NEW YORK Shakira spoke out against unfair labor practices Tuesday in response to a New York Daily News article that sought to connect her to an alleged sweatshop in Brooklyn.
The 25-year-old Columbian-born chanteuse did a one-time promotion for Delia's, a clothing line for teen girls, in January, appearing on the cover of the spring catalog and in window-size display posters at retail shops. According to the article, published Monday, Delia's once carried clothes manufactured by the Danmar Finishing factory, which has been accused of forcing employees to work unpaid overtime hours and threatening to deport those who complained.
"To all the garment workers in Brooklyn and everywhere around the world," the singer's written statement began, "I want you to know that I was unaware of the dispute in Brooklyn, and I would never knowingly wear any clothes or support any company who produced clothing with alleged wage and labor violations. I support the fight for just wages. I would never betray your faith in me."
Shakira's spokesperson said the singer learned of the article around 2 a.m. Tuesday while on a promotional tour in Australia and insisted on issuing a statement immediately.
A complaint accusing Danmar of forcing its employees to work overtime without compensation was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor in September 2000 by 38-year-old Maria Arriaga, a Danmar employee at the time, according to a department spokesperson. If workers balked at the extra hours, the threat of termination or deportation (most of Danmar's employees are Mexican or Ecuadorean) was raised. Arriaga was fired earlier this month, the paper said.
On Wednesday the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Danmar, seeking back overtime pay and other monetary damages for its employees.
Delia's never worked directly with Danmar and, for unrelated reasons, severed its connection with a manufacturer that did in mid-2001, months before Shakira posed for the catalog shoot, a Delia's spokesperson said. And the clothes the singer sports on the cover weren't made at Danmar, the spokesperson added.
"Delia's has never done business directly with Danmar, the factory in question," a company statement read. "We were horrified to learn that a manufacturer with whom we dealt may have at one time subcontracted out work to Danmar. ... Delia's would never knowingly use a manufacturer who does not comply with wage and labor laws."
"It appears that the clothes I was wearing were not manufactured in the factory in question," read the second half of Shakira's statement. "But I would never have consented to the request to pose for the Delia's campaign if I had been aware of even the slightest hint about unfair labor practices."