of Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic, is a major exploiter of sweatshop labor.

"On January 13, 1999 a lawsuit was filed against 18 US clothing companies, including the Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, the Limited, J.C. Penny, Wal-Mart and Sears. With no US import tariffs, no US quota restrictions, a minimum wage of $3.05 per hour, and lax immigration laws, the Northern Mariana Islands--a US Commonwealth in the South Pacific--has attracted a host of foreign investors who produce clothes for some of the biggest brand-name labels at the cost of exploiting workers. These companies are accused of using indentured labor--predominantly young women from Asia--to produce clothing on the island of Saipan. These immigrant workers must: sign contracts that deny them their basic human rights; pay exorbitant recruitment fees that keep them in a state of indentured servitude; work up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often without overtime pay; and live in overcrowded housing in unsanitary conditions. The Gap is the leading company in Saipan's garment industry, producing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of clothing." -Sweatshop Watch

Wetlands and other groups are organizing demonstrations at Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic stores challenging the company to improve the conditions of its overseas workers. Wetlands is also fighting the Gap's owners' destruction of redwood forests. " (destruction of redwood forests should link to the section on Gap redwoods destruction.)

For more information contact:
310 Eighth Street, Suite 309 Oakland, CA 94607
Email: sweatwatch@igc.org
Website: http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/marianas/

2017 Mission Street, Room 303 San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 255-7296 Fax: (415) 255-7498

What You Can Do:

"A coalition of groups is kicking off the STOP SAIPAN SWEATSHOPS campaign. They are targeting the Gap and other companies producing in Saipan but are not calling for a boycott" -Nikki Bas, Sweatshop Watch

  • Organize a demonstration at a Gap store or another Saipan sweatshop producer for the national day of action on the first Saturday of every month.
  • Write to Donald Fisher and tell him that sweatshop labor is out of style:
    The Gap, Inc. (Banana Republic, Old Navy)
    Donald Fisher, Chairman
    One Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94105
    Tel: (415) 952-4400 Fax: (415) 427-7007
  • Click here to send a fax to Don Fisher from the Web!!
Global Sweatshop Coalition:
The Global Sweatshop Coalition is an alliance of NYC social justice organizations with roots in the labor, socialist, and Latin America solidarity movements. Member groups include the New York Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Nicaragua Solidarity Network, the New York Local of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Disney-Haiti Justice Campaign, the Socialist Party, and Wetlands.
Coalition committees meet most Wednesdays, with general public meetings on the 4th Wednesday of every month. Everyone is welcome to attend all meetings.
Coalition Contact Info:
The Global Sweatshop Coalition
Phone: 212-645-5230 Fax: 212-645-6243
Email: nicadlw@earthlink.net

Rapid Action Network
: The Coalition has recently joined the Rapid Action Network, initiated by the Campaign for Labor Rights. Participating groups agree in the Network agree to mobilize in their communities with as little as 14 days notice at least 6 out of 10 times when asked during the course of the year. The great majority of the mobilizations will be leafleting actions, usually at retail outlets.
These mobilizations are intended to increase the leverage of sweatshop union activists when they press for demands such as: reinstatement of fired organizers, union recognition and good-faith contract bargaining. The goal of the mobilizations is worker empowerment through free trade unions and collective bargaining.
To learn more about the Rapid Action Network, or to sign your group up to the Network, click here.

Unions in Nicaragua's Las Mercedes free trade zone are facing an escalation of attacks from factory owners. Nicaragua has the smallest free trade zone sector in Central America, but with the highest percentage of unionized export factories. It would be a setback for the entire region if these union-busting attacks were to succeed.

Hundreds of Chentex union members have been on strike since Tuesday after their attempts to negotiate for a salary increase failed and management announced plans to fire the union leadership (9 workers) and close at least one production line. The Ministry of Labor has not yet ruled the strike legal or illegal and has not yet approved the firing of the 9 union leaders.
Workers stopped work for one hour on May 2. Approximately 30 workers, including the 9 union leaders, spent that night in the factory. The company called in police to monitor the situation. Other workers arrived at the factory the following morning, but the work stoppage continued. Throughout the day on May 3, more than 500 workers supported the union leaders in the strike. "If we let them fire the union leaders, we won't have any protection. We will be next," said a supporter.

The protest stems from eight months of attempted negotiations for a salary increase. Chentex is part of a Taiwanese consortium of maquilas in the free trade zone, all of which received a salary increase in March. However, Chentex workers said that their increase was insubstantial. One worker pointed out that her salary increase amounted to only $0.32 a week. Union representatives say they tried multiple times to negotiate with the management, asking for mediation from the Ministry of Labor, but were unsuccessful. Management claims that financial difficulties make another salary increase impossible.

