An international student group started a campaign that urges shoppers to avoid Gap clothing stores this holiday season by placing ads Thursday in newspapers at several leading universities.
The United Students Against Sweatshops said it is acting in response to anti-union activity at factories manufacturing Gap products in El Salvador and South Africa.
Ben McKean, the group’s spokesman, said Gap suppliers in those two countries have used physical harassment, termination and blacklisting to impede organizing efforts.
“It’s hard enough to organize unions in a lot of these countries,” McKean said. “For management to take such a hard line is really unacceptable.”
He called the group’s action a two-month “holiday campaign” meant to convey a message from the foreign factory workers to the American public. McKean said the effort is not a boycott, which he characterized as a movement that continues indefinitely.
The organization will assess the effectiveness of the campaign early in the new year to determine if it will continue, McKean said.
A spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Gap declined comment, referring to a section of the company Web site on “ethical sourcing,” where the retailer pledges to promote fair treatment for workers by the vendors who make Gap clothing.
“All of us at Gap Inc. want factory workers to be treated with dignity and respect,” a statement on the site says.
The anti-Gap campaign is starting with advertisements in five college newspapers, including those at Harvard University, the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan.