Abercrombie and Fitch (A & F), the huge American retail outlet, is to open its first Irish branch soon in Dublin on the old Bank of Ireland building in Dublin’s College Green. Already there is a huge bill board with a model up on the building, and a lot of people are eager to get their hands on the A & F gear which is proving very popular amongst Dublin’s haute couture- aware youth, eager for the latest hoodie and top. Over the years though, A & F have been embroiled in a number of storms from being hauled through the courts – from accusations that it hid back room staff who were non white to the treatment of staff in the sweat shops that manufacture their goods in the Philippines. The Irish Times published an article recently which highlighted the issues surrounding employment. It goes on..
This notion that only good-looking people need apply has done the company no favours in recent years, and its employment policies have led to a number of court cases. In 2009 a former employee of a London store took it to an employment tribunal claiming she had been forced to work in the stockroom because she didn’t match the company’s strict “look policy”, a guide to the appearance of its shop-floor staff. She was born with the lower part of her arm missing. She won the case, and A & F had to pay her £8,000.
A much more damaging action was taken against the company in the US in 2003. Several Hispanic, black and Asian employees and applicants sued the company saying they had been put into less visible backroom jobs. The company disputed the claims but settled in 2005. As part of the deal it agreed to pay more than €30 million to black and Hispanic groups across the US while admitting no wrongdoing.
A & F hired a diversity officer to increase its share of the workforce from 10% being minorities in 2004 to now having approx 50% of its workforce being from minorities. The issues above are not confined however to people whom may work in its branches, there have been accusations that the company’s suppliers have ill treated staff that manufacture goods for A & F. Labour Rights.org carried the news that the Alta Mode factory, where A & F clothing is made, has done its best to stifle the rights of workers who sought to form a Union. The workers at the factory were looking for better rights but Alta Mode thought differently and suspended the workers and even had the audacity to bring a case against them in what was a flagrant breach of the workers’ rights to form a union without being subject to harassment for such actions.
However all may not be lost for such a big brand as they recently bowed to pressure to stop using cotton from Afghanistan thanks to a petition by the International Labour Rights Forum. A petition calling on A & F proved successful to the point that they bowed to pressure and stopped using cotton from child labourers in Uzbekistan . They may have been a bit behind though with the times and only caught up as other companies had signed up and installed policies to deal with such issues.
While over 65 of the world’s largest apparel brands and retailers have developed policies related to Uzbek cotton, two companies have remained silent.
One of these the site alleges was A & F until they signed up.
Next time someone goes shopping for Abercrombie and Fitch in Dublin, think of the rights that people have and where your clothing was made. Was it made ethically? Would you like to work in a company with such policies?
Ponder for a minute, would you work somewhere where the staff recruited seem to be just models?
Read the following report from an ex employee from jezebel.com
There is a “style guide” that hiring managers get to see. It contains almost no text – just a few dozen pages, each with a full-sized color photograph of different ethnicities – a male and a female for each. They are supposed to serve as examples of the kind of people you should hire. Presumably so the managers will know what good-looking minorities look like. They’re amongst the confidential files that are never meant to leave the office, but I’m surprised none have ever surfaced
In 2009 the Guardian reported on the flagship store in Saville Row in London where it seemed so out of place with all of the other shops. Benoit Denizet-Lewis who writes articles for the NYT magazine tells the Guardian that Mike Jeffries (CEO of A & F) came out with the following line when he interviewed him:
We go after the attractive, all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.
Wonder what would happen if this 23 st lump of lard walked brazenly in and demanded a job. I could include on the application “I have the body of a God”…just neglect to tell them its a body like this…
Photo: Chinese Buddha (Wikicommons)
fluffybiscuits 19 September 2012