Byline: Dianne M. Pogoda

NEW YORK — The Gap has agreed to work with the National Labor Committee and religious groups to monitor labor conditions and human rights violations in its factories abroad, particularly at the Mandarin International factory in El Salvador. The San Francisco-based retailer reached agreement Friday with the NLC, which brought allegations of worker abuse at the El Salvador factory to The Gap’s attention over the summer. Gap withdrew its business from Mandarin instead of stepping in to improve the problems, and that led to more than 100 protests across the country at Gap stores. The NLC and UNITE — the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees — organized the demonstrations.
As a result of the agreement with the NLC, The Gap has pledged to work with such groups as the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and Business for Social Responsibility to explore the viability of an independent industry-monitoring program in El Salvador. Mandarin officials have agreed to meet with union officials and workers to resolve their differences.
The agreement says that The Gap will reapprove the Mandarin factory for production of its garments once the retailer is confident that its orders will result in “humane and productive employment in El Salvador,” that the factory can meet or exceed its sourcing principles and guidelines, and that the government of El Salvador, through pending legislation, “is moving in the right direction toward its ability to effectively resolve labor disputes justly, fairly and promptly.”
Jay Mazur, president of UNITE, said this is “the beginning of a long process of bringing fairness and decency” to workers around the world.
“It’s the first major breakthrough we’ve had, in getting a major retailer like The Gap to recognize that this is a part of its corporate responsibility,” he said. “I give The Gap a lot of credit.”
Mazur said the agreement with The Gap will be used as an example to persuade other retailers to recognize their responsibilities.
Officials from The Gap could not be reached for comment Monday.

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