History

History of the AIW Campaign:

April 11, 1991 – Organizes the Wai Chang Fashions garment workers to: hold an unprecedented rally in Chinatown, kicking off the Campaign Against Nonpayment of Wages; throw their boss in jail; and inspire other garment workers to speak out. Contractors such as Judy’s Place, Affirmed Fashions, and Luo Bo are all forced to pay back wages to their workers.

February, 1993 – Supports ‘90s Fashions factory workers to picket and win owed wages from manufacturer CET, the first time workers demand manufacturer accountability. C.E.T. subcontracted to this factory to produce the label Kate Warner.

March 16, 1993 – Compels New York State Senator Franz Leichter and Assembly Member Frank Barbaro to introduce bill to make nonpayment of wages a felony, and hold manufacturers accountable. In September 1997, Pataki passes a watered-down version of this bill.

 July 1995 – Holds public hearing in Chinatown with Federal Labor Department. A month later, Labor Department announces its creation of The Apparel Restaurant Guidance & Enforcement Team to investigate labor violations in the garment and restaurant industries.

March 1997 – Helps unionized garment workers file lawsuit and win against Land & Sea, Tracy Evans’ and Kathie Lee’s general contractor. Land & Sea had pulled out its work and tried to duck responsibility after its subcontracted factories, Laura and Sarah Sportswear, MSL Fashion, Inc. and L.A.W. Fashion Inc. got caught violating labor laws.

March 1998 – Organizes garment workers from Chinatown union shops to testify before Congress to draw attention to sweatshops in the U.S.

1998 – Pataki signs Joint-Employer Liability law, making manufacturers and subcontractors jointly accountable for labor law violations, but lets retailers off the hook.

1998 – Helps workers from Hua Great Procetech, a factory that contracted with the manufacturer Street Beat. These workers are forced to work 137 hours a week and are fired for taking breaks, despite the fact that Street Beat had signed two agreements with the Labor Department in which the company would monitor the conditions under which its goods were made. AIW organizes these women, and is the first to target a retailer, Sears, for selling “hot goods,” produced in violation of the labor law. As a result, the women win a settlement in 1999 and throw their boss in jail.

May 1999 – The Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign goes national when seamstresses who work for DKNY subcontractors Choe Ltd, Jen Jen and Jen Chu come together to protest long hours with no overtime pay, padlocked bathrooms, and discrimination against the Latina workers. AIW assists the workers of these unionized factories to file a class-action lawsuit against DKNY and its contractors, and protest in front of the factories and the DKNY store. The campaign launches a national boycott of DKNY and tens of thousands of supporters from across the U.S. sign petitions demanding manufacturer accountability and an end to sweatshop conditions in DKNY factories. In October 2003, DKNY compensates the workers an estimated $1 million.

Sept 11, 2001 – The Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign organizes to demand that the government extend its relief boundaries to recognize the garment workers who lost their jobs or income because of their factories’ close proximity to the World Trade Center but who fell outside the designated boundaries. As a result, more than two thousand garment workers receive assistance from government agencies and relief organizations.

2005 – assists Chinese and Latina garment workers from Sunset Park, Brooklyn to win close to $300,000 in back wages from clothing manufacturers Jenna Lane and Zeke ‘n Zoe.

July, 2007 – organizes workers who work for Necessary Objects’ contractor to successfully win their minimum wage and overtime claim in the first case in which the State Attorney General’s Office uses the State Manufacturer Accountability law.

2009 – works with Liberty Apparel workers to win a landmark decision against the manufacturer and its owner after nearly 10 years of fighting. The judge and jury find that although a manufacturer might not have direct control over its subcontracted factories, it still can maintain control over the work conditions, and therefore should be responsible for paying workers when its subcontractor doesn’t.

June, 2010 – assists the workers of the Silver Fashion and Great Rose factories to successfully hold the manufacturer Great Wall accountable despite the company’s claim that the workers are independent contractors.

2010 – AIW launches boycott against Cache, a high-end women’s apparel retailer that knowingly contracted with sweatshops that didn’t pay its workers overtime and that fired workers who stood up for their rights