I’ve never “crossed the picket line” or worked for a company that has been protested before. I’ve always been curious as to what it would be like work for a company that has been protested or under other public scrutiny. Also, I thought it would add an interesting dimension to my blog to include an interview with a manager of one of the stores that was picketed in front of.
After a week’s worth of wrong names, non-working phone numbers and rude hang-ups, I finally reached a manager at one of the Forever 21 stores that was picketed in the South Central Farm scandal in March of 2009.
I spoke to the manager (under pretense of being an important social media magazine reporter who had prior permission from Forever 21’s PR department to interview store managers) under terms of confidentiality and cannot reveal the name or exact location of the store.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone who was employed at Forever 21 during the protests, however, the manager I interviewed was hired as a sales representative directly after the protests ceased at that location.
What was it like working for a company that was being protested?
“At the time I got hired, I really needed a job. Although I understood the issue and what was going on, I needed work and Forever 21 needed employees. To me, the situation was that simple equation, with no external factors on the side.”
What was the general feeling or atmosphere of the store and your co-workers for the duration of the protest?
“Well, the reason I was hired was because some of the sales representatives quit due to the protests. They were mostly college students who needed a part-time job and didn’t know anything about what was going on until the picket lines appeared. The manager who hired me even mentioned that they saw one of the former employees on the picket line after they quit.”
How did you rise from being a floor employee to being a manager?
“As anyone else, though hard work.”
So you’re saying you were rewarded for your hard work.
You said that you are familiar with the South Central Farm scandal since you were hired when it was prevalent. However, are you aware that Forever 21 has a history of sweatshop use?
“I’ve heard some rumors.”
The rumors are more like facts. From 2001-2004 Forever 21 faced charges for failing to pay minimum wage and unpaid overtime, among other things. Does it surprise you that a company that rewarded you for your hard work failed to reward those on the bottom of the ladder for theirs ?
“Yes, it does surprise me. Forever 21 has kept up with the standard wages for sales representatives and managers. Everyone, including me, loves working here. We have fun on the job and like the company.”
“Thank you for your time.”
And then the line went dead.
I think he may have caught on to the fact that I didn’t have prior permission from Forever 21’s PR department to be calling with questions 😉
In addition to the interview, I went out to Forever 21 stores in the area and conducted very short, typically one or two-question interviews with Forever 21 floor employees. Out of the fifteen people I spoke with, 100 % of the employees that I spoke with had no idea that Forever 21 had ever had any problems with sweatshop use or copyright infringement and only one of them had heard about the South Central Farm scandal.