Forever 21 Withholds Labor Records After Feds Ask About Sweatshops

The Department of Labor is going after Forever21 because the company refuses to open up its labor records.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 26, 2012

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed an action to enforce a subpoena issued to Los Angeles-based apparel retailer Forever 21 seeking documents related to the company’s apparel contractors and manufacturers. The Department initially issued the subpoena on Aug. 16. but the company has not complied with the demands. A recent investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found significant evidence of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions by vendors supplying goods to Forever 21. "We are disappointed that Forever 21 has refused to cooperate with the subpoena, particularly given the significant problems we have found among its suppliers. Since 2008, our investigators have identified dozens of manufacturers producing goods for Forever 21 under sweatshop-like conditions," said Ruben Rosalez, regional administrator for the division in the West. "When companies like Forever 21 refuse to comply with subpoenas, they demonstrate a clear disregard for the law, and the Labor Department will use all enforcement tools available to recover workers’ wages and hold employers accountable." The Korean-American-owned Forever 21 has been confronted with allegations of violating labor laws before. In 2004, Forever 21 [settled a lawsuit brought on by The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC)]( representing 19 Latino garment workers that alleged unfair and unlawful business practices and sought unpaid wages, damages, and penalties. The settlement included a commitment by Forever 21 to take steps to promote greater worker protection in the local garment industry. APALC’s case and campaign is the subject of ["Made in L.A.," ]( Emmy award-winning documentary film that follows three Latina immigrants who are part of the lawsuit. The New York Times’ Andy Webster called the film "an excellent documentary about basic human dignity." But despite Forever 21’s labor practices making national news the business is still booming. Forever 21’s New York Time Square store [handles between 200 and 600 boxes of new merchandise every night.]( Just yesterday, the same day the Department of Labor announced legal action against Forever 21, Glamour Magazine’s ["Slave to Fashion" blog announced a partnership]( with Forever 21. "The collaboration is running for 3 months in 480 (!!) stores across the country, and in each store there will be a special Glamour section with items I’ve hand-picked to help you get the look," [a blog post on "Slave to Fashion" explained. ]( Perhaps "Slave to Fashion" isn’t the appropriate place to announce the partnership considering the new allegations that Forever 21 may be working with sweatshops.