Bay Area Action Schools Group Demos
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS
November 27 - December 17, Palo Alto: Bay Area Action endorsed the SRBG Campaign from the start. The BAA Schools Group, a coalition of high school activist groups in the South Bay, embraced the campaign: participating in our actions (e.g., they sent Gray Davis 1300 valentines asking him to keep his promise to ban old-growth logging) and instigating their own (e.g., like this series of demos in the South Bay, for which we lent them props, including the Cubes).


Mountain View Voice
December 17, 1999 - Mountain View, California

Falling out of The Gap
Local Students protest alleged human rights abuses

by Jose Antonio Vargas
Local Gap shoppers received an unusual holiday welcome last Saturday afternoon.

Approximately 15 members of the Bay Area Action Schools Group, a project of the Mountain View-based nonprofit organization Bay Area Action, gathered in front of Gap store on El Camino Real near Arastradero Road in Palo Alto, to protest the company's business practices. Protesters allege that the Gap provides sweatshop conditions for its workers and is indifferent to any environmental harm its manufacturing operations - may cause.

The Dec. 11 protest was the third of four planned by the BAA Schools Group; the first two protests, were held at the Gap store in the Stanford Shopping Center, where they plan to protest again this weekend.

Students from Mountain View and Los Altos high schools ask that Gap Inc., which also owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, raise the wage of workers in Saipan, a U.S. territory, and improve their poor working conditions. In addition, they ask the Fisher family, owners of Gap Inc. and the Mendocino Redwood Company, to maintain sustainable forestry and stop the clear-cutting of redwood forests in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

"The goal is education, and protesting is a tool to reach this goal," said Olya Milenkaya, project coordinator for the Schools Group and president of Los Altos High's Environmental Club. "Our protest is not to keep anyone from going to the store. It's not a personal attack on the individuals, who work at the store. We're not asking for Gap to shut down their stores. We're asking them to improve their practices. We are here so the shoppers can know information that they might have not known otherwise."

Starting at noon, protesters held up signs that read "Greedy Awful Practices" and "Gap Just Can't Get Enough-Money!" At the stoplight at El Camino Real and Arastradero Road, they performed skits that depicted the poor conditions at sweatshops and the cutting down of redwood trees. A line of 13 protesters fanned out across the the crosswalk, wearing cardboard boxes that spelled out "www.gapsucks.org," "Save redwoods" and "No sweatshops."

Outside the store, protesters busily distributed fliers and talked to passersby who were willing to listen. A petition, to be sent to the Fisher family, was also circulated. The Schools Group has gotten more than 750 people to sign the petition; Milenkaya hopes to get 1,000.

"We definitely got a response, I'd say more positive than negative," Milenkaya said. "If any single person saw the signs, he or she could easily make the connection between labor practices, redwood cutting and the Gap. We. got our point across."

Chris Darrouzet-Nardi, sophomore and president of the Environmental Club at Mountain View High School, added, "This protest was really good. We made a lot of people aware, and awareness is the first step to education."

Despite the protest outside, its was business as usual in the store. Employees warned the. protesters to stay on the sidewalk and not enter the Gap's property.

"The protest hasn't affected us," assistant manager Rachel Jacobs said. "It's not slowing business, so we're doing fine."

The Gap handed two pieces of literature to shoppers who showed concern regarding the company's policies, one stating that "our clothing is manufactured under appropriate conditions around the world."

It also stated that the Mendocino Redwood Company has no affiliation with Gap Inc. and was funded through a private investment firm. John Fisher, son of Gap founders Don and Doris Fisher, apparently isn't involved with Gap Inc. and is "the only member of the Fisher family who has any operational involvement with Mendocino Redwood Company."

Shoppers and passersby reacted in different ways. Some drivers honked as they passed the signs to indicate support of the protestors' cause. A few passersby and Gap shoppers took time to talk to the protesters, some even donating money (protesters had collected $69 at the end of the day) and signing the petition.

