BYER, ESPRIT AND FRITZI SET UP HOTLINES FOR WORKERS’ GRIPES

NEW YORK — Three San Francisco-based sportswear firms — Byer California, Esprit de Corp. and Fritzi California — have set up toll-free confidential hotlines to hear work-related complaints and respond to questions from workers in their contractors’ plants.
The move was announced by Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA), a non-profit community organization for low-income Asian women, which met with top executives at each of the three firms over the past few months to press them to make such an initiative. All three firms already had in place monitoring programs.
The hotline, with its 800 number posted in contractor plants, “will empower workers,” said Stacy Kono, campaign coordinator for the organization. “They will be able to report something and speak out on their own, without fear of being blacklisted.”
Kono added that these hotlines will help more than 2,500 people in the San Francisco area.
“We are doing whatever we can to assure good working conditions,” said Bob Tandler, president of Fritzi California, which met with representatives from AIWA in December at the regional office of the Department of Labor in San Francisco. The company’s hotline was set up two weeks ago, but he said he did not know how many calls the firm had fielded.
Allan Byer, president of Byer California, said he met with one garment worker and some of the staff members of AIWA in January at the firm’s headquarters. Three years ago, the firm set up a hotline number, but it wasn’t toll-free, he said. He added that the firm set up the 800 hotline number three weeks ago.
“We have about the same numbers of calls as before, which has been minimal,” Byer said.
Esprit set up its 800 hotline number in January, according to Owen Shackleton, director of loss prevention/safety and risk.
The firm had previously posted a number for workers at its contractor plants that connected them to an independent inspection service company.
“There was no voice mail, so I think people were a little afraid to use it,” said Shackleton.
He noted that the 800 hotline is in four different languages — Spanish, Chinese, English and Tagalog.
Shackleton added, however, “We are not getting many calls.”

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