the truth behind forever 21
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-- a J1&DL&HY production
analysis & evaluation : Sunday, 25 March 2012 - 20:59
Evidence and Analysis 

Forever 21 stores employ high school students as workers. 
These high school students do not have an idea on employee rights, therefore they are paid a minimum wages. They were made to work over time and during their lunch breaks without earning any extra pay. These shows that Forever 21 doesn’t follow its rule of conduct on paying their workers fairly.
Forever 21 although says in its code of conduct that they do not work with companies that use child labour, they still ignore the fact that the company they use for cotton, uses child labour. This encourages other companies to use child labour.
In Forever 21 factories, workers have complained about the wages they get. They worked six times a week and for about 12 hours, however they are paid much less for what they deserve.
Forever 21 uses sweatshops to manufacture its clothes. In these sweatshops, the workers are not paid fairly, neither are they given humane working conditions. From this we can conclude that Forever 21 does not follow its rule of conduct on paying their workers fairly and giving them good working conditions to work in.
Forever 21 has been taken to the California Supreme Court because they were accused of practicing unfair labour several times. From this we can see that they do not follow their rule of conduct, in the way they are treating their workers.
Forever 21 has been known for its unsafe working conditions, the factory workers have to work in. "A lot of our factories were dirty and unsafe, with rats and cockroaches running around." said one of the worker. This shows that Forever 21 doesn’t care for any of the workers working in factories that their clothes are produced. If not, none of these workers would have to be the one that speaks up. This is very contradictory to their code of conduct. As their code of conduct states that they care for the workers working overseas in factories to manufacture their clothes.

Dear Mr. Don Won Chang... : 08:24
25 March 2012

Dear Mr. Don Won Chang,

We are writing to you in hope that you could change the ways of Forever 21 in terms of working conditions. After being given a geography assignment on globalisation (and the influence of the fashion industry), we decided to focus on Forever 21. Being one of our favourite shops, we were anticipating evidence to show how the company had nothing to do with sweatshops, unfair wages or illegal, non-qualified workers. However, what greeted us instead was a barrage of testimonies stating things that were contradictory to its own Code of Conduct.

On the Forever 21 website, we found two Codes of Conduct stating that:

1. Forever 21 enters into a comprehensive agreement with each of our vendors and their factories under which they promise to utilize legally qualified workers, pay them wages which are fair and legal in their jurisdiction, and provide an environment that complies with their legal requirements. Our agreement also covers issues of time off, free association rights, nondiscrimination, environmental protection and security, and prohibits the use of forced or slave labor, child labor, or prison labor.

2. We care not only for our employees but also for the employees of hundreds of vendor manufacturing facilities throughout the world which make our products. We want all of these employees also to work in safe and healthy environments and to provide products to you, the consumer, which are made by such employees.

However, our found evidence clearly states that Forever 21 does employ high school students who are not experienced in the working world at all. Without any knowledge of their own rights, they don’t see that the wages they are paid are minimal. Even though they are working overtime and through their lunch breaks, they are still not paid any bonuses for doing so. This goes directly against the Code of Conduct. As Forever 21 states that it cares for its employees, it should pay its employees a fair wage. However these students are paid much less then should be for their hard work.                   

In fact, when we researched more into the wages, we discovered that even the factory workers have not been taking their wages quietly. Even those who have just taken their first step into the working world of adults have noted that perhaps 72 hours a week (which is almost double the legal working time limit) without fair wages are a bit too much. Moreover, the conditions of these factories are doing nothing but add to the great contradictions. Labelled as ‘non-humane’ by many, one of the workers even complained that, “A lot of our factories were unsafe and dirty, with rats and cockroaches running around.”

Finally, Forever 21 also states that it does not encourage nor allow child labor. In this case, how is it that Forever 21 clothes are all made from cotton manufactured by child labor? This not only contravenes the Code of Conduct directly but also encourages other companies to use child labor. Some companies who look up to Forever 21 may even see this as a confirmation that, for the production of fashion items the use of illegal child workers are acceptable.

We understand that Forever 21 was taken to the California Supreme Court on the charge of practicing unfair labor several times. We apologise if our letter was, in any way, offensive to you-the letter was written with no intention of criticising you and/or Forever 21. This letter was written purely in our hopes that you take some action to correct the contradictory working conditions. Forever 21, with its simply amazing articles or clothing, will forever hold a place close to our hearts; reading such articles about the various contradictions to the Code of Conduct affects us as much as it would do you. We only wish the very best for Forever 21, and that it will continue with its popularity with us.
Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Lim, Jae Won Baek and Hannah Yeo
UWCSEA, Singapore

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