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Boycott Forever 21!

Sweatshop Watch

 

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[Update, March 2004: Agreement Reached with Forever 21 - Forever 21, Inc., the Garment Worker Center, Sweatshop Watch, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, on behalf of several Los Angeles garment workers represented by it, have reached an agreement to resolve all litigation between them. In addition, the parties have agreed to take steps to promote greater worker protection in the local garment industry. The parties are pleased to announce the resolution of this matter as a positive and symbolic step forward in demonstrating respect and appreciation for garment workers. Under the parties' agreement, the national boycott of Forever 21 and related protests at the Company's retail stores, initiated by the Garment Worker Center in 2001, have ended. The parties share a belief that garment workers should labor in lawful conditions and should be treated fairly and with dignity. Forever 21, the Garment Worker Center and Sweatshop Watch all remain committed to ensuring that the clothing Forever 21 sells in its stores is made under lawful conditions.]

November 2001:
In Los Angeles, workers from six factories who sewed for the popular women's clothing line Forever 21 are calling for an official boycott. The workers are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in minimum wage and overtime pay. They worked long hours in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. And, some of the workers were fired for speaking out about the poor conditions.

"We worked ten to twelve hours a day for subminimum wages and no overtime," said Esperanza Hernandez, one of the garment workers. "A lot of our factories were dirty and unsafe, with rats and cockroaches running around."

"At first they promised that I would be paid $300 to $350 per week," said Araceli Castro, who also sewed Forever 21. "But when I went to pick up my first paycheck, it was only for $250 even though I had put in extra hours in overtime. My boss claimed that she would pay me more when there was more work, but she never did."

The Garment Worker Center helped the 19 workers strategize how they could work as a group to support each other in their cases. Workers decided they should target both the popular clothing retailer and the individual factories to demand their wages. In the garment industry, retailers sit at the top of the industry ladder and subcontract production to manufacturers and sewing contractors (or factories). For too long, this subcontracting system has allowed retailers, like Forever 21, to reap enormous profits off the backs of sweatshop workers who occupy the bottom rung of the ladder. With projected earnings of up to $400 million in 2001, Forever 21 lies at the top of the hierarchy of power in the garment industry and has the greatest ability to ensure the workers' wages and to improve conditions in the factories they do business with.

Workers originally attempted to negotiate directly with the management of Forever 21. However, Forever 21's refusal to negotiate, to offer a just settlement, and to cooperate in the state investigation of the workers' claims prompted workers to step up the pressure and file a lawsuit in September against the label. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center is representing the workers in their legal case. The lawsuit seeks unpaid wages, damages and penalties, as well as assurances from Forever 21 that they do not use sweatshop labor.

The Forever 21 workers announced an official boycott on November 17. Taking advantage of the approaching holiday shopping season, workers will picket every Saturday through the New Year and step up outreach to university students and community groups to build support for their campaign.

Workers are at the forefront of this battle, demanding accountability from retailers and raising awareness among consumers. The workers have recognized the potential they have as a group to demand widespread changes in the garment industry.

What you can do to support the Forever 21 workers:

  • Don't buy Forever 21 until they pay the workers who sewed their clothes!

  • Call Forever 21 and demand that they pay the workers their earned wages: 213-747-2121.

  • Endorse the boycott, participate in actions in Los Angeles or organize actions in your own community. Contact the Garment Worker Center at 888-449-6115, gwc@igc.org, http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/gwc


What to do this Holiday Season?
Save these dates and support workers' rights!

Every Saturday through the new year: Join the Boycott of Forever 21 stores and support Los Angeles garment workers as they demand their earned wages and an end to sweatshops. Every Saturday at 3:00 pm, join workers and supporters outside Forever 21's Highland Park, Fashion 21 store at 5637 N. Figueroa St. in Los Angeles. Contact the Garment Worker Center, 888-449-6115, gwc@igc.org, http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/gwc

December 5: Human Rights Week across the country. Join the 5th Annual Holiday Season of Conscience with candle-light vigils and marches to end child labor and sweatshop abuses. Contact the National Labor Committee, 212-242-3002, nlc@nlcnet.org, http://www.nlcnet.org


To Buy or Not to Buy?

Ending sweatshops isn't as easy as knowing what to buy and avoid. There is no definitive list of "good guys" who respect workers' rights and "bad guys" who use sweatshops. But, you can help fight sweatshops by supporting campaigns led by workers.

These are just a few boycotts that you can support:

  • Boycott Forever 21
    Los Angeles garment workers who sewed for this popular retailer of young women's clothing are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages (see related article). Contact the Garment Worker Center, 888-449-6115, gwc@igc.org, http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/gwc

  • DKNY Girlcott
    New York garment workers are campaigning to hold Donna Karan accountable for sweatshop conditions. Contact the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, 718-625-9091, nmass@yahoo.com, http://www.nmass.org

  • Boycott Taco Bell
    Workers who pick Taco Bell's tomatoes in Florida are protesting unfair working and living conditions. Contact the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, 941-657-8311, CoaImmWkr@aol.com, http://www.ciw-online.org

You can find more campaign, boycott and responsible shopping information on our web site's What You Can Do Page at http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/do