(en) Holiday of Conscience: Nine Greediest Companies Named

Shawn Ewald (shawn@wilshire.net)
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 21:18:09 -0700

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Wed, 10 Dec 1997 19:29:50 -0800 (PST) To: CLR All Campaigns e-mail list <clr@igc.org> From: Mike Rhodes <clr2@igc.apc.org> Subject: Holiday of Conscience: Nine Greediest Companies Named

********************************** LABOR ALERTS: A SERVICE OF CAMPAIGN FOR LABOR RIGHTS To receive our e-mail labor alerts, send a message to CLR@igc.apc.org Phone: (541) 344-5410; Web Site: http://www.compugraph.com/clr Become a member and receive our (hard copy) newsletter. Send $35.00 to Campaign for Labor Rights, 1247 "E" Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. Sample newsletter available on request; include your postal address. *********************************** Holiday of Conscience: Nine Greediest Companies Named [Information for this alert came from the National Labor Committee, the "Stop Sweatshop News," and the Nicaragua Network.] As part of Holiday of Conscience efforts to promote human rights and dignity for workers, Charles Kernaghan, Executive Director of the National Labor Committee (NLC), stood in front of a new Guess? store in New York City to announce the "greediest" sweatshop abusers of the season. The nine worst companies according to the National Labor Committee are Nike, Wal-Mart, Guess?, Walt Disney Co., Kmart, JCPenny, Esprit, Victoria's Secret and May's Department Stores. During the Holiday of Conscience, shoppers are asked to speak to store managers where they shop about their concern as to whether the labor rights of the workers who made the products they purchase are respected. Shoppers can obtain "I Care" cards from the NLC to give to clerks and managers where they shop. The cards ask companies to reply to the shopper about where they source production and what working conditions and wages are in their factories. The cards also ask companies to join the White House Apparel Industry Partnership which is working toward eliminating sweatshop abuses. The National Labor Committee emphasizes that the Holiday of Conscience does not involve a boycott of any company but is rather an expression of citizen concern about human rights of workers and a protest against the abuses of the "greediest" companies. At the Wellco Factory in Dungguan, China, which makes Nike shoes, workers put in shifts of 11 to 12 hours per day, seven days a week,

with possibly every other Sunday off. If workers cannot stay and work late, they are fired. Wages are as low as 16 cents per hour, $6.92 per week, $358.84 per year. Most workers have never heard of the Nike code of conduct. There is no union and workers are afraid they will be fired if they complain. At the Undergarment Fashion factory in the Dominican Republic which sews for Victoria's Secret, wages are well below subsistence and attempts to meet or organize a union are met with firings and blacklisting. In 1990, the company fired all 3,000 workers rather than accept a union. When another attempt was made in 1992, 25 union organizers were fired. In January 1997, a legal union was formed. Management immediately and illegally fired the union's general secretary, Nieve Medina, and has refused to reinstate her. The company's general manager Mr. Ruiz, is now threatening to shut the factory down and relocate to Honduras. For years, the Walt Disney Company has produced garments in Haiti, paying workers, for example, 6 cents for every $19.99 outfit with 101 Dalmatians motifs that they sewed. When faced with protests from human rights activists over conditions in its factories, Disney's contractor H.H. Cutler pulled out of Haiti saying there was no work. However, the NLC found H.H. Cutler busily sewing Lion King, 101 Dalmatians and Hercules clothing for Disney in a maquiladora along the U.S.-Mexican border that had "help wanted" signs posted. No worker at the factory had ever heard of the Disney code of conduct. Back in Haiti, when workers tried to organize another Disney contractor, L.V. Myles, 150 workers were fired. May Co. department stores (which include Lord & Taylor, Hecht's, Filene's, Robinsons-May, Kaufmann's Famous-Barr, Foley's, Strawbridge's and Meier & Frank) is one of the largest and most profitable retailers in the United States with $11.6 billion in annual sales--and one of the least responsive on the issue of sourcing standards and the use of Sweatshops. A recent investigation in Indonesia found a May contractor with 12-hour shifts for 13 and 14 year olds, with workers sometimes forced to work 24-hour shifts. As exposed in a recent series of "Hard Copy" programs, Wal-Mart, Kmart and JCPenney use contractors in the Free Trade Zone in Nicaragua which pay only 20 cents an hour for producing their Arizona jeans, Faded Glory shirts and other garments for the U.S. market. Nine workers were fired after the programs aired; four of the workers were among those who spoke on camera about wages and conditions in the factories. The others had been involved in union organizing efforts. This past July, California state officials raided illegal industrial homework operations used by Guess? contractors. And Guess? has abandoned thousands of workers in Los Angeles to produce clothing in Mexico where workers earn a fraction of U.S. wages. In China, Esprit pays wages as low as 13 cents an hour, and workers are forced to work seven days a week, up to 93 hours. At the You Li Factory in Guanthou, workers told human rights investigators,"We rarely get a day off and when we do, it is a mixed blessing because we

need the income." If they tried to organize to defend their rights, workers said they would be immediately fired. For more information about "the greediest companies" and the Holiday of Conscience, including addresses where you can write the chief executive officers of the companies, check the National Labor Committee's web site at www.nlc.org or contact them at 275 Seventh Ave., 15th fl., New York, NY 10001; Tel. (212) 242-3002

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