Inevitably, others were just indifferent.

"You got to respect any of kind of activism, but on the other side of the coin, it in no way makes me change what I believe in," said Palo Alto resident and Gap shopper Rory Gardner. "It's a tough world, and I have no time to be concerned with things that doesn't affect me or my immediate family. How effective is that protest going to be in the grand scheme of things? If you're trying to make a difference in people's lives, your time is better spent looking at problems to be solved in your back yard."

"What can high school students do?" responded Los Altos High senior Sabiha Basrai. "This is all we know how to do. This is all we have the power to do. Education makes a difference, and we've educated a lot of people, especially on the high school level."

"It is because of people who don't care that we're out there," Milenkaya added. "We are an organized group of high school students who are passionate and well-informed about human rights and environmental issues. Basically, we want to be taken seriously, because we know what we're talking about and we really do care about what's going on."

To contact the Bay Area Action Schools Group, Can 625-8732 - or email baaction@igc.org.




THE TALON - NEWS
Demember 17, 1999

Attacking the Gap: both sides of the issue examined
Students' apathy towards the Gap issue prevails despite Environmental Club's efforts

BY CHRIS CHANTALAT
Senior Writer

Throughout the past decade, society has placed a great deal of focus on boycotting clothes created in sweatshops. The reality of the situation, though, is that most popular clothes items that teenagers and adults wear are created in severe working conditions where meager wages are earned.

A group of Environmental Club members, led by senior Olya Milenkaya, is currently trying to educate people who purchase or wear clothing made by Gap. They would like to collect as many Gap tags as possible so that they can send them back to the Fischer family, owners of Gap Inc., and show how much the public has come to be aware of Gap's practices. (See news article on page 4 for more details.)

The public has been aware for a substantial amount of time about the harsh working conditions and low pay that Gap workers allegedly receive. Last January, a lawsuit was filed against Gap and several other popular clothing companies concerning these issues. The companies were accused of violating U.S. labor laws by employing workers under sweatshop conditions. This was certainly not the first time the subject was brought up.

Making a difference

Many of Gap's clothes are produced in third-world countries in both Latin/South America and parts of southeast Asia. Although it is impossible to eliminate all the sweatshops of the world or preserve all of the redwood forests, the Environmental Club hopes that in its efforts to educate Gap supporters, it will make a difference.

"Our ultimate goal is to educate about the issue as opposed to forcing propaganda down people's throats. People are definitely getting more educated. We had a petition and over 700 people signed it. Our goal is to get 1,200 signatures, and I'm confident we will get there soon. Until Gap starts sustainable forestry and good factory practices, I will not stop trying to educate people about Gap's actions," said Olya.

Other members of the Environmental Club agree. "We are truly making a difference. We were outside the Stanford Gap location a few weeks ago, and we educated people who bought Gap clothing. We didn't expect to see any immediate results, but people went into the store and came out emptyhanded. Our main goal is to educate people, and surprisingly a lot of people are not too aware of Gap's sweatshops or illegal logging," said junior Priti Dave, an Environmental Club officer.

Two sides of the issue

one problem about eliminating sweatshops completely, however, is that sweatshops provide necessary jobs for mil- - lions of poverty-stricken families. Though the wages are insignificant by United States' standards, many people rely on this money to have food on the table and to finance an education.

Eliminating sweatshops would also lead to high production prices, meaning that consumers would end up paying much more for products . Products made in the United States would be unable to compete effectively with the cheaper products made in other countries, thus hurting the United States' economy.

"The march towards a common goal is hopeless. If they actually start making all the clothes in the United States or some high-quality European factory, the prices will skyrocket. Then people will start complaining and want cheaper prices. Nobody can be completely happy with either situation," said junior Mark Chen.

on the other hand, sweatshop conditions are deplorable enough to merit some attention. Though there are reasons to support both the pro-sweatshop and anti-sweatshop sides, humanity is the anti-sweatshop side's biggest reason. However, many students don't seem to care much either way.

