Gap Protests for International Women’s Day

Mar 11, 2001

Why were we protesting against Gap? Because they use sweatshop labour to make million-dollar profits out of women in developing countries.

Good News from San Francisco

Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange tells us:

“a bit of information from here in San Francisco where GAP has their headquarters. There is increasing conflict within the top ranks of GAP executives because the sales are going down, revenue and profits are going down, and the company’s stock price on Wall Street is also headed south. So keep up the good work! The people’s campaign against sweatshops will force the millionaires to treat workers like human beings instead of commodities.”


Twenty stores were picketed in all – from Brighton to Glasgow. We estimate that over thirteen hundred people were mobilised. 120 people came on the Leeds protest, 100 in Liverpool, 100 in Edinburgh, 40 in Dundee, 35 in Cardiff where 100 people signed up for GR, 50 in Cambridge, 30 in Exeter and 30 in Watford.

Sheffield – Over 200 people joined the Globalise Resistance protest on the opening day of the Gap store on Saturday. It was the biggest direct action in the city for a long time. Over a hundred people signed the Globalise Resistance contact sheet to ask to be kept in touch.

London – Despite poor weather, the London Flagship store had a solid six-and-a- half hour picket – takings were down for the day quite significantly. Hundreds of people joined the protest during the day, with 250 at lunchtime and in the evening. Protesters brought Socialist Alliance, People and Planet and Globalise Resistance banners. We gave out 7000 leaflets and got a good reception from passers by. At 7pm we marched down Oxford St to Nike Town. Large gallery of photos and more reports at the Independent Media Centre’s web site.

Brighton – Despite terrible weather, thirty activists picketed Gap store in Brighton and handed in giant postcards, signed by shoppers, condemning the use of sweatshop labour. The store manager spoke to us and claimed our protests were welcome, but that GAP were doing all they could to defend women workers’ rights. This did not convince us – in fact it encouraged people to stay for longer, despite being soaked to the skin.

Amongst the protesters were Green Party Councillor Keith Taylor (also prospective parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion) and local UNISON chair Andy Richards (Socialist Alliance ppc for Hove). Activists from the Brighton Genoa collective, World Development Movement, Green Party, Socialist Alliance, Oxfam and the Friends of Sussex Refugee Association were all present.

Manchester – Around a hundred people protested. A mock sweat shop was set up out side the store and protesters marched into Gap, forcing the store to close early. Arafat, a 6th form student said “this protest is excellent because it is part of a whole load of protests that are going on today across the country. Its good to see people coming together and making their voices heard.” Daniel Murphy from the No Sweat campaign said “No Sweat is working with Globalise Resistance to highlight sweat shop conditions and form part of a global fight back.” Karen Reissmann, Socialist Alliance candidate for Blackley, said “nearly 100 years ago women garment workers in New York protested against sweat shop conditions. What an indictment of capitalism it is that in the year 2001 we need to be protesting against sweat shop labour. We need a real fight back and a real alternative”. Many passers-by gave their phone numbers and e-mail addresses so that they can be kept in informed about Globalise Resistance events.

Bromley – Seventeen protesters attended. We made quite a scene, with two banners, leaflets, stickers, and plenty of shouting. We got a good response from passers-by, and a few people wanted to get involved. We had a meeting afterwards, and are now planning a protest against McDonalds, outside the Bromley McDonald’s in the high street, on Thursday 22nd of March, at 6:30pm.

Guildford – The protest was very well received by passing shoppers, and nearly all signed the petition when asked. Members of Amnesty International, the Surrey Socialist Alliance, GPMU, NUJ and PCS Unions took part in the action, and the weekly Surrey Advertiser newspaper covered the event. Gap store workers were approached to sign the petition, making it clear we had nothing against them. However, fear of dismissal prevented them from signing.

Because of the success of the protest, it was decided to repeat it on the afternoon of Saturday 17th March when we hope to have a much larger contingent.

Edinburgh – 150 people protested outside Gap on Edinburgh’s Princes Street on Saturday 10 March. “I’m here because I abhor sweatshop labour” said Vanessa Nias, a member of Amnesty International, holding a home-made “Globally Advancing Policy” placard. “I couldn’t condone or support Gap in any shape.” Her friend Kate Charlesworth agreed. “I’ve bought stuff at Gap without realising the situation. I thought they’d got their act together.”

“I came because its wrong that they’re not giving good wages to people,”, said Mel Grabbe, a student from Ohio currently at Edinburgh University. “Damn the Gap!”. Around twenty demonstrators went into Gap to speak to workers and shoppers. There was a sit-down protest and stickers were put on clothes, before the police forced everyone to leave the store. The protest continued outside, with speakers including Cationa Grant, Scottish Socialist Party candidate for Edinburgh North, and members of the Edinburgh Socialist Women’s Network, speaking about the need to build a global movement and to end sweatshop labour. They were met with loud applause, and about 50 passers-by stopped to join the protest.

Glasgow – An excellent 450 people joined Saturday’s protest. Students from the Art School made up a giant sewing machine that attracted massive attention. Twenty members of the women’s anti-capitalist drummers “Sheboom” made sure the protest drew attention and invited more people to take part.

Afterwards the “Globalise Resistance Dance Group” performed a parody of GAP’s West Side Story TV advert. The dance ended with a shooting by the military. This was to commemorate the young women who were shot down in Guatemala last year outside a GAP store when they were on strike for better conditions at work. This all took place alongside singing, guitar playing and trampoline jumping. Protest coordinator Gill Hubbard commented: “It’s great when people can show their creativity and joy of life in this way. It’s the complete opposite to the reality for the women who work in the GAP sweat shops.”

A big group of young women aged between 5 and 15 went into the shop demanding a job. Karen Daly and Stephanie Corrigan explained why they wanted to go in: “We didn’t know about this protest but when we went over to find out what was going on we heard about the child labourers. We thought that it was so awful that we decided to abandon our shopping and join in with the protest. Twenty of us went in to ask for a job. The manager said no. We asked why and said that we were prepared to work for 10p an hour, the same wage as child labourers in other countries get. She said that if we did not get out immediately she would phone the police”.

Carmen McGarvey, aged 9, also went into the store and said she thought it was good to “make them ashamed of themselves.” 600 people signed up to GR.

Norwich – Forty people took part in a two hour protest outside the GAP Store, flanked by several police officers. Most were students from the Globalise Resistance group and People and Planet, but they were also joined by local Socialist Alliance supporters. Also joining the protests were supporters from the local Norfolk Education and Development (NEAD) group who are part of the Behind the Labour campaign and we distributed their info sheets about GAP.

Over £20 in donations were collected along with lots of signatures. Along with singing and dancing a fun morning was had by all and together with NEAD we hope to turn this into a regular event.

Global Exchange sweatshops info page
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