GAP FOUNDER MET WITH PROTEST
Byline: Kristin Young
LOS ANGELES — Donald Fisher was not exactly in for a warm welcome Tuesday at the “Heroes and High Hopes Celebration,” where he was scheduled to accept a humanitarian award from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Fisher was expected to receive the Herbert Hoover Humanitarian Award at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, where activist groups were expecting about 100 demonstrators to march near the entrance of the hotel against the Gap chairman and founder on various labor issues.
The groups — Sweatshop Watch and the Southern California Fair Trade Network — have been protesting the San Francisco-based retailer’s position on Assembly Bill 633, the recently passed California law that could possibly hold retailers responsible for labor law violations in the production of private label goods. Previous state law only held manufacturers responsible for any labor law violations. Organized labor and retailers are debating the definition of a manufacturer and are awaiting a decision from the state Department of Labor.
“The Gap has been one of the leaders to prevent full implementation of this law,” said Marissa Nuncio, program coordinator of Sweatshop Watch. Nuncio said the protesters planned to bestow the “Inhumanitarian of the Year Award and the “Kathie Lee Gifford Relations Award” to Fisher, in what she called “guerrilla theater” or “mock skits.”
“This evening is not about the protest and about their agenda,” said Alan Marks, a Gap Inc. spokesman. “It’s about Mr. Fisher’s longtime support of and contribution to the Boys and Girls Clubs. That’s what the evening should be focused upon.”
“I think it’s unfair to single out individual companies like the Gap, which the activists have been trying to do over the last 10 months,” said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association, a lobbying group that represents Gap and 9,000 stores. “All my members have been involved in the process. They want to go to one extreme and we don’t agree.”
Another issue of contention involves Gap contractors on the island of Saipan, a U.S. territory in the Pacific. Two lawsuits that were filed in January 1999 have targeted several American retailers and manufacturers, claiming unfair labor practices at garment factories on the island. Gap has yet to settle the claims.
On the Saipan issue, the Gap spokesman said, “We believe the allegations are false and continue to defend ourselves.”