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Our beauty comes from our strength, our strength from resistance

 

On 23rd May 2016, warehouse workers who were fired from their jobs, started a protest in front of Avon Warehouse in Gebze industrial site. The banners say “Our beauty comes from our strength, our strength from resistance” and “Wipe off your lipstick, raise your voice”, “The indispensable color of the summer season, resistance”, “Avon does not want empowered women”.

 

They made the following statement in their press release:

 

“Women Empowerment” as a Marketing Strategy

Avon is the world’s largest direct sale company, founded in 1886 in the United States of America with an annual financial turnover of 10 billion dollars. In more than 100 countries there are 6 million “independent sales representatives” working for them. These women sell Avon Cosmetics products in their social circles, to their friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Avon promotes this “direct sale through independent sale representatives” model as an authentic business model “empowering women”.

The title of their last campaign was “Beauty for a Purpose”. They present success stories on social media through celebrities. They see social media as a crucial factor in changing and shaping production, and realize that female professionals and entrepreneurs use social media actively. Thus Avon is built on a “purpose based” marketing strategy.

“Independent sales representatives”, who are also supposedly “empowered” women, are actually integrated into a system that makes the relationship between work and consumption ambiguous and relocates the whole risk of product distribution on their shoulders. In other words, Avon’s direct sales system is an attempt to increase profit by taking advantage of today’s precarious labor relations.

A large number of male and female workers are employed in Avon’s production, storage and transportation processes. Avon, though publicly promotes “the sorority of women”, does not want to embrace the cost that would be realized if these workers organized or acted in solidarity. Because empowered women would demand their right to unionization and job security.

On the other hand, by basing its marketing strategy on a social cause like “women empowerment” and using social responsibility themes like fighting breast cancer and domestic violence, Avon continues the exploitation of female labor in its marketing operations as well. Avon does not want “empowered” women.

Avon is against unions all over the world

Excess overtime work, heavy and unhealthy working conditions, occupational illnesses in the joints of the back, neck and wrist, mobbing, harassment… Workers still working on minimum wage even though they have more than 10 years of experience… People under constant pressure of working overtime, not being able to spare time for themselves or their families… Workers that were fired because they refused to do overtime work… Workers that were fired because they stood up for their rights and raised their voices… This is the story of us, workers working in Avon warehouses for years.

We refused to remain silent in the face of years of pressure, bad working conditions and job insecurity. More recently, after a change of the subcontractor company we originally worked for, we refused to sign contracts that would reverse our working conditions and rights. We demanded fair wages and humane working conditions. Further, we dared to organize together, and act in solidarity with each other. We became members of the union, DGD-Sen.

On May 19th, it was announced that 2 workers working in the Gebze warehouse were fired. These workers were experienced; even received awards for their work in the past.

This is because Avon does not want strong women who act in solidarity, who object injustice. Avon tries to block its worker’s organized struggles not only in Turkey, but in many other corners in the world. For example, 120 permanent and 350 temporary workers are employed in an Avon factory inside the Calamba industry region on the outskirts of Manila in the Philippines. The temporary workers, like the permanent workers, work for the minimum wage of 146 dollars in the main operations for production. Even though temporary workers become eligible for permanent tenure after completing one year in these operations, the factory continues to illegally assign these tasks to them without any promotion. The workers unionized and signed a new contract in September 2015 for the time period between February 2014 and January 2017. But 16 union representatives, who questioned the working conditions in this factory, exposed that the workers were illegally and precariously employed, were fired in New Year’s Eve for organizing allegedly illegal strikes during labor contract negotiations. These workers had an average 20 years of experience.

We urge Angela Cretu, Avon-Turkey’s first female CEO since the company’s entrance into the Turkish market 21 years ago, to hear our demands. Stop firing workers. Give their jobs back. Remove all barriers in front of unionization.

 

AVON Warehouse Workers & DGD-Sen Union

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