Garment Workers Urge Shoppers to Boycott Gap

Garment workers from Indonesia are appealing to consumers in the United States to boycott Gap products to protest labor conditions at factories in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Alleging many of the Gap-contracted factories sweatshops, the workers said conditions were inhumane.

"We are treated like animals," Sudaryanti, a 23-year-old garment worker from a Gap factory in Indonesia, said Wednesday through an interpreter. "We are abused if we do not work the way the supervisor wants."

Sudaryanti, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, was in the United States with several other Indonesian workers to raise awareness of poor labor conditions in factories used by San Francisco-based Gap Inc.

In a new 24-page study on working conditions in Gap factories, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, known as UNITE, accused the Gap of poor health and safety conditions in factories contracted by the multibillion dollar company.

While the Gap does pay minimum wage in most of the countries where it hires factories, it is still hard for most workers to make ends meet, said Ginny Coughlin, the director of UNITE's Global Justice for Garment Workers Campaign. Some workers in the company's Lesotho factories, for example, earn about 30 cents an hour.

The report also alleged union busting activities by management, and, in some instances, corporal punishment to force laborers to meet quotas.

A spokeswoman for the Gap said the factories were not owned by the Gap, but were independently contracted by the Gap and other companies.

"We share the concerns and are aware of these conditions," said Stacy MacLean. "We're doing more than most people and are committed to work on it through the long term."

UNITE's study cited alleged abuses at Gap factories in Cambodia, Lesotho, Indonesia, Bangladesh, El Salvador and Mexico.