Montreal-Based Gildan Activewear Faces Widespread Labor Controversy On Heels Of $88M Acquisition Of NYC-Based Anvil Knitwear; Students Demand Reforms As Gildan Enters College Market
By United Students Against Sweatshops
On July 24, garment workers in Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic carried out an unprecedented simultaneous demonstration at their factories targeting a little-known company that has suddenly become crucially important to both sportswear brands and labor advocates.
When Montreal-based Gildan Activewear acquired NYC-based Anvil Knitwear on May 9 for $88 million, it became the hemisphere’s largest supplier of the major sportswear brands, including Adidas and Nike. But with its new market dominance came multiple labor conflicts near the boiling point.
The protest follows years of strife exacerbated by the acquisition. Gildan contracts suppliers in Haiti and operates its own facilities in Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, and at least one factory in each of those countries is the subject of ongoing international labor rights denouncements and investigations: Genesis in Haiti, ANNIC in Nicaragua, STAR in Honduras, and Gildan Dortex in the Dominican Republic.
The tense situation boiled over when local management threatened closures of the unionized facilities in the wake of the Canadian firm’s acquisition of Anvil. In fact, during its May 3 quarterly earnings conference call, Gildan told investors it will begin “integrating” its production system later this year. To date the company refuses to discuss its integration plan with the unions, leaving labor advocates to assume Gildan indeed will intentionally shutter factories where workers have exercised their freedom of association.