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Solidarity Action at Levis World Headquarters for Turkey Levis Workers in Istanbul

Saturday, December 23, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
Levis World Headquarters
1155 Battery St.
San Francisco

Dec 23 Global Day Of Action for Levis Workers-Rally At Levis World Headquarters In SF

Call to LEVIS: "Our patience is at an end!" workers at Ozak Textile are asking for global demonstrations in front of Levi's stores on Saturday, December 23rd

Saturday December 23, 2023 12 noon
Levis World Headquarters
1155 Battery St.
San Francisco
Initiated in SF by United Front Committtee For A Labor Party
info [at]

Turkey Levis Workers Fighting For Rights & Their Own Union

1. International » Turkey » Labor disputes » Dossier: Workers at Özak Tekstil in Urfa defend themselves against the yellow union, one of them dismissed as a result: Protests are followed by bans, gendarmerie and arrests

Call to LEVIS: "Our patience is at an end!" Colleagues at Ozak Textile are asking for global demonstrations in front of Levi's stores on Saturday, December 23rd

"...The right of workers at Ozak Textile to “choose a union” has been usurped. Subjected to bullying, harassment, pressure and discrimination; hundreds of workers exhausted by 20-hour shifts and harsh working conditions are now at risk a mass layoff. For 23 days, resisting workers have been subjected to baton attacks and mass arrests. Enough is enough!

If there is no response to our demands and no agreement is reached, On the evening of December 22nd we are hosting a global social media event. On December 23rd, we are declaring a Global Day of Action in front of Levi's stores worldwide.

We call for coordination of actions in front of Levi's stores around the world.

#LevisTakeAction" From the Turkish appeal by BİRTEK-SEN from December 19th, 2023 (unfortunately only on Twitter) - there has apparently already been a meeting with the company Levi's, for which Özak produces Tekstil - see this and the background as well as more and more reports our dossier on national and international solidarity



For the past two weeks, some 470 employees at Özak Tekstil, one of Turkey’s largest apparel manufacturers, have been striking outside their factory in Urfa, the capital of Şanlıurfa Province. Chief among their demands: the right to choose their own union.

It was roughly two months ago when employees at the Levi Strauss & Co. supplier began withdrawing from the factory-approved union, Öz İplik-İş, and signing up with Birtek-Sen, another organization representing textile, weaving and leather workers. The former, defectors say, is a “yellow” union that has failed to address their complaints, which include rampant harassment and violence directed at women. After making the switch, however, many say that they have faced threats and intimidation by management to resign from Birtek-Sen.

“Ulfa is a very conservative city,” Özlem Temena, a representative from Birtek-Sen, told Sourcing Journal. “Özak managers told one woman that if she stayed at Birtek-Sen, they would tell her family that she has a boyfriend. This is very dangerous, especially in Ulfa, where the murder rate of women [in so-called ‘honor killings’] is so high.”

Protesting has been difficult, workers say. Law enforcement officers, known as the gendarmerie, have erected barricades outside the factory that prevent strikers from using the restroom or visiting a nearby mosque for prayers. “We are literally trapped here,” one worker said. “We are being subjected to collective torture.” Security forces, demonstrators say, have also attacked them with water cannons, pepper spray, riot shields and batons. Since the strikes began on Nov. 27, 20 people, many of them members of Birtek-Sen, have been arrested, Temena said. Another 40 have lost their jobs.

“The rightful actions of Özak workers have been unlawfully prevented for days,” Birtek-Sen wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday. “End this unlawfulness and arbitrariness, release the workers!”

According to Turkey’s constitution, workers have the right to form unions “without obtaining permission” and “to possess the right to become a member of a union and to freely withdraw from membership.”

Özak Tekstil did not respond to an email seeking comment. While Öz İplik-İş did not immediately reply to a request for comment, a representative for the IndustriALL Global Union affiliate refuted Birtek-Sen’s allegations following the article’s publication.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for this union [to attack] our union, targeting and pushing brands to [cut] commercial relations with Özak Tekstil, which is one of the very few workplaces in Turkey where we were able to successfully organize which recognizes workers’ rights and has signed successful collective bargaining agreements with high gains for three periods after a process that progresses with devotion and respect,” said Pinar Özcan, who noted that Birtek-Sen does not have the sufficient majority to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

Workers say they will stop protesting if three of their demands are met: That their sacked colleagues are reinstated, that they’re able to freely participate in Birtek-Sen, and that Levi’s, the factory’s sole buyer, listen “not to the factory, but to workers’ voices,” Temena said.

“For days we have been trying to make our voices heard by Levi’s,” one protestor said. “But they are not listening to us. We are reaching out to the whole world from here. Please spread, hear our voices. Please do something.”

