If you see a blog post, a Facebook mention or a tweet before the end of August discussing Levi’s Jeans, the “Go Forth” ad campaign by Levi’s and/or the charity Water.org, pay attention: that blogger or social networker may have been paid big bucks to do so.
Irregular Times just got offered $250 to hawk the Levi’s brand and the “Go Forth” advertising campaign. An e-mail we received today:
My name is Scott Lyon, Blogger Outreach Manager at Technorati Media. Nice to meet you virtually. You may have received an email from me or one of my colleagues, Jill Asher or Alex Porter about this campaign – a Paid Post Opportunity – Eco/Green Articles for a Worldwide Clothing Company campaign.
I am excited to inform you that Levi’s® has selected your blog to participate in its Go Forth engagement program (http://www.Facebook.com/Levis) and I am able to offer you $250 in compensation for your article….
– Write at least 300 words sharing your Go Forth article
– Tie in the Levi’s® Go Forth key messages listed above
– Include a series of images or video clips in your article
– Mention the Levi’s® Go Forth campaign and include an outbound link to the Water.org pledge at: http://www.facebook.com/Levis
– Include the tags “Levi’s”, “Levi’s Go Forth”, and “Water.org” in your post and #GoForth in your tweet
– Promote your post however you amplify your messages – Facebook status updates, tweets, YouTube videos, LinkedIn status updates, RSS feeds, etc.
At the Levi’s page on Facebook to which bloggers are being paid to direct readers (sorry, Levi’s, but no link juice for you), people are encouraged to post a note on their own walls linking people to the Levi’s Facebook page. Right now, the Levi’s page features a link in to an already-set donation of $250,000 to the water development charity Water.org, which is nominally nice but a drop in the bucket considering the multinational corporation’s $4.4 billion in revenue last year. Once all those links and Facebook likes of Levi’s Facebook page are set, Levi’s can use the connections to sell, sell, sell.
It should go without saying that Irregular Times is not accepting this offer from Levi’s, but I’ll say it anyway: Irregular Times is not accepting this offer, or any other offer like it. We never have taken money to write something on Irregular Times and never will. Beyond that issue, the Levi-Strauss company that makes Levi’s jeans isn’t one we’d like to associate ourselves with. Rather than link you to the Levi’s branded websites, allow me to link to some of these reports that describe the ethics of the Levi brand:
Then, early this year, workers reported that Levi Strauss gave Lajat new orders for jeans. This was despite the fact that Lajat refuses to comply with Levi’s Corrective Action Plan, refuses either to reinstate workers or to pay the workers $400,000 in back wages, unpaid overtime, and severance pay, and it fails to make legally required contributions to federal social security and housing funds.
Martha Ojeda, Executive Director of The Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras thinks Levi Strauss should practice what it preaches and quit pampering Lajat. “They can’t have their ethical code and sweatshops too. We call on Levi Strauss to become a leader for labor rights in Mexico and help these workers become the first since NAFTA to win justice on the job.”
Organic Consumers Association:
A federal judge on Saipan has granted class-action status to a lawsuit that alleges that 30,000 factory workers endured sweatshop conditions, rejecting attempts by Gap Inc., Levi Strauss & Co. and other major retailers to have the suit dismissed.
Viola, Petra and their co-workers were not the first – or the last – victims of Levi Strauss & Co. Between 1981 and 1990 the company closed 58 plants and put 10,400 people out of work. It shifted about half of its production overseas, where the best-paid seamstresses made about a tenth of the wages of their US counterparts. By 1990 Levi’s had 600 subsidiaries and contractors in developing countries around the world, including Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, the Philippines, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Late in 1991 a Levi’s contractor in the US Pacific territory of Saipan was accused of keeping imported Chinese women in virtual slavery, confiscating their passports and forcing them to work 84-hour weeks at sub-minimum wages. A contractor in Indonesia who had been given a clean bill of health by a Levi’s inspector was found to be strip-searching female workers to determine whether they were menstruating as they claimed and thus were entitled to a day off with pay in accordance with Muslim law. Employees of a former Levi’s contractor in Mexico said that at least ten children aged under 14 worked at the plant; workers were laid off for a few days if they went to the toilet ‘too often’, and rain-water poured through the roof, collecting in puddles and causing electric shocks.
Poor health and environmental standards in factories in the developing world pops up as an issue on a fairly regular basis. This time it is the turn of GAP and Levi’s to be under the spotlight, as it is their suppliers in Lesotho that are being ‘exposed’ by the media. Not long ago, UK high street retailer Primark faced the same issue and came out of it reasonably well, but GAP and Levi’s have very different brand images to Primark, and therefore need to be seen to be responding to this issue more proactively.
At the moment, both companies seem to be doing what they should be doing: expressing concern about what they have seen/read, promising to investigate, convening meetings of suppliers to reinforce standards etc. This is pretty much all they can do, and it should be enough to ride out the immediate storm of publicity.
But then what? The real issue for me is that no clothing manufacturers or retailers have really told their story on this issue during ‘peace time’. They haven’t shown us that the vast majority of factories are well-run and providing valuable opportunities for people in developing countries. If they don’t challenge the public perception of ‘third world sweatshops’, then they can’t complain when the public assumes the worst after seeing the pictures and reading the stories in the papers.
There are thousands of workers who have contracted silicosis as a result of their working conditions and the younger they are the quicker they die of it. Many of them are in their early 20s and many are from Kurdish areas as they are the poorest and most easily exploited when they travel to Istanbul to search for work. They showed one young man of 25 who couldn’t walk home with his shopping and his two little daughters of about five and six years old had to take the bags out of his hands to help him. When he got home, he used a nebuliser to help him breathe with less pain, but there is no cure, not even surgery. He is now involved, with the help of a couple of doctors and lawyers, in getting other silicosis victims organised to try to get compensation – they will almost certainly die before any compensation comes through. Levis refused to accept any responsibility, or to be interviewed. I find it just so sick that these processes are used to make new jeans old and ragged so that they can satisfy idiotic fashion dictates and sell at inflated prices in the West. The Turkish government has now banned sand-blasting but the programme produced some evidence that suggests that it is still being used and that Levis are (contrary to their claims), still sourcing jeans from sweatshops using the, now illegal, process as well as other dangerous processes involving potassium permanganate and sandpaper.
I’m sure Levi-Strauss is trying really, really, really, really hard to start paying its third-world workers a living wage and stop poisoning them. I’ll let the multi-billion dollar Levi-Strauss company tell you about that on their own dime. If Levi’s company representatives want to post comment here explaining how wonderful their participation in the toothless corporate-run “Fair Labor Association” is, I
can’t won’t stop them.
As for Water.org, I can’t fault a charity that aims to spend money on clean drinking water projects in the developing world. We’ve sent money to that cause ourselves through Charity:Water. I encourage you to read Water.org annual reports before making any donation: its share of donations spent on fundraising and administration costs are higher than the median, but not outlandishly so.