7-Eleven is cracking down on its franchises around the country in the wake of allegations that some store owners are exploiting undocumented immigrants.
Franchise owners will be "immediately" required to conduct self reviews of employee documents, to ensure they are in compliance with 7-Eleven standards and Federal laws, the company said.
Darren Rebelez, 7-Eleven’s chief operating officer, alerted franchise owners of the upcoming internal review in a letter, which was obtained by The Huffington Post.
“We have a critical need to protect the integrity and reputation of the 7-Eleven Brand, a right to insist upon your compliance with the Franchise Agreement, and to ensure that all franchised stores are being operated in a lawful manner," Rebelez wrote.
In addition, 7-Eleven will conduct inspections of over 5,000 franchises around the country starting in July, and locations not in compliance will face fines ranging from $110 to $1,100 per violation.
Federal agents raided several 7-Eleven locations in New York and Virginia earlier this week, and 40 more are under investigation.
Prosecutors brought charges against at least nine store owners or managers, accusing them of running a “modern-day plantation system,” ABC News reports. Allegations against the franchise owners include hiring illegal immigrants, providing them with stolen identities of U.S. citizens, forcing them to work 100-hour weeks for low wages and housing them in substandard accommodations, according to The New York Times.
In an emailed statement to The Huffington Post, 7-Eleven spokeswoman Cara Stern said the company is “taking an aggressive approach to ending its relationships with franchisees who violate the law or its franchise agreement ... [and] assumed control of two additional stores in Virginia on Tuesday as a result of pending felony proceedings.”
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Despite at first denying its involvement, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/benetton-factory-collapse-new-take_n_3187924.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_blank">UK apparel brand Benetton admitted it had connections with the Bangladeshi factory</a> that collapsed in April, killing more than 400 people. In an emailed statement to The Huffington Post, Biagio Chiarolanza, CEO of Benetton Group, wrote: <blockquote>As a company, we are constantly working to strengthen the measures and initiatives already in place - our own as well as those to which we participate - in the markets in which we are present. Our objective is to contribute to a significant and lasting improvement in workers' conditions and the environment in which they operate. Regarding this, we are in contact with global non-profit organizations as well as with organizations such as the International Labour Organization, to evaluate how to support further initiatives specifically designed for Bangladesh. At the same time, this is such a tragedy that no one in the industry should feel above it. As such, Benetton will make funds available to the victims of the families as every member of our industry has a moral obligation to intervene in their support.</blockquote>
Last December, a Los Angeles garment factory associated with dozens of retailers, including Urban Outfitters, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/sweatshop-la-fashion-urban-outfitters-aldo-forever-21_n_2302493.html" target="_blank">was accused by the Department of Labor of "sweatshop-like" labor practices</a>.
Converse ceased manufacturing in the U.S. after being bought by Nike in 2003. Since then, workers at a supplier making the sneakers have claimed that supervisors abused them and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/13/nike-faces-new-worker-abuse-indonesia_n_896816.html" target="_blank">even threw shoes at them as they worked.</a>
Workers at a Levi suppliers' <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/content/levis-gap-garment-workers-strike-cambodia" target="_blank">plant in Cambodia went on strike over substandard working conditions</a> in 2012.
Forever 21 was also one of the brands that was accused of using the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/sweatshop-la-fashion-urban-outfitters-aldo-forever-21_n_2302493.html" target="_blank">Los Angeles supplier</a> accused of "sweatshop-like" practices.
A Chinese supplier for the sneaker brand Keds reportedly <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=9Pascy_5HUMC&pg=PA171&lpg=PA171&dq=keds+sweatshops&source=bl&ots=o49jdh6z22&sig=gHOVGuFBM5jbTKXqM_Lwj0-EfTs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=e0aAUfDKArHo0AHRpoGYCQ&ved=0CHEQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=keds%20sweatshops&f=false" target="_blank">locked workers behind 15-foot walls</a>, according to a 2000 study by the National Labor Committee entitled "Made in China."
Famous for its outdoor clothing and apparel, L.L. Bean was roundly <a href="http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/sweatshop_hall_shame_2010.pdf" target="_blank">criticized in 2010 for not boycotting cotton from Uzbekistan,</a> a nation notorious for its use of <a href="http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/21/cotton-exporters-using-child-labor/" target="_blank">child labor</a>, according to the International Labor Rights Forum.
Swedish fashion brand H&M was associated with supplier Garib & Garib Newaj, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/02/hm-factory-fire-in-bangla_n_482170.html" target="_blank">the owner of a Bangladesh factory that burned down in 2010, killing 21 people</a>.
Despite their mission to donate shoes to children in need, TOMS has been criticized for <a href="http://www.thefineprintuf.org/2011/05/01/a-closer-look-at-toms/" target="_blank">being vague about measures it's taken to uphold fair labor standards</a> in China, Ethiopia and Argentina, where it makes the majority of its products.
Pier 1 Imports
The home goods chain reportedly did business with a <a href="http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/sweatshop_hall_shame_2010.pdf" target="_blank">Chinese supplier that refused to allow some 200 employers</a> to organize a workers' association, according to International Labor Rights Forum.