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Protest Hits Gap Opening

By Joe Mingle

Madison, WI – “Businesses that rely on sweatshop labor are not welcome in our community,” said Bob Hemauer, UW-Madison student and member of the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC). “And The Gap is one of the worst!” Hemauer shared his views during a May 5 protest at the opening of The Gap's newest store on downtown Madison's State Street.

The protest, which drew more than 50 people on one day notice, follows several recent protests at other area Gap stores.

Building on anti-sweatshop victories at the UW earlier this year, students and local Union activists have begun a campaign to confront local businesses that reap huge profits from sweatshop labor around the globe.

The Gap has become a target of protests nationwide because of the plight of workers in its offshore factories. It's recently become under renewed attack after ABC's 20/20 aired an expose of conditions at The Gap's factory in Saipan.

Manufacturers such as The Gap are not required to abide by US labor laws concerning wages, hours or working conditions. Profit-driven corporations like The Gap take full advantage of the situation by squeezing as much as they can out of the workers while giving back as little as possible.

“We're not going to allow companies that ruthlessly exploit sweatshop workers to come into our community without some kind of protest,” said SLAC activist and Memorial Union Labor Organization member Brian. “The Gap says it rigorously monitors conditions in its factories, but clearly that's a lie.”

Activists pledge to continue the pressure on The Gap with more protests planned over coming months. “Workers everywhere have the right to a living wage and safe working conditions,” says Brian. “Until The Gap guarantees these basic things to workers who make it's clothes, we'll be back!”

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