International Labor Rights Forum, Jobs with Justice San Francisco, SumOfUs, United Students Against Sweatshops and local activists delivered the Public Eye Award to Gap Inc. at its annual shareholder meeting in San Francisco this morning. In front of the headquarters, activists exhibited photographs of workers injured and family members who lost loved ones in garment factory disasters in Bangladesh, and leafleted employees and shareholders as they arrived for the meeting. The activists urged Gap to pay $200,000 to the victims of the Aswad factory fire, sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, and respect workers’ rights in Cambodia.
A press conference organized by the Berne Declaration (EvB) and Greenpeace Switzerland, and held in Davos, Switzerland, on January 23, 2014, announced that Gap received the Public Eye Jury Award. The panel of experts gave the award to Gap Inc. for “shamelessly refusing to sign the legally-binding Accord” and for “undermining efforts for effective reform in the garment industry with their own corporate-controlled sham agreement.”
“Gap still refuses to make a contractual commitment to work with their suppliers and local and international trade unions to ensure that repairs are made and workers have the right to refuse dangerous work,” said Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, at the Davos press conference. Since Gap refused to send a representative to the press conference in Davos, activists delivered the award directly to Gap at its shareholder meeting today.
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 applaud the over 160 companies that have joined the Accord and call on all other companies that haven’t yet signed on, like Gap and VF, to do so immediately to prevent future disasters in their supply chains,” said Liana Foxvog of the International Labor Rights Forum. “While we are urging Walmart and Children’s Place to pay full and fair compensation to the Rana Plaza building collapse victims, we must also remember the victims of the smaller tragedies that take place on a more regular basis in Bangladesh. That’s why we’re calling on Gap to pay their fair share to the families of the workers killed at Aswad and to the injured workers.”
“Today, we presented Gap with the 'Award of Shame’ to raise the voices of Bangladeshi workers and activists around the world who are calling on Gap to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The Accord could help to make the factory fires and building collapses a thing of the past, but Gap refuses to sign. It's time for Gap to live the values that they claim to uphold, and start putting workers' lives over their corporate profits,” said Martin Caldwell of SumOfUs, which nominated Gap for the Public Eye Award together with ILRF and USAS.
The demonstration also lifted up the demands of garment workers who have been striking in Cambodia. Activists urged Gap to tell its Cambodian suppliers to pay a minimum wage of $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.