"I am very sure that most people are aware of where Gap clothes are made ... This has been a large concern for quite some time now, but I don't think anything can be done about it .... I personally don't care too much about this situation and am going to keep my Gap tags on," said senior Huong Pham.

In conclusion, the idea of not wearing Gap clothes has been an issue of concern for a considerable amount of time. Environmental Club members hope to change the public's view of Gap Inc. by presenting their concerns. With the active protesting of Bay Area Action leaders, Environmental Club members, and other activists, it may be only a matter of time before the public will see drastic changes in the ways the Gap produces its clothing.




THE TALON - NEWS
Demember 17, 1999

Students protest against Gap's practices


Rose Ellen Balestri
The "Gap is crap" campaign, protesting Gap's unfair wages, is turning eyes with students' peaceful demonstrations at places like Stanford mall and displaying posters all over school.
BY LORA OEHLBERG
Staff Writer

"Gap = crap" is the message on the Environmental Club's posters in the quad, as a month of protest begins against Gap Inc.'s practices of sweatshops.

The posters were made by students involved with Bay Area Action, a local non-profit environmental activist group. Senior Olya Milenkaya, president of the Environmental Club and project coordinator of BAA, put up the posters early in the morning, while similar sets of posters were put up at other schools in the Bay Area.

"Instead of making angry posters, they should inform people," said sophomore Eleanore Park.

The posters also advertise a petition regarding student concern of Gap's practices which is set up in the office for students to sign. Along with the petition is a box to collect label tags from Gap, Old Navy, or Banana Republic clothing, all three owned by Gap Inc.

"It is an issue that is more tangible to teenagers because the Gap issue is more focused and since so many.. teenagers [wear Gap], it made sense for us to pick this issue," said Olya.

The Fisher family owns Gap Inc., a company that sells clothes made in sweatshop factories in U.S. territories. This allows the company to label their clothing "Made in the USX' yet not be obligated to follow U.S. labor laws. The sweatshops are often operated by child labor and by people who work long hours for low pay.

"At least those kids in Taiwan get a bowl of rice instead of starving," said junior Karl Stabler.

"In countries where they have sweatshops, it helps the economy, even if it is not [comparable] to American standards. If Gap spends so little, then it is cheaper for us to buy their clothing," said sophomore Ramsay Millie.

The Fisher family also owns the Mendocino Redwood company, which uses harmful pesticides and clearcuts old growth redwoods. This destroys the unique environment for many endangered species, creating a large threat of extinction.

The Environmental Club's aim is to inform customers by staging a series of protests outside the Gap stores. On November 26, the first of a series of peaceful protests began when a group of students from BAA handed out information flyers to people in front of the Gap at Sanford Shopping Center.

"I felt bad about going into Gap. I got dirty looks going in, " said freshman Sepideh Moafi, who went shopping at Gap during one of the protests.

One organization protesting Gap has set up a line of imitation Gap clothing, called Crap gear. You can order fitted t-shirts, sweat shirts, beanies, and regular t-shirts with Crap written in the Gap style logo.

To order Crap Gear, talk to any Environmental Club member. The club can order the clothes for students. Proceeds help pay for the lawsuit against Gap Inc.




THE TALON - NEWS
Demember 17, 1999

Environmental Club proves undaunted in anti-Gap campaign

BY KYLE MILLER
Staff Writer

The environmental club is on a mission to inform students of the exploitations of Gap Inc. The members posted signs, are currently collecting Cap tags, making speeches in class, and getting signatures for their petitions.

The tag collection is an attempt to show Gap that its customers don't support its practices. It is an example of consumers speaking out; saying that they shop at Gap, and are demanding changes. This protest includes several other schools and is going on all around the Bay Area.

The Gap protest is spearheaded by a division of the Bay Area Action Schools which was founded ten years ago on Earth Day. This group of environmental activists participates in local environmental affairs.

