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A pair of Guess? blue jeans

Price range for a pair of jeans: $79 to $168

The process: In the 1990s, Guess? was a notorious labor rights violator in the U.S., with an estimated 80 sweatshops in Los Angeles. Workers, mostly Latina and Asian immigrant women, made less than the minimum wage and often worked 10 to 12 hours a day for fewer than 50 dollars. It cost Guess? less than five dollars in wages to make a pair of jeans that sold for more than 10 times that amount.

The spin: While being accused of forcing workers to labor in sweatshop conditions, Guess? ran full-page ads in major daily American newspapers, proclaiming that their contractors were “guaranteed 100 percent free of sweatshop labor.” It even sewed “sweatshop free” labels into their jeans.

The record: In 1992, the U.S. Department of Labor accused Guess? contractors of failing to pay their employees overtime or the minimum wage. Guess? paid the back wages and promised to more carefully monitor its operations. But soon the company was busted for illegal sweatshops. In 1996, the company fired workers attempting to organize a union, shut down their California plants and moved its sewing operations to Mexico and Latin America in order to avoid labor abuse citations. The company still advertises itself as “All-American.”

Did you know? Sweatshops exist in the U.S., too. In Los Angeles, the leading garment manufacturing center in the United States, workers continue to labor overtime for less than minimum wage, while corporate owners such as George Marciano of Guess? take home multi-million-dollar bonuses.

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