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Old 10-29-2007, 12:26 PM   #1
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Gap in kids sweatshop scandal

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Clothing retailer Gap Inc. has fired an Indian company accused of using child labor to make clothes, the company's president said.

The Gap's president said no garments made in a New Delhi, India, sweatshop would be sold in Gap stores.

"It's deeply, deeply disturbing to all of us," Gap President Marka Hansen said Sunday after watching a video of children at work in a New Delhi, India, sweatshop.

"I feel violated and I feel very upset and angry with our vendor and the subcontractor who made this very, very, very unwise decision," Hansen said.

Hansen blamed the alleged abuse on an unauthorized subcontractor for one of its Indian vendors and said the subcontractor's relationship with the Gap had been "terminated."

She said the garments allegedly produced by the children represented a small portion of a single order placed with the vendor and that the clothes would not be sold in stores.

"We strictly prohibit the use of child labor," Hansen said in a statement. "Gap has a history of addressing challenges like this head-on, and our approach to this situation will be no exception.

"In 2006, Gap Inc. ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations. We have 90 people located around the world whose job is to ensure compliance with our Code of Vendor Conduct."

The report first appeared Sunday in Britain's Observer newspaper. Watch how children worked as virtual slaves »

The Observer spoke to children as young as 10 who said they were working 16 hours a day for no pay. The paper described the workplace as a "derelict industrial unit" where the hallways were flowing with excrement from a flooded toilet.

One 10-year-old boy told the paper he was sold to the company by his parents.

"'I was bought from my parents' village in [the northern state of] Bihar and taken to New Delhi by train," The Observer quoted the boy as saying. "The men came looking for us in July. They had loudspeakers in the back of a car and told my parents that, if they sent me to work in the city, they won't have to work in the farms. My father was paid a fee for me, and I was brought down with 40 other children."

Another boy, 12, said he worked from dawn until 1 a.m. and was so tired he felt sick, according to the paper. But if any of the children cried, he told The Observer, they would be hit with a rubber pipe or punished with an oily cloth stuffed in their mouths.

The children were producing hand-stitched blouses for the Christmas market in the United States and Europe at Gap Kids stores, according to the newspaper. The blouses were to carry a price of about $40, The Observer reported.

The Gap faced criticism for similar practices in 2000, when a BBC documentary uncovered young girls producing Gap products at a Cambodian factory. But since then, Hansen said, the company has developed comprehensive policies to prevent abuse and protect workers' rights. Hansen said violations of those policies are now "extremely rare."

She said she does not support closing any factories in India in response to the allegations because it would deprive those working in proper conditions of their income.

The Gap also operates Banana Republic and Old Navy stores. It has 3,100 stores around the world. E-mail to a friend

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Old 10-29-2007, 12:52 PM   #2
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I read about that, I thought there have been rumors for years that the Gap used sweatshops.

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Old 10-29-2007, 01:13 PM   #3
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oh yeah, i'm sure most of their stuff is still made in sweatshops. much of the clothing line does come from china after all. i guess they just don't want sweat shops that abuse child labor laws.

although after Naomi Klein sucker-punched them in No Logo, they are trying to clean up their image...hence (RED).
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Old 10-29-2007, 05:18 PM   #4
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Most likely all of us own at least a few pieces of clothing that were at least in part produced through sweatshop/child labor.

Delhi's Shahpur Jat district, where this Gap subcontractor's sweatshop was, is a sprawling area with one tiny, dingy cinderblock unit cheek-by-jowl after another cranking out apparel, virtually all of it ultimately destined for export to the West via contractors; and many of these sweatshops are 'staffed' primarily by children. You'll find similar scenes in almost any Indian city, and that's not counting all the children employed on an individual basis in private homes or very small businesses rather than sweatshops. Depending on whose estimates you reckon most reliable, India has anywhere from around 13 million (government estimate) to around 50 million (some human rights groups) children who are working full-time in violation of India's child labor laws (under 14 years of age, and/or victims of child trafficking or indentured servitude). Unfortunately, given the scale of demand from both foreign retailers and foreign consumers for cheap products, many key sectors of the Indian economy continue to rely heavily on child labor.
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Old 10-31-2007, 11:57 PM   #5
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Checking on Sweatshops

By Michelle Tsai, Oct. 31, 2007

...How often do companies check for labor violations in overseas factories? Anywhere from once every six months to once every several years. During each of these "social audits," inspectors tour the factory, look at records, talk to employees, and meet with management over a couple of days. Companies rarely release any findings to the public [although here are some typical examples of what completed audit forms look like if you're curious --y.]. But they do use audits to learn whether manufacturers are complying with the code of conduct that each of the brands establish for their suppliers; a lack of worker rights or safe working conditions could tarnish a corporation's image and hurt business.

Depending on the violation found, companies may work with factories to improve conditions or, in extreme situations, end the relationship. Human rights advocates argue, however, that the inspections are not set up to catch all of the violations: A report from the Ethical Trade Initiative found that most companies announce visits ahead of time. Only a quarter of Wal-Mart's inspections in 2006 were surprise visits, for instance. The advance notice gives factories time to coach workers for inspectors' questions and send their child laborers home. In China, some consultants will ready a factory for inspections for a fee of $5000 by whipping up a batch of fake records, among other things.

These monitoring programs got their start in the early to mid-1990s among companies in the apparel, footwear, and toys industries. Globalization meant low-skill manufacturing jobs were moving to countries with loose labor standards, and retail brands eventually found themselves the target of anti-sweatshop campaigns. One high-profile case turned former talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford into a temporary pariah when an activist group said her clothing line was being made by Honduran adolescents working 20-hour days. Today, companies like the Gap, Nike, and Levi Strauss are considered industry leaders when it comes to workers' conditions. The Gap has a relatively large team of about 90 employees who oversaw 4438 inspections in 2118 factories in 2006.

But the brands and their critics generally agree that periodic visits don't do enough. A forthcoming study from the Worker Rights Consortium examined 50 factories serving these top companies and found major problems at each location, like verbal abuse, lack of access to drinking water and bathrooms, and the inability for workers to organize. In 84% of those factories, workers didn't understand how their salary was determined. Employees reported long shifts and regular overtime; in Kenya, employees worked an average of 39 extra hours a week.
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