The Gap allegedly uses sweatshops in third world countries to manufacture Gap clothing. Harsh working conditions and low wages are what the activists are protesting.

"We realize that these people are desperate for jobs, but it's unjustifiable for workers to be treated the way the Gap treats theirs," said Ryan Buckley, environmental club member and protester.

The most publicized problem is in the southeast Asian island Saipan. Technically, this island is a United States territory, which lets Gap play both sides of the field.

"Many people are deceived by the Gap when they are told that for $7,000, they can come to the U.S.A. and work, o when in reality, they are taken to Saipan, where they work for $3.03 an hour, and slowly pay back their debt to the Gap, said Ryan.

Gap uses the label, "Made in the USA" for all items made in Saipan, but they don't obey U.S. labor laws, taking advantage of workers.

Gap refuses to even disclose the location of most of its factories. A couple of the known factories exist in Honduras, Bangladesh and various places in Asia. There have been reports of factories in Russia that require employees to work 14 hour days with only 2 short breaks to go to the bathroom.

"Stopping all this is what we're fighting for, we know we can't do it all ourselves, but as long as we know we've done our part, and made a small difference, we know we've succeeded," said Ryan.

Some environmental club members have been protesting Gap Inc. for the last three weekends, passing out educational fliers, talking with people and encouraging people to sign the petition. Another protest is planned for Saturday, November 18th, from noon to 4pm at the Gap at Stanford Shopping Center.

The protesters chose the holiday season because it is the biggest shopping season and the activists want to reach as many people as possible.

When they are done collecting tags and signatures, the environmental club plans to send everything in au envelope to the Fishers's (the family who owns Cap, Inc.) residence to let them know people are 'disgusted to be wearing their brand.' The sweatshops are only one side of the environmental concern. The Fishers recently purchased 235,000 acres of the Mendocino timberland from the Louisiana Pacific Corporation. The Fisher's logging company, Mendocino Redwood Company is now logging the last of the redwoods in the Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.

Despite the multiple environmentalists desperate pleas for the Fishers to help preserve the land, they refused. The environmental club has taken offense to the Fisher's falsely filed environmental reports, which suggest the Fishers have something to hide.




Los Altos Town Crier
December 8, 1999

LAHS environmentalists see 'Gap' in labor, environmental practices

Town Crier Staff Report

The Los Altos High Environmental Club has engaged in a full-scale protest against The Gap Inc., citing unchecked labor and environmental abuses.

The Gap Inc. is the American parent company of Banana Republic, The Gap and Old Navy clothing chain stores. The products are favorites among many high school students.

The campaign, led by seniors Olya Milenkaya and Ryan Buckley, targets the clothing company's alleged involvement in the clearcutting of coastal redwoods and exploitation of foreign labor. Such charges gained even more attention last week during World Trade Organization talks in Seattle, when protests over labor practices and compromised environmental policies captured national headlines.

The Los Altos High club posted banners in the school's hallways and quad area, all of which featured slogans inciting students to boycott the company. They also asked students to take action by cutting the tags off of their Gap, Banana and Old Navy clothing.

Los Altos High students, among those in a Bay Area Action Schools Group, also led a protest in front of the Stanford Shopping Center Gap store Nov. 26, stopping shoppers who tried to enter the building (see corrections, below).

The protest at the high school, however, has not been as successful. The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy are all popular with teenagers, and many students at Los Altos admit that they own many clothes from the stores.

"This issue is so important to me because I have always had a passion for nature and this issue," Milenkaya said. "It becomes very disturbing, personally, after learning about the exploitation of workers and the clearcutting, and then walking down the hall to class and seeing 30 Gap sweatshirts, one after the other."

The clearcutting refers to Gap owner John Fisher and his family purchasing 220,000 acres of timberlands in Mendocino County. Fisher resigned his post as president of the company on Oct. 29.

Milenkaya said the club's goal is to be educational and "hopefully impact, in the long run, what people see as reasonable practices."

