LABOR STILL MULLS STATUS OF GUESS

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — Guess is staying on probation, as far as the Labor Department’s Trendsetters list is concerned.
The agency announced Friday that the firm’s shifting of much of its production to Mexico and other Latin American countries needed further investigation before Labor could decide whether Guess should be kept on the Trendsetters list or removed. The list, used by Labor as a key part of its anti-sweatshop crusade, carries names of retailers and manufacturers the agency deems have significant programs against sweatshop-made goods.
The probation, Labor said, will continue “until further notice.”
Guess, once touted by Labor officials for its contractor monitoring programs, fell out of grace with the agency last fall after UNITE, in an aggressive Guess organizing campaign, accused the company of using contractors that underpaid workers and Labor investigators turned up some violations at contractors. Labor announced at the end of November that Guess’s status on the Trendsetters list was being put on probation and would be reviewed in 60 days.
Guess officials, who have criticized Labor for bowing to union pressure, could not be reached for comment on the probationary extension.
“We just want more information about whether their reasons for moving have to do with complying with American law,” said Labor’s Wage and Hour Administrator Maria Echaveste, who has also asked for Guess to account for conditions at the foreign contractors where production has moved.
She said she isn’t criticizing a company’s right to relocate and acknowledged the significant trend for U.S. apparel companies to shift production abroad. “What gives us pause is if a company decides it’s too much trouble to comply with American law and deal with a union. That may make perfectly good business sense, but is that a Trendsetter?” asked Echaveste.

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