Nine Greediest Companies Named (fwd)

P. Myers (mpwr@u.washington.edu)
Sun, 14 Dec 1997 14:07:28 -0800 (PST)


you know, there is a way to spend our money (what we have of it) to
minimize human suffering and marginalization...I like having this
information.  Pat Myers


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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