This is not the first time that The Gap has been under fire for its alleged dodging of U.S. labor laws. In January, The Gap, along with other major companies like Sears, Wal-Mart, and Tommy Hilfiger, was accused of engaging in a "racketeering conspiracy" -in- which they employed workers in Asian countries under deplorable conditions. The companies were sued for "sweat shop" practices in Saipan. Gap officials responded they were "deeply concerned" by the lawsuits. "We simply do not, and will not, tolerate the type of conduct alleged in factories where we do business," the company stated.

Though the Gap and its associated companies have been repeatedly accused of labor and environmental exploitation, officials at the San Francisco-based firm tout high-minded principles with regard to both issues. The Gap's web site (www.gap.com) includes lengthy guidelines on environmental principles and a "code of vendor conduct" applying to factories that produce goods for the company. "The textile and apparel industry has not stepped lightly on the environment," their statement acknowledges. "Gap Inc. is committed to changing that."

Corrections

Last week's story about the protest of The Gap, Inc., by Los Altos High School students, inaccurately noted that students tried to stop shoppers from entering the Stanford Shopping Center store during a Nov. 26 demonstration. According to one student participating in the demonstration, that did not occur. "The last thing that we tried to do was to stop shoppers from entering the building," said student Olya Milenkava. "We were very careful to ensure that we were not blocking any entrances ... Our goal is to educate through peaceful and informative action."




Los Altos Town Crier
December 29, 1999

LAHS students leads Gap protests, cites clearcutting, sweatshop issues


MONIQUE SCHOENFELD / Town Crier
Pictured from left, Heidi Alayne Wall, Avi Emet and Olya Milenkaya gather at the office of the Bay Area Action Schools Group, where they have collected over 200 clothing tags and nearly 750 signatures in protest of the Gap's environmental and human rights policies.
By Melissa Leavitt
Town Crier Staff Writer

The Bay Area Action Schools Group, led by Los Altos High senior Olya Milenkaya, completed the last of four protests against the Gap Inc. on Dec. 18. Approximately 25 students from Los Altos and Mountain View participated in the protests.

The schools group, a division of Bay Area Action (BAA) has criticized the Fisher family, owners of' the Gap Inc. in recent weeks, citing human rights and environmental abuses. Members of the Fisher family own the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy clothing stores as well as the Mendocino Redwood Company. John Fisher, the son of Gap founders Don and Doris Fisher, manages the Mendocino Redwood Company, but is not an. employee of Gap Inc.

The group began staging protests outside local Gap stores the day after Thanksgiving.

"We chose to do the protests this month because we can affect the biggest group of shoppers," said Milenkaya, the schools group project coordinator.

The students stood Outside the stores passing out fliers detailing their reasons for protesting the Fisher family's practices.

Among other charges, the fliers list the wages that the Gap's clothing manufacturers pay their workers. It reads, in part, "workers on the U . S. territory island of Saipan are working 12-hour days at $3.03 an hour."

The fliers direct the reader to visit www.gapsucks.org for more information.

Addressing the Fisher family's environmental practices, the flier reads that the "Mendocino .Redwood Company ... is clearcutting 235,000 acres of redwood forests in Sonoma and Mendocino counties."

Members of the schools group also held signs with anti-Gap slogans.

Among these were "Gap: Just can't get enough money," "Save Redwoods" and "No Sweatshops."

The schools group plans to mail a petition to the Fisher family, demanding it change its business practices.

The petition asks that "all workers be paid a living wage," and that "all workers have safe, sanitary living and working conditions." It also asks that the Fisher family attempt to restore the forests the Mendocino Redwood Company has damaged.

BAA has nearly 750 signatures on the petition. The group gathered these signatures at both the store-front protests and at local high schools, where environmental clubs have been publicizing the Gap issue.

BAA has also been collecting Gap clothing tags and plans to mail these to the Fisher family as an indication of public support for their efforts.