Workers and management met during the week of April 24 at the Nicaraguan Ministry of Labor, where workers again asked for a salary increase. They stated that they warned the Ministry of Labor and management of their plans to strike if they did not receive a response by May 2. Management responded by threatening to close an entire production line. Management then applied to the Ministry of Labor for permission to fire the 9 union officers for the CST union. This proposed action has not yet been approved. After being notified on May 3 that their union leadership may be fired, the workers went on strike.

In an interview, Lucas Wong, representative for the consortium, defended the decision to fire the union leadership. "We have to do something, because if we don't the union just thinks we can't touch them. There's no discipline." Wong said the management is "tired of this problem" and claimed that the union "is not a normal union." [CLR note: Perhaps he means that it is not like company-controlled unions, which also have a presence in the free trade zone.]

Maria del Carmen Pena, Inspector for the Labor Department of the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Sector, said she plans to investigate the conflict this week and will decide late next week whether to approve the firings. She also is investigating the legality of the work stoppage. Both sides, management and workers, will have four days to present their cases.

Chentex employs approximately 1,800 workers in Managua's free trade zone. It produces clothing under the Arizona and Bugle Boy labels for JC Penney and Kmart. The union formed in 1998 and has a collective bargaining agreement with management. It has traditionally been one of the strongest, most active unions in the free trade zone. This attempt to dismantle it represents a serious threat to organizing in Nicaragua's maquila sector.

Chentex workers went to the Ministry of Labor on May 4 to denounce the company's attempt to fire the union leadership. The Ministry has not yet ruled on the firings or the strike, but is expected to do so very soon. The workers have asked for international solidarity in pressuring the Ministry of Labor not to approve the firings, to declare the strike legal and to direct Chentex management to negotiate with workers.

Since early January, Mil Colores has fired more than 200 union members and leaders. Also, 68 face trumped-up criminal charges and possible prison sentences. These workers already had difficulty scraping by on wages as low as 20 cents per hour. Now that they have no paycheck, they are wondering how to feed their families. The possibility of prison sentences makes the situation even more frightening for many of them.

The Federation of Textile, Garment, Leather and Shoe Workers (which represents workers at Mil Colores and other factories in Nicaragua's Las Mercedes free trade zone) has asked us to pressure the companies which have clothing produced at Mil Colores.

Leafleting will take place at Target stores (Target, Mervyn's, Dayton's, Hudson's, Marshall Fields) and Kohl's stores. CLR has fliers and leaflet masters available for organizers. If you'd like to organize a leafleting event, please contact Campaign for Labor Rights at CLR@igc.org or (541) 344-5410 and tell them the specifics: store, location, date, time, organizations involved. If you are interested in joining an action already being planned in your community, CLR can help connect you with the organizers. Leaflets are also available in Spanish. Call for details.

To learn more about the workers' struggle at Chentex, click here
To learn more about the workers' struggle at Mil Colores, click here


Sweatshop Activism Links

AFL-CIO Sweatfree Shopping

Campaign for Labor Rights

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador: Global Sweatshops

International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF)

New York State Labor-Religion Coalition Campaign for Sweat-free Schools

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

United Farm Workers

Local Student Anti-Sweatshop Groups

Anti-Sweatshop Campaign @ Sarah Lawrence

City College of New York Students Against Sweatshops

Columbia University Students Against Sweatshops

National Mobilization Against Sweatshops @ NYU


Indigenous Rights Campaigns
The genocide of indigenous people that has characterized Western coloniaism and imperialism hs not ended. Around the world, indigenous people are engaged in desperate struggle to defend the their culture, theirenvironment, and their lives. Indenous people face forced relocation, massive pollution, and outright murder at the hands of multinational corporations and neoliberal governments.

Wetlands has been actively worked in solidarity with indgenous peopke's struggle for many years.

Among other projects, we have:

  • supported the Dineh (Navajo) in their fight against forced relocation.
  • supported the Ijaw and Ogoni of Nigeria in their struggle for surviv al against mutli-national oil conglomerates and the Nigerian military dictatorship.
  • supported indgenous groups in the Burmese rainforest like the Karen, who are thereated by yhe constrution of a natiural gas pipeline on their ancestral lands.
  • we have organzied public events to publicize the case of Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier.
  • worked to break the sinece around the genocide of the U'wa of Colombia.
  • demanded reparations and clean-up of the ecological disaster left in the rainforest homeland of Ecuador's indigenous people by Texaco.
  • challenged Con Ed-supported hydro-electricity projects in Quebec that threatened the homeland of the Cree people.
  • opposed the destruction of the British Colombian forest home of First nation peoples like the Nuxalk.
  • co-sponsored Environmental Justice Now!, a recent conference with a major focus on indigenous environmental justice issues.
Current Indigenous Rights Campaigns:
U'wa Campaign
Burma Campaign