LABOR’S GOOD GUY LIST: LIMITED LEADS 31 NAMES
Byline: Joanna Ramey
NEW YORK — A total of 31 names will appear on the Labor Department’s Trendsetter List, to be released today as a key part of its anti-sweatshhop campaign. The list is to spotlight companies — retailers and manufacturers — that have taken what the Labor Department considers to be outstanding efforts in combating sweatshops.
The list is perhaps notable for many of the big names that won’t be on it, such as J.C. Penney Co., Sears, Roebuck & Co., any of the units of May Department Stores Co. or Federated Department Stores, and Wal-Mart Stores.
More than a third of the list is made up of 14 units of The Limited and its recent spinoff, Intimate Brands.
Labor officials worked until late Monday to finalize the list, winnowing it down from some 84 candidates, sources said. While the agency followed several criteria in qualifying companies, the key issue for listing was whether efforts are put forth to make sure sewing contractors are monitored for labor law compliance, according to sources.
Other retail names on the list include Nordstrom, Bergner’s, Boston Stores, Baby Superstore, Carson Pirie Scott, Galyans Trading and Lands’ End. The Limited-related names include The Limited, Lerner New York, Express, Lane Bryant, Limited Too, Henri Bendel, Penhaligon, Structure, Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath & Body Works, Brylane and Cacique. Also on the tally is Mast Industries, the Limited’s sourcing arm.
Listed manufacturers, some of whom also operate retail outlets, are: Liz Claiborne and two of its divisions, Dana Buchman and Elisabeth; Gerber Childrenswear; Guess, Inc.; Jessica McClintock; Nicole Miller; Levi Strauss and Co.; Patagonia, and Superior Surgical Manufacturing.
In statements to accompany release of the list, Reich praises the companies for taking “that critical extra step.”
“They make sure by monitoring their contractors that the sweat of exploited workers is not part of a garment’s design,” he said.
The list will be unveiled at 11 a.m. by Reich in the food court of the Fashion Center at Pentagon City, a suburban shopping mall here. Models Beverly Johnson and Kristen Jensen are scheduled to attend to help drum up consumer interest in the issue, according to the agency.
The list idea, when hatched in September, was initially seen by Labor officials to serve as a guideline for Christmas shoppers. This drew fire from the retail community, charging such a list could not possibly be complete and could harm the business and reputations of stores not on it. The list has since been recast by the agency as a way to honor companies’ anti-sweatshop efforts. Nevertheless, the publicity surrounding today’s unveiling underscores the agency’s continued interest in getting the word out to shoppers.
“We’re not saying go shop here,” said Maria Echaveste, Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administrator. “The public will draw their own conclusions.” She also pointed out that today’s list could be only “the first installment.”
Rebuffing Reich’s calls that retailers assure contractors are monitored, NRF members have taken other steps to address Labor’s concerns, including the release Nov. 9 of a “Statement of Principles of Supplier Legal Compliance,” which states suppliers’ responsibilities for providing sweatshop-free apparel. One hundred NRF members signed the statement.
A coup for Labor officials is the naming of Nordstrom, an NRF member, to its Trendsetter List. Contacted at the chain’s Seattle headquarters, a Nordstrom spokeswoman said since early last year the stores have randomly inspected sewing contractors who make its private label apparel.
“We are pleased the Department of Labor has recognized our considerable efforts in this area,” the Nordstrom spokeswoman said. Aside from its private label apparel, the chain requires its vendors to strictly follow Labor laws, much like the manifest adopted by other NRF members in the statement of principles.