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.
During the week following the protest, the workers were joined by college student anti-sweatshop activists in Montreal, who distributed leaflets at Gildan’s headquarters.
College anti-sweatshop advocates are outraged at Gildan’s pattern of labor abuse and rejection of dialogue with worker representatives. With its purchase of Anvil, Gildan newly began producing sportswear for U.S. universities, many of which contractually require labor rights compliance of their apparel producers. “We will not allow Gildan to remain in flagrant violation of our campuses’ labor standards and continue to profit from the sale of clothes with our schools’ names and logos,” said Teresa Cheng, International Campaigns Coordinator for United Students Against Sweatshops. “If Gildan wants to stay in the college market, it must radically change its attitude towards labor rights now.”
Unions’ joint letter is at http://bit.ly/CartaGildan and photos at http://bit.ly/FotosGildan. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is North America’s largest student-run campaign organization, with affiliated organizations on over 150 college campuses advocating for the rights of workers on our campuses, in our communities and making our college apparel.