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The GAP / NLC Agreement

December 15, 1995  |  Share

Independent Human Rights Observers
To Be Allowed to Monitor Maquila Plants

- Other Companies Should Follow Suit -

December 15, 1995

  • GAP Returns to El Salvador
  • Agrees to Independent Monitoring--setting new standard for the entire industry
  • Watershed Victory for Worker Rights

Agreement Reached with GAP

On Friday, December 15, 1995 the Reverend Paul Smith convened a meeting between GAP senior vice president Stan Raggio; sourcing guidelines director, Dottie Hatcher; GAP consultant, James Lukaszewski, Reverend David Dyson and Charles Kernaghan.  The meeting lasted more than four hours.  The attached agreement was reached.

There is no doubt that the GAP felt a lot of pressure from the campaign, from the demonstrations, the letters, phone calls, shareholder actions and the press coverage.  Pressure was coming from all sides, from labor, religious, consumer, solidarity, children's and women's groups, elected officials, shareholders, universities, high schools, even grammar schools.  In a series of recent meetings with religious leaders in Chicago and New York, the GAP learned that the campaign was not going away,  rather, it was growing and continuing to spread.  On the other hand, the GAP was under pressure from the National Retailers' Federation not to meet with the campaign, and certainly not to agree to anything.  The National Retailers Federation said we would go away soon;  that the movement would peter out and everyone would go back home, and advised GAP to hold on and ignore the demonstrations.

The GAP chose instead to do the right thing--to listen to the U.S. consumers.  The GAP took a major step forward in accepting direct responsibility for how and under what conditions the products it sells are made.

In agreeing to independent monitoring, the GAP has set a new benchmark that other companies must now follow.  This is a watershed moment in the defense of women's and workers' rights.

In El Salvador, the Mandarin union is ecstatic and ready to go forward.  For them, this is a real victory.

As in any agreement, everything still needs to be implemented, but the corner has been turned and the door is open for an ongoing dialogue with the GAP.

The campaign will not lose a step as we move on to our next target.

What the Agreement Means

The GAP is making every good faith effort to return to El Salvador.  Mandarin knows (in unambiguous terms) what it must do if it is ever again to receive GAP work.  Mandarin also understands that if GAP pulls out, Mandarin can expect to see other retailers, like J.C. Penney and Eddie Bauer also shun Mandarin.

As early as Monday, December 18, but no later than Friday, December 22, Mandarin will meet with the locked-out SETMI union leaders in the Ministry of Labor, in the presence of officials from the Human Rights Procuradora's office.  The participation of human rights observers is to assure that Mandarin lives up to the agreement it signs.

For GAP's business to return to El Salvador, Mandarin must immediately reinstate all seven union leaders, to be shortly followed by the reinstatement of the pregnant women and the fired and blacklisted workers (numbering around 100).  These reinstatements will take place in stages, with a significant number being returned within a week or two.  As the GAP orders return, all the blacklisted workers will be offered reinstatement.

No one presently employed in the plant will be fired to make room for the returning fired workers.

Human rights observers from the Human Rights Ombuds office will have immediate access to the Mandarin plant and will be present when the union leaders and members are reinstated.  The human rights observers will monitor Mandarin's compliance with the GAP's code of conduct.  In essence, this is independent monitoring--concrete and immediate.  This is the first step in establishing and implementing independent monitoring of GAP contractors across Central America.

If Mandarin blocks this agreement by refusing to reinstate the fired workers, the GAP will sever its relation to Mandarin.  It will be abundantly clear that the problem rests with Mandarin and the Salvadoran Government--and not with the SETMI union or its supporters--for refusing to comply with internationally recognized workers rights.

In the event that Mandarin undermines the agreement, a humanitarian fund for job retraining will be established for the fired Mandarin workers.  The National Labor Committee will launch a full scale investigation of Mandarin/Charter to track its operations worldwide.  This information will be provided to the U.S. Department of Labor and an effort will be made to temporarily prohibit entry to the U.S. of any goods produced by Mandarin/Charter until an investigation is conducted of working conditions at Mandarin's plants.  For example, Mandarin/Charter owns another plant in El Salvador called "F & D" which produces for Fruit of the Loom.

The GAP code of conduct has been translated into Spanish and is being posted in every plant producing under contract for the GAP.  The code of conduct is also being translated into Korean and Chinese for those plant managers who are not fluent in English or Spanish.

In Honduras and Guatemala, and across Central America, human rights officials will be allowed immediate access to plants producing GAP clothing in order to monitor compliance with GAP's code of conduct.  As in El Salvador, this is a very significant breakthrough, since it concretely establishes immediate independent third-party monitoring.  No other company has done this.

With this concrete interim monitoring process in place, the GAP will work with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and other such interested groups to design and implement a long term system of independent monitoring of its contractors plants.

By taking this step, the GAP becomes the first retailer to agree to independent monitoring.  This raises the GAP several notches above any other retailer or manufacturer.  The GAP has now set a new standard for the protection of human rights--especially the rights of women and workers.  The GAP listened to its consumers and has taken a significant step in accepting direct responsibility for how and under what conditions its products are made.  It is now time for J.C. Penney, Dayton Hudson, Eddie Bauer, Nike, Reebok and others to catch up to the GAP.

As recently as Wednesday, December 13, at a meeting in New York, a representative of Business for Social Responsibility was saying that U.S. companies will never accept independent monitoring--well, GAP has!  And it did so in the face of opposition from the National Retailers' Federation and other manufacturers.

The door is open for genuine dialogue with the GAP.  When informed of ongoing violations in Honduran maquilas producing for the GAP, Stan Raggio said, get me the information and I assure you it will be corrected in ten minutes.

In the face of growing threats in El Salvador that those who supported the fired Mandarin workers should be given the death sentence, the GAP informed Salvadoran government authorities that if any harm were to come to Judith Viera (the young worker who toured the U.S.) or to the people at the Jesuit university or anyone else who supported the Mandarin workers, the GAP would never again produce even one shirt in El Salvador.

The Mandarin union (SETMI) in El Salvador is excited and strengthened by this agreement.  They are ready to continue the struggle for justice.  The SETMI union could become an example and inspiration for all of Central America and the Caribbean.  They know that a lot of eyes are watching them and they carry a big responsibility, and they will need our continuing solidarity.

The GAP campaign demonstrated enormous strength, persistence and creativity, striking an emotional chord in people across the U.S. Canada and Europe.  The campaign is growing with no end in sight.  It is clear that we have more power than we realize!

The campaign need not lose a single step.  Nothing builds better than success.  We have a momentum now.  Everyone should feel excited and pleased.  We ran a tough campaign, we worked hard, had fun, and won.



GAP/NLC agreement

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