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Garment Workers Launch Campaign Against Local Sweatshop

by Garment Workers Center Thursday, Sep. 06, 2001 at 8:20 PM

Los Angeles-Nineteen garment workers are joining together to launch a public campaign against Forever 21, a popular retailer of young women's clothing. Picket and press conference Thursday, 9/6. Join the fight against sweatshops.


19 workers sewed Forever 21 clothes in 6 different downtown Los Angeles sweatshops and are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars

Call Forever 21 President Do Won Chang (213-747-2121) and let him know you support the workers' demands to: * pay their owed wages
* ensure that all the factories it uses abide by labor laws and respect the workers.

On September 6, 2001 at a picket and press conference in front of Forever 21's "Fashion 21" store in Los Angeles, 19 garment workers are joining together to launch a public campaign against Forever 21, a popular retailer of young women's clothing. They sewed the Forever 21 label in six different sweatshops in downtown Los Angeles under deplorable conditions. Forever 21 is a multi-million dollar company based in Los Angeles, with ninety-two stores around the country and forty of those in California. An estimated 95% of its production is done in the U.S. Do Won Chang is the company's president and co-founder with his wife Jin Sook Chang.

"We worked ten to twelve hours a day for subminimum wages and no overtime," says Esperanza Hernandez, one of the garment workers. "A lot of our factories were dirty and unsafe, with rats and cockroaches running around."

The workers joined together to ask Forever 21 to pay their owed wages and to ensure that all the factories it uses abide by labor laws and respect the workers. The company has so far refused. They are now launching the public campaign with the Garment Worker Center and filing a lawsuit with the help of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. The Garment Worker Center (GWC) is an independent, non-profit, community-based organization whose mission is to empower garment workers in the Greater Los Angeles area to work collectively for an end to sweatshop abuses in the industry.

"Workers who sewed Forever 21 started to come to us in March, 2001. By the time workers from a third factory came, we knew there was a problem," says Joann Lo, organizer from the Garment Worker Center. "Once workers from a sixth factory came seeking help, we realized that using sweatshops is standard practice for Forever 21."

"Six years ago I was a worker in the El Monte slaveshop case. I worked in the front shop in Los Angeles where we finished the clothes sewed in El Monte," says Araceli Castro. "Unfortunately the abuses continue, and I am involved in this campaign to continue fighting so that the abuses stop and companies like Forever 21 accept their responsibility for the conditions in the factories."

Fact Sheet on Forever 21
Do Won Chang - President
Jin Sook Chang - Secretary, CFO, Head Buyer, and wife of Do Won Chang
Main Office: 2001 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles, CA 90058
phone: 213-747-2121 web site: www.forever21.com

Company Profile:
* Top locations earn average $1,000 per sq ft per month and average stores are 7,000 sq ft = $7 million per month
* First store called Fashion 21, opened in Highland Park, Los Angeles, 1984 - earned $700,000 in its first year
(source - "Sticking with Forever 21." Kristin Young. Women's Wear Daily, 3/12/01)
* 92 Stores throughout the U.S. with 40 in California
* New department store anticipated in Beverly Center, West Hollywood, CA & new stores in Florida and Texas

Here is a list of problems found in these factories:
* Subminimum wages
* No overtime
* Worked 10-12 hours per day
* Worked Saturdays and Sundays
* Had to take work home
* Dirty, unsafe factories with rats and cockroaches
* No potable water
* No health insurance

For more information or to get involved in the campaign,
contact the Garment Worker Center at 213-748-5866.
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