Levi’s said that it takes any allegations of efforts to curtail freedom of association “extremely seriously.” “We have a longstanding commitment to supporting safe, productive workplaces for workers,” a spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “We are looking into the issue on the ground and will conduct a thorough investigation.”

In its terms of agreement, Levi’s writes that it respects workers’ rights to form and join organizations of their choice and to bargain collectively. It also expects its suppliers to respect the right to free association and the right to organize and bargain collectively without unlawful interference.

Temena said that workers want Özak Tekstil, which employs 770 people, to continue negotiations with their elected union, which is to say, Birtek-Sen. “The boss should not put pressure on us for the freedom to choose a union,” she quoted them as saying. “End the boss’s pressure inside the factory.”

But Özcan said that it was actually Birtek-Sen that threatened employees, forcing them to stop work and “causing chaos.” She said that Öz İplik-İş has spoken to Özak Tekstil to demand that it take precautions to ensure the safety of both its members and non-union workers.

“The fact that Birtek-Sen directs the workers to such a provocation victimizes the employees and employers of the textile sector, which is already disintegrating and being disrupted, and unfortunately, by trying to create a perception on the brands, it also affects the image of our country toward the brands,” she said.

Özcan said that it is “absolutely not acceptable” to “attack” Özak Tekstil and say that it doesn‘t respect freedom of association when it is among the 2 percent of Turkey’s garment industry that has signed a collective bargaining agreement.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to try to attach a yellow union label to our union that has been carrying out an honorable labor struggle as a member of the Industriall Global Union and Industriall European Union almost since its establishment,” she added. “This union has already overstepped its bounds and is in a position where it must be stopped. The only party that should be condemned is Birtek-sen, which does not respect the rights of workers who chose our union with their free will.”

Writing on X, Labour Party minister Sevda Karaca expressed her solidarity with strikers.

“The anti-labor, misogynist, anti-worker government laid all the means of the state at the feet of the Özak boss,” she said. “Özak workers did not give up, did not break their unity, and defended their will. If Özak Textile workers win, the whole working class wins.”

Levi's Workers In Turkey Need Support
Özak Workers in Southeast Turkey Ask for Your Solidarity

Established in 1985, Özak Tekstil is one of the big apparel companies in Turkey. The company has three factories in three cities: İstanbul, Malatya, and Urfa. Malatya and Urfa are in southeast Turkey. The latter is the poorest region in Turkey, and apparel companies have been moving their operations to the region since the 2000s because of the cheap labor and government incentives.
Özak's customer portfolio includes several brands; however, the factory in Urfa, which opened in 2009, produces only for Levi’s. The Urfa factory employs nearly 700 workers.

Öz İplik İş Union has been the authorized union in the factory in Urfa since 2017. Öz İplik İş is part of the Hak-İş Union Confederation, which is the closest union confederation to the AKP, the party which governs Turkey since 2002. Hak İş Union Confederation has Islamist roots and is known to be very pro-management.

Workers report that the conditions are very harsh in the Urfa factory. The managers and chiefs mistreat workers. Workers are being insulted and sworn on a daily basis. Chiefs mistreat women especially. There are severe problems with work speed, working hours, food, and transportation. Öz İplik İş does not act upon workers’ complaints, and it has not even discussed the collective agreements with the workers.

Özak workers have tried to resign from Öz İplik İş since the pandemic. During the pandemic, they aimed to resign from Öz İplik İş and organize in another textile union. However, they failed due to the pressure of the management, which fired leading workers and discriminated against workers who resigned from Öz İplik İş.

At the beginning of November, Özak workers started resigning from the Öz İplik İş Union and joining BİRTEK-SEN. The latter is an independent union founded in 2022, and it is based in southeast Turkey. Although new and independent, it has attracted workers’ attention in the region. Staging strikes and supporting the strikes that workers themselves organized, BİRTEK-SEN has brought significant gains in several regional factories.

Management has responded with pressure and discrimination. Female workers were interrogated and threatened in their rooms. On November 20, Seher Gülel, a BİRTEK-SEN member, was dismissed. In response, BİRTEK-SEN members stopped working.

Since November 20, nearly 400 BİRTEK-SEN members have engaged in an epic battle against Özak management, Öz İplik İş, and the military police. Turkey has become significantly more authoritarian in the last decade, and accordingly, the Urfa governor uses military police to intimidate the workers and end the resistance. Since November 20, military police have violently attacked the workers six times, tens of workers have been injured, and more than 200 workers were taken into custody.

Nevertheless, workers are still determined to protest and return to their jobs as BİRTEK-SEN members.

BİRTEK-SEN contacted several institutions to intervene, and auditors came to the factory and talked to the dismissed BİRTEK-SEN members. Levi’s is well aware of the situation but has not intervened.

We kindly ask for your help to put pressure on Levi’s to intervene and ensure Özak workers’ freedom of association.
Added to the calendar on Wed, Dec 20, 2023 10:55AM
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