According to protesters, people have been receptive to BAA's information about the Gap.

"We've gotten a lot of signatures and informed a lot of people said Eileen Hlavka, a senior at mountain View High School who attended BAA's first protest at Stanford Shopping Center "Not too many people were annoyed with us."

Because the protests target both the Gap's labor and environmental practices, activists s with a broad range of con concerns have joined in the protests.

In addition, the high visibility of Gap products, especially among high school students, has allowed the schools group to illustrate the relevance of their cause.

"This issue totally hits home because everybody wears clothes from the Gap, but nobody knows what they really cost," Milenkaya said. "We're not necessarily trying to start a boycott of the Gap, we just want people to be aware of what they are buying."

The Gap Inc. has written two letters addressing the protestors' concerns.

Regarding the Mendocino Redwood Company, the Gap officials wrote "Mendocino Redwood Company has no affiliation with Gap Inc. or its brands, stores or employees."

Concerning its labor practices, Gap officials wrote that "the fair and respectful treatment of workers is an essential ingredient of our r relationship with the independent vendors that make our products."

The letter says that the Gap Inc. only hires vendors that meet the requirements of its "Code of Vendor Conduct."

Two of the code's provisions are "factories must treat all workers with respect and dignity and provide them with a safe and healthy environment" and "factories shall set working hours, wages and overtime pay in compliance with applicable laws."

In a separate statement titled "No Sweatshops," Gap Inc. denies any unfair labor practices.

The statement reads, in part "if factories don't share our commitment to maintaining safe conditions and treating workers fairly, we'll quit doing business with them altogether."

The statement is available on the company's corporate Web site at www.gapinc.com.

"The vendors we conduct business with must pay local minimum wage or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher," said Gap spokesman Alan Marks.

"We aggressively and actively monitor the manufacturers we do business with to make sure they comply with our codes."




PALO ALTO DAILY NEWS
November 27, 1999

That's not Santa - it's a protester
Demonstrators hit the mall

BY EMILY RICHMOND
PALO ALTO DAILY NEWS STAFF

The busiest day of the year for retailers was also a busy day for protesters at the Stanford Shopping Center. where an animal activist dressed like Santa Claus handed out anti-fur literature outside Neiman Marcus.

Also, high school students protested outside of the Gap, Baby Gap, Gap Kids and Banana Republic, accusing the company of using sweatshop labor and the company's co-founder of logging in oldgrowth forests.

The Santa-like protester drew the attention of several small children, who rushed happily to throw their arms around the man's legs. apparently unperturbed by the graphic poster he carried.

"It's strange that the protestors chose us, because our Neiman Marcus doesn't even sell furs," said Stanford Shopping Center spokeswoman Robin Urvinitka. Urvinitka said she didn't think there would be any confusion between the protester and the shopping center's official Saint Nick, who greets children from a throne and is advertised as "the real Santa Claus." The protester Santa was accompanied by five other activists, some of whom carried posters of skinned carcasses and handed out literature.

About two dozen high schoolers spent yesterday protesting Gap's business practices, using homemade signs and banners to draw potential customers away from the company's popular clothing stores.

Fisher's company uses sweatshop labor on the U.S. territory island of Saipan and the family's Mendocino Redwood Co. logged redwoods in Mendocino and Sonoma counties, said Los Altos High School senior Ian Saxton.

"The manager of the Gap asked me when I was going to leave and give up protesting," Saxton told the Daily News. "I said, 'Not in your lifetime.'" The manager of the GAP store shooed Saxton outside when he ventured in with a video camera. The manager also asked the students not to block the entrances.

The student protest, which included students from several Peninsula schools, was organized by the Bay Area Action Schools Group.

The Daily News was unable to reach Fisher for comment.

One Los Altos High School student said she and her classmates had cut out the Gap labels from all of their clothes and were planning on mailing the items back to the Gap offices in San Francisco along with a petition.



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