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Levi’s Faces Backlash Over Mass Layoffs at Turkish Supplier

Levi’s, the iconic global denim brand, is under intense scrutiny following revelations that a supplier in Turkey laid off approximately 400 workers after they unionized and went on strike over poor pay and working conditions. This incident has raised serious questions about Levi’s commitment to its own labor standards and ethical practices.

The controversy centers around Ozak Tekstil, a factory in Turkey that produces jeans for Levi’s as well as other high-profile brands such as Zara, Hugo Boss, Guess, Mango, and Ralph Lauren. Turkey is a significant player in the global apparel supply chain, exporting around $30 billion in apparel and textiles annually.

Seher Gulel, a former quality control worker at Ozak Tekstil, described harsh working conditions at the factory, including being paid Turkey’s minimum wage, enduring long hours, and facing mistreatment from managers. Despite Turkish labor laws limiting daily working hours to 11, Gulel reported working from early morning until late at night, highlighting the issue of illegal overtime at the factory.

Gulel’s dismissal after joining a new union sparked a strike among hundreds of workers, leading to the termination of nearly half of the factory’s workforce. Ozak Tekstil defended the dismissals as a necessary measure after workers refused to return to work. However, critics argue that the firings violated both Turkish labor laws and Levi’s supplier code of conduct, which emphasizes workers’ rights to association and protection from discriminatory actions.

Levi’s acknowledged the violations and urged Ozak Tekstil to reinstate the workers, but the factory has not fully complied. Despite these ongoing violations, Levi’s has continued its business relationship with Ozak Tekstil, prompting criticism that the company is prioritizing production efficiency over workers’ rights.

The affected workers, now facing unemployment and alleged blacklisting, are pursuing legal action against Ozak Tekstil for various labor rights violations, including unpaid wages and unjust dismissals. Despite the challenges, they remain hopeful for justice in their fight for fair treatment and compensation.

This incident has put Levi’s in the spotlight, challenging its reputation as a brand that advocates for ethical practices and workers’ rights. As the situation unfolds, the company faces mounting pressure to address these serious allegations and ensure that its suppliers adhere to the highest labor standards.