WASHINGTON — A consumer campaign against Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., Nike and other companies that source abroad in low-wage countries is to be launched today by organized labor and consumer groups in an effort to discourage shoppers from buying their goods.
The companies cited “reap huge profits at the expense of the American worker and consumer, our communities, as well as the workers in the developing world,” Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio) said in an interview Thursday, prior to the press conference scheduled here today.
Kaptur is spearheading the campaign being waged by the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the National Consumers League and Frontlash, a student-support group of the AFL-CIO. Other companies to be pinpointed today are Dole Food Co. and toy maker Mattel Inc.
Some women’s apparel companies will be targeted later in the year-long campaign, which will feature monthly attacks on different manufacturers.
“There are a number of top designer companies on our lists,” said Evelyn Dubrow, vice president and legislative director of the ILGWU. Dubrow is to participate in today’s press conference on behalf of the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., New York, has “not transferred the value it has put into its shirts into its work force,” said a fact sheet on the targeted companies, to be distributed at the press conference. “This ‘American’ company has the majority of its manufacturing operations in developing countries. Many of Van Heusen’s workers, whether laid off in the U.S. or paid a few dollars a day in the developing world, cannot afford to buy a Van Heusen shirt and dress like the executives that the company caters to.”
According to the fact sheet, Van Heusen shirts, whether they are made in the U.S. or abroad, retail for about $25, and costs of production offshore are considerably less. For example, the fact sheet said, Van Heusen workers in Thailand earn 59 cents an hour, and Guatemalan workers for the company earn $1.02 an hour, compared with U.S. Van Heusen workers who make $7.02 an hour.
A Van Heusen spokesman said the company has been recognized as a leader in the apparel industry for improving worker conditions abroad, and domestically, has increased its work force 20 percent in the past five years.
“I think they are focusing on us because of our size, not because of our practices,” the spokesman said. “We’re one of the few apparel companies to add to our U.S. manufacturing base. Groups have said that other companies should model themselves after us.”
Nike was criticized for sourcing all its shoes offshore.
“This American company claims that it is comprised of only marketers and designers, taking no responsibility for the people who toil under horrendous working conditions to make its shoes. Nike is not a good buy for the American consumer…As its profits have skyrocketed, prices have also gone up for Nike products, even as the company has driven all its 75,000 U.S. jobs offshore,” the fact sheet said.
A Nike spokesman said the data sheet was “absurd.”
“It’s the continuing perpetuation of a lot of misinformation. It’s a total, clever distortion of the facts,” he said. Nike’s manufacturing is offshore because that is where the footwear manufacturers are located, he said.
On labor standards, the spokesman said Nike has a “memorandum of understanding with all of our manufacturers and contractors.” He said, “We audit their compliance with our standards.”
The campaign, dubbed, “Come Shop with Me,” is aimed at educating the public, to get them to read labels so they know where products are manufactured. “The price to consumers doesn’t go down on apparel that is made abroad,” Kaptur said, citing statistics that the U.S. markup on foreign-made apparel is 500 percent, while the markup on U.S.-made apparel is 100 percent.
— Fairchild News Service