Not for the first time, Spanish high street giant, Zara, has been accused of racism. According to a report, published by The Centre for Popular Democracy, employees at the store’s New York City branch perceived widespread discrimination at the company. Black employees were twice as likely to be unhappy with their hours as white employees and they noticed favoritism three times more often. Furthermore, black customers were seven times more likely to be tagged as potential shoplifters than other customers.
The Center for Popular Democracy, a labour advocacy group, surveyed 251 Zara store workers in New York. Employees reported a practice within Zara of referring to suspected shoplifters as “special orders”. This reportedly lead to racial profiling of black shoppers as soon as they entered the store. One employee even stated that he himself had been labeled a special order when he wore a hooded jacket into the store to pick up his paycheck!
The news doesn’t come as a big surprise. Let’s not forget this is the company fighting a discrimination case filed by its former general counsel accusing it of creating a hostile work environment by frequently throwing around racial slurs. Ian Jack Miller states he was discriminated against in pay for his Jewish faith and sexual orientation. It’s also the company that last year was forced to apologise and pull a striped shirt embellished with a yellow star from its children’s range following comparisons between the design and the uniform worn by Jewish prisoners in concentration camps.
Zara have denied the claims, stating;
“The baseless report was prepared with ulterior motives and not because of any actual discrimination or mistreatment. It makes assertions that cannot be supported and do not reflect Zara’s diverse workforce. Zara USA believes that the report is completely inconsistent with the company’s true culture and the experiences of the over 1,500 Zara employees in New York City. We are an equal-opportunity employer, and if there are individuals who are not satisfied with any aspect of their employment we have multiple avenues for them to raise issues that we would immediately investigate and address.”
Given its history, we just don’t believe a word the company says! In addition to its history of racial discrimination, Zara has also, in the past, been accused of slave labour. In 2011 a group of workers were rescued from an unlicensed factory in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where clothes for Zara’s chain of stores were being produced. The illegal workers were living in dangerous and unhygienic conditions and were forced to work to work 12-hour shifts for as little as £95 a month.
When will the fashion industry wake up and address the rampant racism and human rights abuses that continues to exist?