A day after it announced a round of layoffs, Hanesbrands Inc. held its annual meeting on Tuesday with 15 shareholders present at the Jumeirah Essex House hotel in Manhattan and almost as many protesters outside.

This story first appeared in the April 29, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Hanesbrands did not allow the media to attend the 12-minute session, but Matt Hall, vice president of external communications for Hanesbrands, told WWD that shareholders only asked three questions.

“We were asked if Hanesbrands was considering going to India and Brazil, but we already do business there — three years in India, and we are long established in Brazil,” Hall said. “We were also asked about swine flu impact, but it’s clearly too early to say, and we’ve halted any company travel to Mexico. An investor asked if there are still textile opportunities in England, but that was part of Sara Lee, which was sold to Sun Capital. We license brands we own such as Wonderbra and Playtex to Sun Capital for Europe and South Africa.”

As shareholders were leaving the meeting, 14 protesters representing the AFL-CIO and United Students Against Sweatshops were noisily picketing in front of the hotel, holding painted Hanes T-shirts and signs that said “Union Busting” and “Poverty Wages.” The protest against Hanesbrands was organized because of “threats and intimidation” against workers in Hanesbrands facilities in El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, said a spokeswoman for the Solidarity Center at the AFL-CIO.

Asked what Hanesbrands’ policy is on compliance abuses, Hall replied, “There are absolutely no human rights abuses. Hanes has one of the strongest reputations for conducting business around the world in an ethical manner. We have done business in the Dominican Republic for 30 years, and we’ve had operations in Central America for more than 20 years.”

Hall added, “We pay well above minimum wage in those countries and offer good benefits. We have a policy of allowing employees to choose for themselves if they want to join a union. It’s part of our code of conduct.”

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