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News from the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees -- UNITE; garment workers picket Guess? Inc. for contractors' violation of workers' rights.

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 28, 1995--Beverly Hills' world-renowned Rodeo Drive is home to countless designer boutiques and exclusive shops. This month it also has been home to a picket line of scores of garment workers gathered outside a Rodeo Drive Guess? boutique to protest the reduction of wages and the firing and harassment of workers in two of Guess's contracting shops. These reductions and violations reveal the weaknesses of federal compliance agreements recently signed with major apparel manufacturers.

About 140 workers have been striking since June 29 against Good Time Fashion and Song of California, two sewing shops contracted by Guess? Inc. The shops, owned by a single contractor, Sang Lee, reduced the workers' piece rates. When workers attempted to organize in protest, Lee threatened to close the shop and retaliated by firing several workers and assigning others to unfamiliar tasks -- effectively lowering their earnings in some cases below minimum wage.

The relationship between Good Time and Guess? is typical of the Los Angeles garment industry, in which manufacturers dictate prices and contractors are forced to respond by lowering wages. The U.S. Department of Labor has tried to uphold basic labor standards by signing compliance agreements with manufacturers. Under these agreements, manufacturers promise to monitor their contractors for compliance with minimum wage, overtime, and child labor laws. Unfortunately, as long as these very minimal standards are met, the manufacturers and contractors are free to lower wages and dismiss workers without cause. Labor standards can actually decline after the agreements are signed, as demonstrated in this case.

The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees -- UNITE -- was contacted by the striking workers to help with the organizing and picketing activities and to undertake negotiations with the contractor and Guess?. The workers picket the Rodeo Drive Guess? store every day.

"While the federal government's intentions are certainly good, it is clear that too much room for abuse exists under these agreements," said UNITE Organizing Director David Young.

"By firing and harassing employees who attempt to organize, the owner of Good Time is in clear violation of the law," Mr. Young continued. "By continuing to do business with this shop owner, Guess? is effectively saying to workers that it condones unfair labor practices and has no interest in upholding workers' rights."

With a membership of 350,000 workers, UNITE is the fourth largest manufacturing union in the nation. It was formed last month through a merger of two of the nation's oldest and most venerable unions -- the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (ACTWU).

CONTACT: Los Angeles: David Young, 213/239-6520

New York: Karen A. Crowe, Geto & de Milly, 212/686-4551
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 28, 1995
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