News from the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees -- UNITE; garment workers picket Guess? Inc. for contractors' violation of workers' rights.
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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|Date:||Jul 28, 1995|
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