They were a few shy of a million, but, aided by drums and Chinese cymbals, some 50 moms and their supporters raised quite a ruckus in front of the Madison Avenue DKNY store on Sunday afternoon. The trilingual (Cantonese, Spanish, and English) Mother's Day demo was the latest protest in a yearlong campaign by a group of Asian and Latina garment workers, who say they endured years of wretched conditions and unpaid overtime sewing Donna Karan clothes in a Manhattan sweatshop. Kwan Lai, 40, who worked at the 38th Street factory for seven years, told the crowd about being forbidden drinking water, bathroom breaks, even phone calls about her sick children. Chants of "2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate? Mommy!" alternated with "DKNY, you ain't got no alibi. You're greedy!"
Inside the glass-walled emporium, a cotton-poly jacket in poppy orange was a tempting gift for Momat $495. The posh price didn't impress Paz Lilia Luna, 32, who recalled sewing $3000 DKNY jackets while earning $57 a day during her nine years at the midtown factory. Along with six other seamstresses, Luna has filed suit for years of back wages. For its part, Donna Karan International released a statement saying the protest was "misdirected," since the factory was run by a subcontractor, and pointing to a "factory compliance program" established to ensure that DKNY contractors adhere to "proper ethical standards." But the lack of response from Donna Karan herself disappointed the feisty Lai, who has filed her own suit alleging retaliation. "The conditions we had to work under are wrong," she said. "I don't believe Donna Karan respects women."
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