Donald Fisher, Chairman
RE: Conditions of workers around the world producing garments for GAP
Dear Mr. Fisher,
I am very concerned with the conditions of the workers producing garments for GAP Inc. on the island of Saipan in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and all over the world. I continue to be concerned about the charges made in reports by federal enforcement agencies, the U.S. Congress and the lawsuit filed against GAP Inc. and 25 other retailers and manufacturers on the island of Saipan. As you know, these charges include the use of immigrant workers from China, Thailand, Philippines, Bangladesh and Vietnam who must first sign contracts that deny them their basic human rights; the payment of exorbitant recruitment fees that keep workers in a state of indentured servitude; workdays of up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often without overtime pay; union-busting; and housing in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
Currently 19 companies have agreed to the settlements. The settlements include both prospective relief-prohibiting Saipan-based contractors from violating the law in the future, with strict monitoring provisions to ensure compliance-and retroactive relief-payments to garment worker class members whose rights were violated in the past. Perhaps the strongest aspect of prospective relief is the Saipan Code of Conduct, which provides for extensive on-site monitoring by Verite, a non-profit international human rights monitoring organization based out of Amherst, Massachusetts. I applaud these businesses for their move towards justice for workers in Saipan and I urge GAP Inc. to do the same.
GAP Inc. consistently assures its customers that it does not tolerate abuses in the factories where it does business. It insists that its internal monitoring system is so rigorous that any abuses would be detected and corrected. But the lawsuit--which includes firsthand investigations and interviews with dozens of workers--belies GAP's assertions. GAP Inc. should truly enforce its Code of Conduct and agree to an on-site monitoring plan by Verite, as other businesses have already agreed to do.
If GAP Inc. is going to continue production in Saipan, it should uphold its values as a responsible business and settle the lawsuit. It should also strive to make changes and enforce its Code of Conduct in all of the 50 other countries where it does business. I urge you to settle the Saipan lawsuit, as well as include a "living wage" in your Code of Conduct so that all GAP Inc. employees can live with dignity and respect and be proud to work for your company. Until then, I will continue to inform my family, friends, and associates about GAP's actions and to encourage them to do business only with companies who have agreed to settlements in the lawsuit.