Apparel Makes Disclose Locations

Dalian Jialian Making Clothes Co.

That's the name of the factory in Dalian, China where a yellow Gear For Sports shell jacket from J. August in Harvard Square is reportedly made.

Two weeks ago, anti-sweatshop activists could not have pinpointed the origin of the coat as a first step toward monitoring working conditions.

But since Harvard's two largest apparel makers, Gear and Champion Products Inc., released the names and locations of their factories last week, sleuthing out the source of Harvard insignia clothing is as easy as the click of a mouse.

Gear made available information about its factories on Jan. 10 via a new Web site--gearnosweat.com--that allows users to search a database by country name or garment style. With the hits, activists could call, even fax, the factories in China.

Though University attorney Allan A. Ryan Jr., who has handled the sweatshop issue for Harvard, said he has not been officially alerted by Champion of their decision, spokesperson Peggy C. Carter said her company mailed information about factory locations directly to universities last Friday.

"We too are vehemently opposed to conditions known as sweatshops," Carter said. "We are proud of our operations, and happy to help our customers."

The release of Gear and Champion's factory locations marks the fulfillment of a promise both companies made in November, when they announced that they would do so by January's end.

The decision fulfills the full disclosure policy Harvard adopted for all of its licensees last spring at the insistence of campus anti-sweatshop activists in the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM).

"[Full disclosure] has been a long time demand of the student anti-sweatshop movement," said PSLM member Benjamin L. McKean '02.

"[Now] we can talk about specific places, specific violations."

In releasing factory locations to the public, Gear departed from its original strategy of disclosure.

In November, John D. Joerger, Gear's director of global human rights compliance, said Gear would only disclose factory locations to the universities themselves, not to the world via the Internet. Joerger could not be reached for comment yesterday.

McKean said Gear may have been prompted to go completely public because companies such as Nike have done likewise in the past few months. He said he did not know why Champion chose to release the information only to universities.

"Any company that doesn't [fully disclose factory locations to the public] is lagging behind the others and might well suffer economically as a result," McKean said.

Gear's Web site also does not allow users to track garments by university, though Joerger said in November that the database would show which factories make which universities' apparel.

"I can only imagine that the reason they didn't put that information on the Web is that they know that it is the easiest way for that information to be useful to us," McKean said.

But Gear's Web site is still unfinished, with links detailing the company's manufacturing process and other tidbits not yet functioning.

John Menghini, president and CEO of Gear, said in a news release that the Web site is intended to be more than a database of Gear's factories.

"It is our hope that this Web site can provide an additional forum from which the issues can be studied and working conditions improved," he said.

Ryan said the next step will be deciding how to use the information companies provide.

"The difficulty with this information is that we don't yet know what's the best way to use our leverage as a university to better working conditions for factory workers," Ryan said.

The University has joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA)--a monitoring partnership between the government and the apparel industry--and it has a one-year deal with four other universities to coordinate sweatshop policies and monitoring systems.

PSLM wants the University to leave the FLA and join the Workers Rights Consortium, a monitoring cooperative it favors. McKean said PSLM will meet with Ryan this Monday to discuss the latest developments.

In other anti-sweatshop news, a worker from an Indonesian Nike factory who told a Harvard audience in October about poor working conditions has returned to work for the company.

Nike fired the employee, Haryanto, after he attempted to organize factory workers, but the company has now reinstated him after he went on a 10-state speaking tour in the U.S., according to a press release from United Students Against Sweatshops, the national college anti-sweatshop organization.