"Ralph Lauren and Warnaco are working hand-in-hand with the brutal dictators in Burma," the National Labor Committee, a New York-based organisation fighting against sweatshops, said in a statement received in Bangkok yesterday.
Warnaco makes clothes under Ralph Lauren's "Chaps" label. In May, President Bill Clinton banned new US investment in Burma to punish that nation's military government for its increased repression of its democracy movement and its failure to curb drug exports.
The Burmese regime came to power in 1988 after gunning down 3,000 democracy demonstrators. It refused to recognise a 1990 election in which the party of democracy movement leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi scored a landslide victory. Burma is the world's largest producer of opium, the raw material for heroin. But the sanctions do not investment deals already signed.The labour group is calling for a "national day of conscience to end sweatshops" in October and warned it would focus on Ralph Lauren and Warnaco "unless there is movement".
Consumer pressure already has forced a number of US companies, including Pepsi, Macy's, Apple Computer and Levi Strauss, to pull out of Burma.