Levi's Sweatshop Blues

A report uncovers Levi Strauss' global sweatshops

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Long celebrated as a paragon of socially responsible business, jeans maker Levi Strauss is running some of the worst sweatshops in the developing world, reports Daniel Zoll in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (June 10, 1998). Zoll cites a report released in May by the Jakarta-based Clean Clothes Campaign that describes rampant violations of the company's much-hyped human rights guidelines in the Philippines, Mauritius, and Bangladesh. “Levi Strauss is not the first company to move production abroad to take advantage of low wages and less stringent labor regulations. In fact, it was one of the last firms in the garment industry to do so,” Zoll writes. “But unlike many of its competitors, Levi's aggressively promotes itself as a business that puts people before profits.” The company's decision to resume operations in China after a four-year hiatus has gotten plenty of ink, but these recent revelations—and Zoll's deft examination of the company's campaign to silence its critics—cast a harsh new light on Levi's cynical global strategy.

San Francisco Bay Guardian , www.sfbg.com. 520 Hampshire, San Francisco, CA 94110. Subscriptions: $32/yr. (52 issues).