If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about down at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, where drivers have been on an Unfair Labor Practice strike since Monday, think Nike during the 1990s. Remember the barrage of news stories and reports about the horrendous conditions endured by workers at plants run by Nike contractors? Remember how the company tried for years to distance itself from the practice of its contractors, even though it had the power all along to put an end to the exploitation?
The same story is unfolding right now in Southern California, where multinational retailers are refusing to take responsibility for the egregious abuses of their contractors. A case in point is Skechers, which recently supplanted New Balance as the nation’s fifth-largest athletic footwear brand.
Based in Manhattan Beach, Skechers is experiencing enormous growth in sales and profits. In the first quarter of 2014,
Skechers, one of America’s largest footwear companies, can run, but it can’t hide.
A report released Wednesday by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Out of Step: How Skechers Hurts Its California Supply Chain Workers, exposes the company’s troublesome labor practices. It is not a pretty sight.
The report reveals the mistreatment of the workers who deliver Skechers’ products — primarily shoes, apparel and luggage — from ports to warehouses to retail stores around the country and around the world. In doing so, Out of Step also exposes the huge gap between Skechers’ carefully crafted image as a hip retailer, which has led it to become a $1.8-billion corporation, and the reality of a company for whom truck drivers and warehouse workers labor under harsh, stressful, and exploitative conditions.
Skechers recently overtook New Balance to become the fifth-largest athletic-footwear brand in the country.