Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Here's a press release dated Dec. 12 that provides something to think about this Christmas season.

Here's an interesting formula: as more and more jobs leave this nation, our standard of living decreases. As our buying power wanes, we are forced to shop at places like Wal-Mart. With every purchase of cheap foreign goods, we potentially damage the jobs we have left.

We've got to reverse this if we don't all want to be shopping at Family Dollar.

Yeah, yeah I'm the frickin' Grinch ain't I? We're not to consider such upsetting thoughts this holiday season. Sorry....not!

Wal-Mart Christmas Ornaments Made Under
Illegal Sweatshop Conditions in China

Wal-Mart Christmas ornament workers toil 10 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, going for months without a day off. Many workers earn as little as 26 cents an hour—just half of China’s legal minimum wage. Workers handle toxic chemicals without protective gear. Some children as young as 12 worked in the factory.

Senator Byron Dorgan holds a simultaneous press conference in the Senate Gallery in Washington, DC.

At a press conference at Rockefeller Center in New York City, in the shadow of the Christmas Tree, the country’s leading labor rights activist, National Labor Committee director Charles Kernaghan, released a 58-page report, documenting the horrific conditions under which Wal-Mart’s Christmas ornaments are made in China. The release includes unprecedented photographs and video footage of child laborers and workers in the Spray Painting department handling potentially dangerous chemicals without the most rudimentary safety gear.

The National Labor Committee’s report, “A Wal-Mart Christmas Brought to You from a Sweatshop in China” provides a rare inside view of the giant Guanzhou Huanya ornaments factory in Guangdong, where every single labor law, not to mention internationally recognized worker rights standards, are being grossly violated on a daily basis. The report can be accessed on the NLC’s website: www.nlcnet.org

Among the abusive conditions documented in the report are:

Five hundred to 600 16-year-old high school students were employed last summer, along with some children as young as 12 years of age, toiling 10 to 12 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and going for months on end without receiving a single day off. Wal-Mart Christmas ornament workers are at the factory a minimum of 84 hours a week, while at least half the workers are at the factory 105 hours a week.

Anyone daring to take a Sunday off will be docked 2 ½ days’ wages.

Some workers earned as little as 26 cents an hour, just half China’s legal minimum wage of 55 cents an hour, which itself is not close to a subsistence level wage. Pay sheets smuggled out of the factory show workers earning a median wage of 49 cents an hour, including overtime, and $42.29 for 110 hours of work, while they should have earned $74.77. Workers were cheated of one-third of the wages legally due them. Factory pay sheets showed just eight percent of the workers earning the legal minimum wage, while 92 percent fell below that.

Workers in the Spray Paint department who develop skin rashes and sores while handling potentially dangerous chemicals have no choice but to leave the factory, as management does not pay medical bills or sick days. For quitting on short notice, workers are docked one month’s pay.

By July, the high school students were so exhausted from the grueling 12 to 14-hour shifts, seven days a week that they went on strike and brought a legal suit against the factory, denouncing the grueling, illegal hours and seven day workweeks for which they were paid below the legal minimum. The students also reported to the Labor Bureau that some 12-year-olds worked at the factory.

“With its expensive PR campaign, and masquerading as Tiny Tim, Wal-Mart is glorifying the virtue of buying cheap goods in its stores, claiming this is the real holiday spirit,” said Charles Kernaghan, “But, especially at this time of year, no American would knowingly purchase a product in Wal-Mart if they knew that bargain was based on the exploitation of children and teenagers forced to work grueling hours, seven days a week, who are stripped of their rights and paid pennies an hour. Wal-Mart will remain a Scrooge, so long as its bargains are based on the cheapening and immiseration of the lives of the young workers in China who make 70 percent of the goods sold in Wal-Mart.”

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said in a statement released in Washington, D.C., “Chinese sweatshops now produce not only the toys under our Christmas trees, but even the ornaments that hang on those trees. It is completely against the spirit of Christmas to produce ornaments in sweatshop factories where the workers are physically abused and financially cheated. We need to get serious about keeping the products of foreign sweatshops off American shelves. And we shouldn’t wait until next year’s holiday season rolls around before we take action.”

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


SRBissette said...

Let's face it: the corporate state that has our government completely in its pocket is preserving our so-called 'free market' with 21st Century slavery. And we subsidize it whenever we buy almost anything (and yes, that goes in spades for the DVDs I buy).

dogboy443 said...

Nice post Mike. As an employee of a company that has sold to Wal-Mart and now has 25% of our products manufactured in China, it's this kind of startling report that gives the U.S. a slap in the face wake-up call. Funny thing is Wal-Mart has inspectors that inspect manufacturers and warms them for mis-filed paperwork, under-age workers, incorrect number of water bubblers etc. Disney also has inspectors too, and we've found that the Wal-Mart inspectors are far more harsh than some of the others.

Elizabeth said...

Wal-Mart truly is the Evil Empire, isn't it? This is why I absolutely refuse to shop there.

Mark Martin said...

"forced to shop at Wal Mart" - The horror! How does Elizabeth get away with NOT shopping there? She must have friends in very high places.

Mike Dobbs said...

As usual, Mark you don't address what the posting was all about: jobs in this country, the standard of life in this country and in China, corporate responsibility, etc.

I try very hard NOT to shop at Wal-Mart, but there are times we do. I've written about the need to shop at local/regionally owned businesses as a way to keep dollars in a local economy.

The newspapers I work at depend upon locally owned businesses which must compete with national and internationally owned businesses. Every time a locally owned business is closed and every time a local manufacturer goes under of off-shore that affects my ability to earn a paycheck.

Mark Martin said...

OK, I'll address

jobs in this country:
shifting drastically

the standard of life in this country and in China, corporate responsibility, etc:
same as it ever was.

Nobody is forced to shop at Wal Mart. It's an absurd thing to say.

Be like Elizabeth. If everybody that thinks like Elizabeth acted like Elizabeth, who knows? There seem to be a LOT of people out there who think like Elizabeth.

Mike Dobbs said...

What the hell does that mean? The standard of living in this country "is the same as it ever was?"

And hell yes, many people have few if any options to get the household items they need at a price their lousy post-NAFTA post-Reagan jobs paychecks can handle. That's why they are "forced" to shop at Wal-Mart.

I see a great conversation over the dinner table tomorrow!

Ah don't worry I don't want to get you angry while I'm expressing my love and admiration for you. I'll keep quiet about politics.

sojourner said...

I hope that Elizabeth and other Walmart haters check the labels on the goods purchased in the upscale stores. It is very difficult to find goods not made in China, but it can be done. There are, in fact, American goods available even at the evil Walmart. Be sure to check your groceries, too. So much is packaged here, but there is no reference to product origin. Fair trade items are something one can safely buy to avoid 21st Century slavery.