|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Garment workers file suit against Donna Karan
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Fashion designer Donna Karan is the target of a class-action lawsuit which claims that workers who make her clothing line endure sweatshop conditions.
The suit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of five New York garment workers.
The suit, which names Donna Karan International along with a midtown Manhattan factory and its owner, claims workers put in 70- to 80-hour weeks, yet were rarely paid overtime and sometimes did not earn minimum wage.
In a written statement, the company denied the claims and said it would fight them:
"We believe that the claims against the company are without merit and plan to defend against them vigorously. We do not believe we should be held responsible for another company's business practices over which we have no control, particularly where we understand the workers are represented by a union."
All the plaintiffs in the suit worked for a subcontractor while assembling Donna Karan garments.
'They know what's happening'
Standing outside the Madison Avenue DKNY store Wednesday along with chanting protesters, the lawyer who filed the suit, Ken Kimerling, called the action a "broad-based attack on sweatshops here in New York. Donna Karan has worked and worked her workers in this city and not fully paid for the work that they've done."
Kimerling rejected the idea that the company does not know what is going on inside the factories that make its clothes: "Donna Karan has her people in those factories every day, making sure that her garments are up to quality. ... They know what's happening."
The company said in an earlier statement that it is "concerned about the working conditions of its employees and those who work for independent contractors that make its products. We expect our contract manufacturers worldwide to comply with all applicable labor laws and regulations and proper ethical standards. We have taken a number of steps, including establishing a factory compliance program, to promote adherence to these standards."
Joining the plaintiffs and lawyers at the press conference were representatives of human rights organizations, along with individuals who claim they have suffered from poor working conditions at other factories that make Donna Karan clothes.
Kwan Lai, 42, claimed she was illegally fired when her factory shut down after she came forward and complained about violations there.
"They retaliated against me after I complained about the illegal conditions at the factory," Lai said. "We demand that Donna Karan resolve these issues."
Her case and another labor suit against Donna Karan, both involving another midtown Manhattan factory, are currently in court.
Class-action could involve 300 workers
Kimerling alleged that when manufacturers have been sued for labor violations in the past, the company has simply moved its work to another factory.
"But in reality, the clothing continues to be made in sweatshops that do not pay minimum wage and overtime," he said.
While only five people, all legal Chinese immigrants, are listed as plaintiffs, the class-action suit seeks to represent as many as 300 people who work in factories that make Donna Karan clothing.
Donna Karan melds traditional, high-tech looks for DKNY
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.