Los AngelesÑMobilization for the Human Family, a Claremont-based progressive Christian organization, is co-sponsoring a picket in front of retailer Forever 21Õs store in Highland Park to demand that the Los Angeles-based company pay 19 garment workers their owed wages and ensure that all the factories sewing its clothes are safe and follow all labor laws.
"For too long retailers have used the subcontracting system to sidestep responsibility for inhuman sweatshop practices," says Richard Bunce, Executive Director of Mobilization for the Human Family. "This must end and it will end. The beginning of the end for Forever 21 is the boycott that began November 17."
The garment workers launched a national boycott against Forever 21 on November 17, 2001, and released a list of 50 endorsers of the boycott, including City Council member Eric Garcetti (13th District), Assemblymembers Jackie Goldberg (45th District) and Judy Chu (49th District), Reverend David K. Farley of Echo Park Methodist Church, and Reverend David M. Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York City.
"Having the support of religious community members and students is crucial for the workers during this holiday shopping season, especially when Forever 21 sends representatives to our pickets to videotape and take pictures of the workers as they did at the December 8 picket in Highland Park," says Joann Lo, organizer of the Garment Worker Center. "These types of intimidation tactics, however, wonÕt work to stop the workers from carrying out their First Amendment rights to free speech and association."
The campaign against Forever 21 began in September, after workers had unsuccessfully met with company representatives for three months. The workers sewed the Forever 21 label in six different sweatshops in downtown Los Angeles for subminimum wages and under deplorable, unsafe conditions. 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. The workers have also filed a lawsuit against Forever 21 and the factories with the help of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
Forever 21 is projected to earn 0 million in sales this year alone with an estimated 95% of its production in the U.S. and a majority of that in Los Angeles. Do Won Chang is the L.A.-based companyÕs president and co-founder with his wife Jin Sook Chang.