- Factory workers making Lululemon clothes in Bangladesh say they’re routinely beaten and humiliated while working, according to a new report from The Guardian’s Sarah Marsh and Redwan Ahmed.
- Some workers also told the outlet they’re underpaid, earning as little as $106 per month – less than the price of a single pair of Lululemon leggings.
- Lululemon reportedly said it will investigate the factory, which is owned by Youngone Corporation, and “take appropriate action based upon the findings.”
- The United Nations, which recently partnered with Lululemon on a mental health campaign, told The Guardian it will support Lululemon’s investigation.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Lululemon might be the go-to spot when purchasing athletic wear, but a new report is questioning the business practices behind the brand’s famous clothes.
The Guardian’s Sarah Marsh and Redwan Ahmed reported on Monday that factory workers making Lululemon clothes in Bangladesh say they’re often beaten and humiliated by their employers.
Some workers also told the outlet they’re underpaid, earning as little as $106 per month.
Factory workers told The Guardian that mistreatment is a typical part of their workday
Speaking to The Guardian, female factory workers said they’re frequently called “whores,” “sluts,” and “prostitutes” by their managers. They also said they’re expected to work when they’re sick, meet goals by working overtime, and can be verbally or physically abused if they leave work early or break any rules.
Some people also told the outlet that they earn as little as $106 per month, which is less than the cost of some pairs of Lululemon leggings. The salary is only slightly higher than Bangaldesh’s minimum wage, which was set at $94 per month in 2018, according to Fashion United.
A male worker, who vouched for the women’s stories, said men were also treated poorly at the factory.
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Lululemon does not own the factories where its clothes are created
According to The Guardian, the anonymous workers featured in its report are not directly employed by Lululemon. Instead, they work for a factory owned by the Youngone Corporation, which distributes the clothes to the Canadian brand. Lululemon’s website reiterates this message.
“We don’t own our manufacturing facilities, so we take great care selecting our manufacturing partners,” Lululemon’s website says. “Our approach is to build relationships with factories that are aligned with our values and meet our sourcing expectations.”
Both Lululemon and Youngone Corporation say they’ve launched investigations into the factory
Speaking to The Guardian, a Youngone Corporation representative said the company is “fully committed to providing a working environment in all its facilities that is safe, fair, and just.” The representative also said employees can submit complaints if they have problems, and that an internal review is now in place.
Similarly, Lululemon also told The Guardian that it’s launched an investigation into the factory.
“A responsible supply chain starts with us and we are committed to upholding ethical sourcing practices globally,” a Lululemon representative told The Guardian. “Our Vendor Code of Ethics consists of best in class industry standards. We require that all vendors share our values and uphold a consistent set of policies that live up to our Code.”
“We do not tolerate any violation of this code,” the representative continued. “Upon learning of the reports about a facility in Bangladesh, we immediately launched an investigation. There are currently no orders planned for this factory, and we will take appropriate action based upon the findings of our investigation.”
In a statement sent to Insider, a Lululemon spokesperson also said the brand “takes these allegations very seriously” and that the brand is “committed to a full, independent investigation.”
“Members of lululemon’s social responsibility and production team visited the factory in Bangladesh immediately to speak with workers and learn more,” the spokesperson said. “We will work with an independent non-profit third party to fully investigate the matter.”
“While our production at this factory is extremely limited, we will ensure workers are protected from any form of abuse and are treated fairly,” they continued.
According to the brand’s website, Lululemon last inspected its Bangladesh factories in 2015
Regarding its manufacturers in Bangladesh, Lululemon states on its website that the company is “in regular dialogue” with its overseas suppliers. Still, the brand does not seem to regularly visit the facilities.
“We work with three cut and sew facilities in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Export Zone, who are considered preferred employers in the region,” the website says. “As part of our ongoing assessment process, inspections of the facilities were completed in September 2013 by a commissioned third party, and again in April 2014 and July 2015 by our in-house team.”
The brand also says on its website that it “fully believes in” the Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. However, The Guardian reports that Lululemon was criticized in 2013 for “taking months” to sign the accord.
- Munir Uz Zaman/Stringer/Getty Images
This isn’t the first time Lululemon has faced labor complaints
In 2013, 16 Cambodian factory workers were charged with inciting violence while striking for higher pay, according to The Globe and Mail.
The outlet also reported that a Facebook user previously criticized the brand for paying factory workers “slave wages” in Cambodia, to which the company responded.
“We share your concern about the situation in Cambodia, and are in close contact with our factory partner,” a Lululemon representative reportedly said in 2013.
Still, labor complaints were not the only concerns raised by customers at the time. According to The Globe and Mail, Lululemon also faced criticism in 2013 for selling shoddy garments.
Specifically, the brand was forced to remove its signature black pants from stores amidst complaints that they were too sheer. The company later “bumped up its quality-control” and added more on-site inspections when clothing arrived at the brand’s Canadian headquarters.
Lululemon recently partnered with the United Nations in support of a mental health campaign
According to The Guardian, the allegations come just days after Lululemon partnered with the United Nations on a campaign created “to reduce stress levels and promote the mental health of aid workers.”
Speaking to the outlet, the United Nations said it supports Lululemon’s investigation into its suppliers.
“We believe all workers should be treated fairly and welcome Lululemon’s investigation,” a representative for the United Nations Foundation told The Guardian.
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