Imagine earning $0.30 an hour; being physically abused for every small mistake you make; vomiting red, blue and black particles due to unsafe working conditions; not being able to afford basic necessities; taking loans at 360 percent interest rate, and being beaten by an iron pipe for organizing a union.
Sounds savage? Guess what, this is how an average GAP worker lives his-her life. According to a UNITE (Union of Needle trades, Industrial and Textile Employees) report, GAP the most important and influential garment producer in the world has been brutally violating International labor and human rights standards for years.
The UNITE report focused on industries in Mexico, Indonesia, Lesotho, El Salvador and Bangladesh. When reporting interviews, the researchers used false names of the workers, since the workers felt that their life and work will be in imminent danger if their true names are revealed. The four widely prevalent complaints were low wages, abuse in factories, Unsafe working conditions, and union busting.
One GAP factory worker, a pregnant woman was beaten so badly that she miscarried. Another woman worker reported that when she came to work, the supervisor asked her, “Where were you, bitch? Did you go to fuck?” Most women workers are frequently searched, and supervisors often look down their shirts and trousers.
Scare tactics are often used when any signs of union organization appear. All union organizers and supporters are fired from their jobs. One of them was even stabbed by the supervisors. Not even one GAP contractor facility has a union that truly represents the workers. The so called “unions’ that GAP claims exist, are company controlled and never represent the worker’s interests.
These are small examples, the list of human rights violations is very long. What is really upsetting is that everyday I see hundreds of GAP sweatshirts worn by Quinnipiac students. Are we all cows with GAP branded on us?
Many students are simply unaware that they are supporting an inhumane corporation that claims to “have a positive impact in the communities in which we do business…we want garment workers to be treated with respect” (Gap Inc official website). However, when the time for supporting its workers arrives, the GAP does nothing.
There is something we can do to support GAP workers. A very popular “Stop GAP sweatshops” movement has begun. United Students Against Sweatshops have launched a campaign to “put an end to GAP sweatshops by encouraging students to ask their friends, family and loved ones not to buy Gap…instead heed the call of Gap workers and join them and others in pushing the Gap to improve the lives of workers making Gap Inc. clothing (Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy)”
I hope that some of you give a little thought to the oppression you’re unconsciously participating in. Remember: for every garment you buy from GAP; a worker is being sexually harassed, physically and emotionally abused, and being denied basic human rights.
For more information on “Stop GAP sweatshops” visit www.behindthelabel.org.