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Protesters partially strip to protest Gap policies

From Kathleen Koch (CNN Washington Bureau)

Protestors, some in their underwear, gather outside a Gap store as they take part in one of various demonstrations in Washington.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Several dozen protesters chanted and partially disrobed outside two Gap stores in Georgetown, protesting the company's labor and environmental record.

The demonstrators were in town as part of a larger three-day protest against International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies. (Full story)

Waving "Stop Gap Sweatshops" signs and dragging a wagon carrying a huge cross section of a redwood tree, protesters accused the store of being a "poster child for corporate rule and corporate greed."

They handed out leaflets claiming The Gap uses sweatshops in developing countries to make its clothes.

Demonstrators also insisted that the Fisher family, which owns The Gap, also owns a logging company that is clear-cutting trees in California's redwood forest.

The group chanted, "Boycott the Gap for redwoods, for workers" and several protesters removed their outer clothing in symbolic protest.

Officials at The Gap wouldn't respond to phone calls, but leaflets being passed out inside the stores referred concerned shoppers to their Web site for information on the company's labor and environmental practices.

The Web site defends company policies on both the environment and worker protections, saying, "we've hosted management training seminars in some factories and, in others, sponsored sessions on how to hold free and fair union elections.

"In Cambodia, we are piloting a project with a local labor rights organization, a women's rights organization and a human rights organization. This coalition will provide worker, supervisor and management training based on the results of a needs assessment, which is in development. Training may include such things as: wage and hour rules, health and safety standards, right to organize and bargain collectively, alternative dispute resolution, and appropriate treatment of workers. We anticipate that development of sustainable internal grievance systems and effective communications between workers and management will be areas of focus," the company Web site says.

On the environment, the Web site says, "Wherever we do business, we will operate with respect and sensitivity to the environment.

"We will encourage our employees to take individual steps to protect and restore the environment, and empower them to ensure that company activity is consistent with our environmental practices."

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