Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 13, 2003
490 Levi workers lose jobs
Jean maker moves out of North America
By RAMON GONZALEZ
The people who will be making clothes for Levi in the future will probably make a couple of dollars a day with no benefits and work in deplorable conditions.
- Bob Schmidt
Levi Strauss said the closures are part of a continuing shift away from company-owned manufacturing facilities made necessary to stay competitive.
The company is also shutting its plant in San Antonio, Texas, by the end of this year, costing about 800 jobs. When the Canadian and American plants are closed, the company will not have any of its own North American assembly plants. The work will be shifted to other sources around the world.
"Moving away from owned-and-operated manufacturing to a broader sourcing base will strengthen our business by giving us much more flexibility," Julie Klee, general manager of Levi Strauss' Canadian operations told reporters recently. "It will allow us to use the right sources - with the capabilities and cost-competitiveness that we need - to get a wider range of products to market faster."
Union reps said the Levi Strauss workers had good benefits and pension plans, things the company felt hurt its bottom line. Edmonton workers earn between $10 and $12.
Lynch noted many of the workers have been with Levi for 20 and 30 years and may find it difficult to find new jobs. "They go from what they thought was a fairly settled job to nothing."
Unless Levi Strauss changes its mind, Lynch said the social justice commission might begin to push for a boycott of the company's products. "It may not hurt them so much, but (at least) we would let them know we do not agree with their lack of ethics."
In the meantime, Catholics should write letters to Levi Strauss telling them "we are no longer buying your goods because of the way you have treated our people here," Lynch said.
Schmidt said Levis' decision to subcontract the bulk of its work in the Third World might lead to the renewal of a mid-1990s campaign that forced companies like Levi and Nike to draw up a voluntary code of conduct for their contractors in the developing world. The code, which Nike and Levi wrote, but which critics say they rarely adhered to, calls on the companies to treat offshore workers with dignity and respect, paying them livable wages.
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