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Protest at GAP HQ highlights garment giant’s lack of humanity

Martin Caldwell (sumofus.org), Sara Steffens (The Newspaper Guild) and Sara Church (International Labor Rights Forum) speak outside of The GAP's annual shareholder meeting in protest of GAP's refusal to join in an accord that protects workers and their health and safety.  Photo by Staff 2014.

Martin Caldwell (sumofus.org), Sara Steffens (The Newspaper Guild) and Sarah Church (International Labor Rights Forum) speak outside of GAP’s annual shareholder meeting in protest of the company’s refusal to join in an accord that protects Bangladeshi workers’ health and safety. Photo by Staff 2014.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Community activists gathered from across the Bay Area to protest the status of safety conditions and labor rights, outside the annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday at the GAP headquarters at 2 Folsom in San Francisco.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) issued the following statement: “Since 2005, more than 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have been killed in fires and building collapses while sewing clothing for companies like Gap and Walmart. In order to prevent future tragedies in their supply chains, over 160 companies, including H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, and American Eagle, have now signed onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally-binding factory safety agreement with two global unions and ten Bangladeshi unions. It’s time for Gap to join with them, before the next deadly disaster. The demonstration will also call on Gap to pay $200,000 in compensation to the victims of the Aswad factory fire. On October 8, 2013, seven workers were killed and 50 were injured in a fire at Aswad Composite Mills, which made cloth for Gap Inc., but Gap has failed to pay even a single penny of the compensation it owes. We will also lift up the demands of garment workers who have been striking in Cambodia. We will call on Gap to tell its Cambodian suppliers to pay at least $160/month, to pay a price to the factories that supports the wage increase, and to urge the government of Cambodia to release the 21 activists who have been unjustly detained since January, drop the charges against all 23, and reinstate freedom of assembly….”

Local community members awarded GAP Board members the Public Eye Award, citing the company as “the most socially-irresponsible corporation.”

According to GAP officials, Laura Wilkinson, a public relations representative for the GAP said,”The GAP is concerned with these issues and working to address these concerns.”

Sara Steffens, Acting Secretary-Treasurer of The Newspaper Guild, CWA, stated, “We’re very disappointed in the GAP, which used to be a leader in social responsibility. The consumers deserve better and I hope people keep the pressure on the company regarding this matter.”

Green Party Congressional candidate Barry Hermanson stated,”I think the government should reform our trade system. We shouldn’t allow corporations to bring products into our country made with sweatshop labor. For the additional cost of 10 cents, 15 cents, or 25 cents, we can have products that are made by someone earning a living wage.”

Sarah Church, representative for the International Labor Rights Forum, and head of the “Sweat-Free Communities” Project, stated,”We want people and consumers to know that people are literally dying because of the lack of safety standards and basic fire prevention and protections. Consumers should be particularly concerned where their clothes come from especially when preventable tragedies take place. The GAP should attend to fire safety issues and compensation for the families and workers who have been adversely affected. At the Aswat site, where 7 garment workers died, the GAP Inc., has yet to compensate the families or support the workers who were either injured or lost their lives in the sweatshop fire. In the wake of the tragedy, the GAP has refused to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord. In response, the GAP has chosen to create a corporate sham agreement that provides no accountability or responsibility, and has had the audacity to bring on board other corporations such as Walmart, which have shown such a blatant disregard for labor and worker rights across the globe…I can’t comment as to what The White House, President Barack Obama, or the U.S. State Department should do in this matter, but we need to continue to put political pressure on the GAP and the Bangladeshi government. Ultimately the responsibility comes from companies. The GAP has the opportunity to make changes but they have continued to undermine efforts at reform.”

Libby Sayre, CWA representative, stated,”I am here because I believe consumers would be shocked that the GAP refuses to pay any compensation for the lives that were lost in sweatshop fires or pay for the lives they’ve shattered in Bangladesh and across the globe. Other corporations have pledged to make changes and signed on to the Bangladesh Safety Accord, but even the GAP won’t take these small steps. I hope mothers will remember this before they shop for clothes during the “back to school” season and I hope voters remember this and oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”

Reprinted with permission from Sfnewsfeed.us/Jose Ricardo Bondoc.

 

Kat Anderson

Kat Anderson

Pacific Media Workers Guild Administrative Officer/Business Agent, founder of Bay News Rising mentorship program for college journalism students and editor of mediaworkers.org.

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