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Unpaid Laborers Are Slipping Tags Into Zara Clothes

Zara is embroiled in yet another labor dispute.

Zara store interior Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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Zara, with more than 2,200 stores worldwide, might be one of the world’s most successful fast-fashion companies, but it does not make its cash with clean hands. The Associated Press reports today that shoppers in Istanbul are finding unexpected tags inside Zara merchandise proclaiming, “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”

Turkish workers employed by third-party manufacturer Bravo say they’re owed three months’ pay after the company shut down overnight. They are walking into stores to manually attach these tags, hoping that customers who read their notes will help convince Zara, which did not respond to the AP, to pay them.

While nothing ever seems to impact its bottom line — Amancio Ortega, the owner of parent company Inditex, is the world’s richest man — Zara is consistently taken to task for causing colossal environmental damage, ripping off various fashion designers, and turning a blind eye to dismal factory conditions. The Spanish chain has been sued for poor working conditions and accused of both slave and child labor, as well as exploiting Syrian refugees as young as 15; there was also that one time a dead rat was found sewn into a seam of a dress bought in a Connecticut store. As labor and human rights site Equal Times writes, “Zara is a company that would rather pay fines than rectify its bad labor practices.”

Zara has previously promised to look into incidents without necessarily claiming responsibility for the actions of its third-party factories. This response isn’t unique to the fast-fashion retailer; it’s a defense regulary brands use to shirk liability. Why the company still won’t fix a corrupt system it pioneered is inexcusable. If small startups like Everlane can successfully navigate running a fashion brand with ethical work conditions and fair labor wages, surely a giant company like Inditex, which brings in about $27 billion annually, can figure it out.