Thursday, November 01, 2007
By Noel Cisneros
Oct. 29, 2007 (KGO) (KGO) — One of San Francisco’s corporate giants is in the hot seat after acknowledging a factory in India was using young children to make its garments. The Gap has fired its subcontractor and none of the products made there will be sold. However, human rights groups say that’s not enough.
Exclusive video obtained by ABC News shows children in India, as young as 10, sewing garments for the Gap. The children said their families sold them to the factory. Some claim they were not paid.
Police in India raided another clothing sweatshop today and found more than a dozen young boys at work. That raid was just blocks from the New Delhi factory that San Francisco-based the Gap contracted for its kids line.
The Gap now says those clothes will never be sold in its stores.
The video of Indian children assembling GapKids clothes has gone worldwide. Shot by a German TV crew and distributed through a London media outlet carried in the U.S. by ABC.
Its distribution as global as a Gap t-shirt. The images of children as young as 10, working for no wages brings into stark relief the problems of the global supply chain where children are the weakest link.
“The problems exist continually but we only find them occasionally,” said UC Berkeley Labor and Environmental Law Professor Dara O’Rourke.
UC Berkeley professor Dara O’Rourke says the Gap’s problem is spread throughout third world manufacturing and a consequence of first world business models.
“They have outsourced so much of their supply chain, that they now can’t control very critical issues about core treatment of workers producing their goods. Core performance standards for quality of those goods the chemicals being used on those goods, the health impacts of those goods and we now are seeing the tip of this iceberg,” said O’Rourke.
The iceberg is globalization, which has produced cheaper goods for American consumers.
It’s natural for capital to flow to cheap labor, but in the apparel industry, the demand for cheap labor is magnified by pressure for quick turnaround, style and consumer demand for low prices.
In the case of the Gap, they have two thousand factories – policed by 90 Gap monitors. Many American corporations employ such monitors.
We know now that factories have gotten very good at tricking those monitors. In China where we do a lot of work, you can buy software e to produce three sets of books. One set for the tax man, another for the auditor and one set that actually says how many shirts you produced and what they really cost.
Finding untainted goods is tough even for the well; meaning there are companies like Global Exhange which will do a million dollars in sales this year by dealing directly with its third world suppliers.
“There’s a lot of background checking going on, and a lot of ties the cooperative applies directly to us,” said Shel Mae from Global Exchange.
Will these images be enough to force businesses and consumers to change? Hard to say. But each passing month is producing a new news story about poisonous dog food, lead painted toys, and now child labor – leading consumers to ask – what is the cost of low prices?