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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 28, 2003
9:23 AM
CONTACT: Free Burma Coalition
Jeremy Woodrum, 202-547-5985

May Dept. Stores "Makes the Right Choice", Joins Burma Boycott;
Owner of 14 Mega-Chains is 40th Company to Ban Burma Goods in 3 Years
 
WASHINGTON - March 28 - May Dept. Stores, the St. Louis-based retail giant and owner of 14 chains including Foley's, Lord & Taylor, Hechts, Strawbridges, Robinsons-May, and David's Bridal, informed the Free Burma Coalition that it will no longer sell products made in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, where the garment industry is tied to a system of modern-day slavery. The company, which had $13.5 billion in sales last year, posted the change in policy on its website yesterday, http://www2.mayco.com/common/investorSOR.jsp, making it the 40th U.S. company in 3 years to boycott Burma products. So many companies have banned "Made in Burma" clothing that U.S. imports from Burma have dropped 27% in the past year - a sharp reversal compared to a previous surge in imports.

"May has 'made the right choice'," says Aung Din, Director of Policy for the Free Burma Coalition, referring to the company's slogan. "There are almost no major retailers that want to be associated with Burma's brutal dictatorship and its vicious use of forced and slave labor."

A number of groups, including the American Anti-Slavery Group and the Campaign for Labor Rights as well as the Free Burma Coalition launched a boycott of May Stores after the company refused to respond to complaints over "Made in Burma" products on store shelves. May had been retailing clothing made in Burma by several companies including Rafaella and One Step Up.

May joins dozens of major retailers in its decision, such as top competitors Federated Department Stores and Saks, as well as Wal-Mart, Costco, Gart Sports, Tommy Hilfiger, Fila, Hanes, The Spiegel Group, and Jones Apparel. Companies are boycotting Burmese products due to the links between the country's garment industry and forced labor, which were described by the U.S. State Department in its most recent human rights report on Burma: "Forced labor, including forced child labor, has contributed materially to the construction of industrial parks subsequently used largely to produce manufactured exports including garments." Burma's regime has also been condemned for using rape as a weapon of war and for having the world's largest number of child soldiers, most of whom Burma's military forcibly conscripts.

Burma's democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, has called for foreign businesses to avoid Burma, saying that sanctions "send a strong political and economic message" to its dictatorship. South African Bishop Desmond Tutu has noted the parallels between the "Free Burma" movement and the anti-apartheid struggle, calling Burma the "new South Africa."

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