MARCH 28, 2003
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
- 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
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
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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