Activist Organization Launches Fake 'Gap Does More' Campaign to Challenge the Company's Labor Practices
Photo Credit: Facebook / 18 Million Rising
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Online organizing doesn’t create substantive change. Hashtag activism is a waste of time. These sentiments frequently echo through the halls of activist communities trying to understand the role that technology, the Internet and social media play in our movements.
But what if you could force the hand of a major corporation to change its labor practices with some well-executed media-driven trickery? This week, a small online organizing group threw punches at one of America’s largest corporations in an effort to change the international labor practices of the Gap.
18 Million Rising, an online organization dedicated to “activating Asian America” pulled off a Yes Men-style hoax targeting the Gap. Posing as the clothing company’s public relations department, Cayden Mak and fellow 18MR organizers launched an impeccably designed fake website called Gapdoesmore.com and released a statement coinciding with the company’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday. The statement announced that Gap had signed on to a significant labor accord in Bangladesh. Gap has released a response confirming the Mak’s site as a fraud and serving them a take down notice. Despite the corporation’s statements, 18MR continues to plans for escalation in their ongoing campaign to expose Gap’s unjust labor practices.
WNV sat down with Mak, the New Media Director of 18MR, to discuss media organizing and what lessons can be learned from these kinds of creative tactics.
How did the idea for this hoax come about?
We’ve been engaged in some different things around worker’s rights in countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia [where Gap clothes are produced]. A lot of people in our constituency have direct connections to those countries, workers and industries. Seventy-five percent of Asian Americans are immigrants or first generation Americans. So, as a result, we started exploring ways of getting involved in international labor struggles about six months ago.
When Gap announced that it was raising the minimum wage in its U.S. stores to $10 an hour, it launched a micro website that was super self-congratulatory. And I was like, “That’s great for you but $10 an hour isn’t even a living wage in the United States.” Gap consistently paints itself as this super ethical company, but it’s really doing the bare minimum.
For instance, Gap refused to sign on to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which is a legally binding agreement written up and ratified by Bangladeshi labor unions, factory owners, and a handful of European and American brands. Instead, it decided to go ahead and start its own thing called the Bangladesh Alliance for Worker Safety, which includes basically just them and Wal-Mart. Nothing about this group is legit in the eyes of the labor movement. There’s no third party inspections or oversight at all. Labor leaders in Bangladesh weren’t consulted. There are also a lot of immediate human rights issues that Gap has pushed under the rug. It still hasn’t compensated the families of the people who died in the fire in October 2013. Even now, we are hearing reports that its suppliers in Cambodia are jailing labor leaders.
So this is what you were responding to with Gapdoesmore.com?
We saw [Gap not taking responsibility for its actions] and we realized that we had an incredible opportunity to really push back in a creative and impactful way. I started building out the Gapdoesmore.com site in March, but we were looking for the right opportunity to launch it. Gap’s shareholder meeting took place on Tuesday and it seemed like as good a chance as any. I think that’s part of why people bought into our narrative. They were like, “Well, we know that Gap’s annual shareholder meeting is happening today. This seems like something that would come out of that.”