The twins halt a protest of alleged conditions in Bangladesh clothing factories

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 10, 2004 08:00 AM

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have taken up the call to help stop alleged worker abuses in the Bangladesh factories manufacturing their clothing line – signing a petition on Thursday demanding that Wal-Mart guarantee the overseas female laborers the “legal right to maternity leave with benefits.”

The signatures of the 18-year-old twins went on the petition only hours before a planned protest was to take place in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, near their school, New York University, New York’s Daily News reports.

As PEOPLE reported earlier this week, the Olsens had been targeted by the National Labor Committee (NLC), a watchdog group that made waves in 1996 when it publicized the sweatshop conditions of Honduran laborers who worked on Kathie Lee Gifford’s clothing line.

The NLC claims it failed to hear back from the sisters after asking them to support paid maternity leaves for the women who manufacture the their line.

The twins, however, said they never received the request and released a statement that said all vendors who do business with their company “are required to comply with the most rigorous health and safety standards in the retail industry.”

The twins’ rep, Michael Pagnotta, told PEOPLE: “They said they sent a petition months and months ago, but none of us can recall seeing it.

“Both organizations are talking and we hope it will come to a positive result,” he added. “We certainly take the issue of fair treatment for workers seriously.”