Liana Foxvog, National Organizer, SweatFree Communities
This is the list that I point people to while emphasizing that the way that we can really have an effect is by joining active campaigns and by sending a strong public message to companies that violate labor rights.
For this year's holiday shopping season release, we've created a new list to accompany the Shop with a Conscience Consumer Guide. It's the Sweatshop Hall of Shame. So, take a few minutes to browse the Sweatshop Hall of Shame and take the suggested action steps. And if you're looking for Christmas gifts, don't forget to check out our list of sweatfree retailers.
Keep reading to see the Sweatshop Hall of Shame list.
Eagle Outfitters: AKA “American Vulture”
disrespect – no raises – no voice on the job
American Eagle Outfitters says it cares about workers; its Code of Conduct requires contractors to respect the right of employees to form a union. Yet, according to workers in Canada, workers at the warehouse contracted to ship AEO clothing across Canada faced harassment and intimidation when they tried to improve conditions by forming a union.
A majority of workers at National Logistics Services (NLS) applied to join a union in April 2007. American Eagle is NLS’ largest client and up until early 2006, owned and operated the NLS distribution center. Workers wanted a union because they faced daily disrespect from management; could not move into permanent employment positions; didn’t get pay raises in three years; and had no voice on the job.
So far, American Eagle hasn't lifted a finger to enforce its Code of Conduct. Only after students at dozens of schools joined the boycott and American Eagle started feeling the heat from investors did the company agree to meet with UNITE HERE. Negotiations are ongoing, but pressure is still needed in order to achieve a settlement and ensure workers’ rights are protected.
Visit www.AmericanVulture.org to learn more about the campaign and get involved.
death in 300 degree dryer
According to the Uniform Justice campaign, Cintas is the most profitable uniform and laundry company in North America – posting profits of $330 million in 2007 alone. For Cintas workers, however, it’s a whole other story.
Few people know about the poverty wages, backbreaking work, and hazardous conditions that Cintas employees endure in laundries across the United States. Since 2003, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found nearly 250 violations of health and safety standards at Cintas. OSHA assessed more than $3.1 million in initial penalties since August for deadly conditions at six separate facilities, including one that led to a worker's death in a 300 degree dryer. Just weeks before this tragedy, a worker in another facility's arm was shattered.
Currently workers and their allies are taking action on behalf of a fired health and safety activist at action.unitehere.org. Go to www.UniformJustice.org or www.CintasExposed.org for news, updates, and action alerts.
Dickies, Guess, and Tommy Hilfiger: No Justice, No Jeans
illegal firings – harassment of union supporters
At the Vaqueros Navarra jean factory in Tehuacan, Mexico, over 100 workers have been illegally fired and many more have been harassed and pressured to resign for supporting an independent union, according to the Maquila Solidarity Network and an independent investigation carried out by Verité.
Vaqueros Navarra is owned by the Navarra Group, which owns several garment and laundry facilities in the Tehuacan area and is one of the largest employers in the region. Some brands that buy from the Navarra Group, including American Eagle Outfitters, Gap and Warnaco, have responded to the workers’ call for action. But three brands with the most production in those factories – Dickies, Guess, and Tommy Hilfiger – have failed to act. It's time for them to step up to the plate and stop the illegal firings of Mexican jean workers.
Send a letter to the three, hold-out brands today urging them to reinstate all unjustly dismissed workers and to ensure a free and fair union representation vote. Visit www.LabourStart.org for a sample letter.
Disney: Should Workers Wish Upon A Star for Basic Rights?
exposure to deadly toxins – poverty wages – 15 hour shifts
This year marks Disney’s “Year of a Million Dreams” celebration. But for workers in China who make children’s books and toys for the entertainment giant, it’s been a year of a zillion labor law violations.
In detailed reports, Hong Kong-based NGO Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) has documented widespread violations of China’s labor laws as well as Disney’s Code of Conduct at Disney’s supplier factories in China. According to SACOM, the roughly 800 workers who produce Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Winnie the Pooh plastic toys for Disney at the Haowei Toys factory in Shenzhen have been: forced to work up to 15-hour shifts; paid poverty wages, far below the legal minimum wage; and exposed to deadly toxins.
So far, Disney has refused to address these serious allegations of worker abuse and exploitation.
For more information about Disney and to sign an on-line petition, please visit www.PetitionOnline.com.
and Wal-Mart: Look Who They’ve Got Sweating Profits for Hanes Now
verbal abuse – forced, unpaid overtime – no rights
Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Michael Jordan are just some of the celebrities who love to sport Hanes’ ComfortSoft products on TV. But how comfortable do you think these celebrity endorsers would be if they knew about serious and persistent worker rights violations at one of Hanes’ factories?
TOS Dominicana, a textile plant in the Dominican Republic owned and operated by Hanesbrands Inc., employs about 1,100 workers who manufacture fabrics primarily for t-shirts. Wal-Mart is the largest client of TOS Dominicana. A report released by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) provides alarming evidence of violations of both domestic law and university codes of conduct at TOS Dominicana. These violations include: forced and unpaid overtime; verbal harassment and abuse of workers; unlawful coercion of workers to sign new employment contracts and relinquish their rights; and the use of illegal tactics to thwart workers’ freedom to exercise their associational rights. Although Hanesbrands has been notified of these findings, Hanesbrands refuses to even acknowledge that these violations occurred.
For more information about TOS Dominicana and to deliver a letter to the Wal-Mart nearest you, go to www.laborrights.org.
Era Cap: 19th Century Working Conditions
discrimination – illegal firings – poverty wages
In response to low wages, unsafe working conditions, and racial discrimination, workers at the New Era plant in Mobile, Alabama attempted to organize a union, according to United Students Against Sweatshops. New Era Cap operates two garment shops plus a distribution center in Alabama. Management responded with an intense anti-union campaign that culminated in the firing of more than 20 workers. As if this weren't enough, New Era announced that they plan to permanently lay off 20 more workers right before the holiday season.
Tell New Era Cap to stop laying off workers! Take action by visiting: www.unionvoice.org.
Toys “R” Us, and Carrefour: What’s underneath your swimwear?
working conditions – exhaustion – 100 hour work week
Speedo may be the top-selling and best-known swimwear brand in the world, and an official sponsor of the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in China. But workers in China producing Speedo sporting goods are drowning in abuse. Toys ‘R’ Us and Carrefour are also implicated in this sweatshop scandal.
According to the National Labor Committee, Guangzhou Vanguard Water Sport Products Company Ltd in Guangzhou, China produces swim gear and sporting goods for its major clients Speedo, Toys ‘R’ Us, and the giant French retailer Carrefour. Workers’ routine shift is 14 ½ hours a day, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week. Workers report going for months at a time without a single day off. One worker, forced to toil a 23-hour shift at a compression molding machine, shed tears as he described how exhausted he was, and terrified that his hands would be crushed by the relentless motion of the machine if he slowed down for even a second. Production line workers are allowed just one-and-a-half minutes to assemble each Speedo “Condor” swim mask for which they are paid less than two cents. On average, the workers are earning just 49 cents an hour—including all the grueling overtime hours—while the legal minimum wage is 60 cents an hour.
For more information and specific contact information for each brand, visit www.nlcnet.org.