Joyful Protest at Old Navy Opening
Oct. 20, 1999, San Francisco. We repeated the Cube Dance - 13 actvists dressed in cubes spelling out "Save Redwoods," "No Sweatshops," Boycott Gap!" and "" to the popular Gap TV ad tune, "I just can't get enough of you," with modified lyrics, "Gap just can't get enough money!" - as well as the strip action at the grand opening of the Old Navy flagship, again delighting bystanders and garnering loads of media coverage that spotlighted Fisher family deforestation and Gap, Inc. labor abuses.

San Francisco Examiner
Old Navy S.F. store opens to a protest
Victoria Colliver
Anastasia Hendrix, Marianne Costantinou and Katherine Seligman of The Examiner staff contributed to this report.
Oct. 21, 1999
©2000 San Francisco Examiner


On Market Street, demonstrators in from of Old Navy Wednesday to protest reported abuse of workers.
Naked chanters say clothes are made in Pacific sweatshops

Just three hours after shoppers lined up to get into the new Old Navy store on Market Street, the festivities dissolved into protesters, police and people getting naked.

Not the opening celebration Old Navy had planned for.

Protesters, mostly from the San Francisco human rights group Global Exchange, rallied Wednesday against Old Navy and its parent company, Gap Inc., for producing goods in Saipan, an island in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, where workers have reportedly been beaten and forced to work under sweatshop conditions.

Shouting chants like "Old Navy and the Gap, we don't need this kind of crap," about 50 protesters staged skits and tried to discourage shoppers from entering the store. At one point, a smaller group stripped off their clothes, shouting, "We'd rather wear nothing than wear Old Navy."

At the height of the protest, the police closed the store entrance for at least 10 minutes, allowing very few people to enter the store to prevent protesters from blocking the doors or entering without clothes. One demonstrator was cited on the spot for blocking the doorway, but no one was arrested.

"More people wanted to go into the store than to see these people naked," quipped San Francisco police Officer Kevin Gotchet.

Executives of San Francisco-based Gap downplayed the events, saying the demonstration had not marred the opening.

"We believe people have a right to express themselves," said company spokeswoman Maria Hoyer-Angus. "On occasion, people want to be able to express themselves in front of our stores."

Gap issued a statement, handed out to shoppers, that said the company forbade forced labor and child labor in factories that produced clothing for Gap's Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic stores.

It said the retailer relied on monitors who visited factories once every three months and conducted random inspections, as well.

The Gap-Saipan connection hit the headlines in January, when more than a dozen retailers were named in lawsuits over the conditions. Most of them, such as Nordstrom and Burlingame-based Gymboree, have settled their cases. But the cases are still pending against the Gap companies and a handful of other retailers.

Some of the demonstrators were also denouncing the logging practices of Mendocino Redwood Co., which is financed by the Fisher family, members of which founded and own Gap Inc.

At 102,000 square feet, the three-story San Francisco store is the largest Old Navy in the country. It's essentially a larger version of its standard 25,000-square-foot store with more clothes and special fixtures.

Old Navy spent more than two years renovating the 92-year-old Pacific Building, which when it was built after the 1906 earthquake was the largest reinforced-concrete building in the world.

In recent weeks, the publicity for Wednesday's opening became ubiquitous with a relentless radio campaign and yellow and blue Old Navy signs on billboards, and posters in every other bus shelter. Old Navy will not disclose how much the company spent on the campaign.

The publicity - along with an offer for free jeans for the first 500 shoppers - drew hundreds of people to the store before its 9:30 a.m. opening. The line snaked around the corner of Fourth and Market streets, and then looped around back to the store By noon, every square inch of the store was jammed with shoppers eyeing the merchandise and giveaways. But then the atmosphere changed.

Amid the free chocolate chip cookies, balloons, the sparkle booth and ear-splitting music, guards and cops closed the doors, allowing people to exit but not enter. Some shoppers said they were scared by the sheer size of the crowd, the shouting of the protesters outside and the police presence.

Employees nervously talked into their headsets and tried to keep smiling. There were some confused murmurs as the crowd started pushing toward the doors, which created a backlog of bodies near the front entrance. Many of the shoppers inside said they couldn't see the protesters.

Once inside, some shoppers said they had been affected by the protest, but most just wanted to shop.

"I've been waiting four months for this store to open," said Darice Lankford, a Concord resident who works in The City, adding that one of the protesters had shouted vulgarities at her. "Old Navy is a very good store. (The protesters) need to get a life. It's not going to stop me from shopping here."

The protest did affect Katie Emans, who stopped by to see actress Morgan Fairchild, who appears in the company's popular and campy TV ads and was on hand Wednesday to spin a prize wheel for customers.

"My shopping experience definitely was affected. I will think twice before buying clothes here," said Emans, who planned to leave without a purchase.

Marla Stebens of Kingfisher, Okla., who was in town for a management conference, walked away from the store looking stunned.

"It's typical San Francisco, I guess," she said. "Our culture is just so much more conservative."

"How much overtime is The City paying to protect Old Navy and their minimum wage jobs?" asked Belinda Griswold, who stopped by to view the scene.

Gap officials would not disclose the first-day sales at the store, other than to say they were astounded by the customer response.

The last high-profile picket at a Gap store in San Francisco happened in March, when some 300 demonstrators rallied at Gap's flagship store on Powell and Market streets.

That protest was also against Saipan working conditions and the redwood logging.

Old Navy continues, however, to be a powerhouse retailer and is credited with helping to boost Gap Inc.'s sales figures, which have been flat or in decline at the Gap namesake stores.

The fast-growing division, which barely existed five years ago and now operates 486 stores and logged $2.3 billion in sales last year, has filled a niche among value-oriented consumers because Old Navy's prices are much more in line with big-box or outlet stores.

©2000 San Francisco Examiner Page A 1

Golden Gater
Thursday, October 21, 1999

'We won't wear GAP'

Kris Dale / Gater
Activists from Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance shed their clothing to protest the use of sweatshop labor by Gap Inc.
Shouting "We'd rather wear nothing than wear Gap," activists from the Save the Redwoods/Boycott the Gap campaign gathered in front of the Fourth and Market streets yesterday and took off their clothes to protest the opening of the new Gap-owned Old Navy store there.

Kris Dale / Gater
Peter Miller, an SF State student, models at a mock fashion show organized by Global Exchange.
The protesters claim Gap Inc. uses toxic herbicides to clear-cut redwood forests to build their garment factories and also employees "sweatshop" labor tactics.

After stripping naked, protesters clothed themselves and attempted to enter the store. They were subsequently kicked out.

Guest speaker Chie Abad spoke of the conditions she experienced while working at a Gap factory in Saipon, a US commonwealth. Using a hidden camera, she videotaped the conditions and used it as evidence against the company. She eventually won several of the lawsuits she levied against them.

Three weeks ago, SF State students accused the SFSU bookstore of selling merchandise manufactured in sweatshops. The group distributed fliers stating the clothes sold in the bookstore were made in countries where "typical labor conditions" included coerced abortions as a condition of employment, sexual harassment, physical and verbal abuse, 80-plus hour work weeks, beating and killing of labor organizers and low wages.

Nov. 26, 1999. Amsterdam. The Clean Clothes Campaign staged a "We'd Rather Wear Nothing Than Wear Gap!" demo in solidarity with the SRBG Anniversary action, garnering national media attention. Thank you, Vivian and the Clean Clothes Campaign!!!

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