Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh said his organization is “very concerned” about state governments allegedly attempting to restrict voter access while continuing to operate his business in China, a country that is well known for impeding its own election process.
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During a segment on Friday’s CNN Newsroom, Bergh told host Poppy Harlow that his company was “going to do everything that we can to work with the legislatures to make sure that these restrictive laws don’t go into place.”
Bergh said, “I’m very concerned about our democracy right now, Poppy, and voting is a hard-won — or hard-fought and hard-won right for all Americans. And I think what we’re seeing is a backlash to the record voter turnout in 2020 and the baseless, false narrative of voter fraud.”
The CEO then specifically criticized the new voter legislation that passed in Georgia that has earned widespread condemnation from Democrats who allege the law will suppress voting in minority communities.
“And these moves in the 47 states that are considering these [bills] and the legislation that just passed in Georgia are trying to restrict voters’ access to the polls, and it is disproportionately hurting black and brown communities,” Bergh said.
Bergh explained that his San Francisco-based company is also putting “our money where our mouth is.”
“In 2020, we donated over $3 million from the Levi Strauss Foundation to different states,” he said. “More than 10% of that went to Georgia specifically to work with nonprofit organizations that were committed to ensuring fair and equal access to the polls and ensuring that voters could get out and vote. And we’re going to continue to do the same thing as we move forward.”
The CEO offered a different tone, however, when pressed on his company’s continued operations in China.
Bergh described his company’s operations in the communist country as “a very complex situation.”
“We’re trying to thread the needle to maintain a commercial business there while standing up for what we know is right with respect to the human rights violations in China,” he added. “So, this is a very complex situation, Poppy. And what I can say definitively, we’ve had terms of engagement that [go] back more than 30 years, which is kind of our rules of conduct, if you will, with our suppliers. And in that, there are some important aspects to it.”
Relating to the Levi Strauss Foundation’s work in China, he explained there are some “conditions” that his company does not “tolerate.”
“We will not tolerate, and we do not tolerate any forced labor,” Bergh said, adding that his company has stayed out of Xinjiang province, where China has been accused of human rights violations against the ethnic Muslim Uyghur population, for a decade.
Original Author: Lawrence Richard