Forward: sweatshop organizing

H. C. Covington -- I CAN America (
Thu, 21 Oct 1999 07:14:53 -0400

Forward of an  Original Message -----

[ed:  this post refers to local Los Angeles events, but many of you might
be interested in the sweatshop organizing information in the announcement.]

From: Reminder: Anti-Sweatshop activist Charles Kernaghan will be in the
LA area for several talks next week:
        Monday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m., UC-Santa Barbara
        Tuesday, Oct. 26, 11:30 am, Occidental College, Thorne Hall (see
release below)
        Tuesday, Oct. 26, 3-5 pm, LA County Federation of Labor
        Tuesday, Oct. 26, 7:30 pm, USC
        Wednesday, Oct. 27, noon, Cal Poly Pomona


For immediate release
For information about Kernaghan's talk contact
Professor Peter Dreier (323) 259-2913
For directions to Occidental College contact
Mona Ortega (323) 259-2677

        Charles Kernaghan, the anti-sweatshop crusader whose expose' of the
working conditions in factories producing Kathie Lee Gifford and Wal-Mart
clothing brands became  major national news, will speak at Occidental
College in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 26, at 11:30 a.m. in Thorne Hall
on the Eagle Rock campus. He will discuss, "The Global Campaign to End
Child Labor and Sweatshops."
        Kernaghan, the executive director of the National Labor Committee, a
non-profit group that supports workers and human rights around the world,
made national headlines in the spring of 1996 when he testified in Congress
revealing that 13-year old girls in a Honduras factory were being forced to
work 13-hour shifts, under armed guard, for 31 cents an hour, sewing pants
for Wal-Mart and Kathie Lee Gifford labels. Kathie Lee Gifford responded on
her television program, crying and threatening to sue Kernaghan. The case
exploded into a major press story and the issue of child labor and
sweatshop abuses was finally on the national agenda as never before. Kathie
Lee soon pledged to help eliminate sweatshops in factories around the
world, including those producing her brand.
        Last month this controversy erupted in the news again when workers
in El
Salvador were fired, and received death threats, for trying to organize a
union in a factory making clothing for Kathie Lee Gifford's Wal-Mart
clothing label.
        The Kathie Lee Gifford controversy is only one of NLC's many
efforts to draw attention to the problem of child labor and sweatshops.
        The New York Times has referred to Charles Kernaghan as "the labor
movement's mouse that roared," while Women's Wear Daily observed that,
"Charles Kernaghan and his anti-sweatshop battle have been shaking up the
apparel industry like nothing since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire."
        Kernaghan has led numerous fact-finding missions to Central
America, the
Caribbean, and China. The NLC has sponsored delegations of U.S. university
and college students to investigate working conditions in sweatshops in
Mexico, Central America, and elsewhere. The NLC has hosted U.S. tours of
workers from Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti and China. At his talk at
Occidental, Kernaghan will be accompanied by two garment workers from El
Salvador who have worked in sweatshops making apparel for major U.S. labels
and American universities.
        NLC has published numerous research reports, produced several
videos, and run a number of highly successful international campaigns to
draw media and public attention to sweatshops and to what consumer,
religious, student, and labor groups can do to bring pressure on clothing
companies that utilize child labor and violate workers' rights.
        The NLC now works with over 10,000 religious, labor, student,
human rights, solidarity and community groups across the country.
        Kernaghan became involved in the struggle to defend international
rights after participating in a peace march through Central America in
December 1985.  He became the director of the NLC in 1990.
        The National Labor Committee (NLC), founded in 1981, operates by
establishing direct ties with non-governmental organizations around the
world. It organizes fact-finding tours to investigate human rights and
labor abuses; publishes reports based on these tours; and initiates
international emergency response campaigns to protect lives of endangered
trade unionists and human rights activists. More information about NLC can
be found on its website:
        Kernaghan has an undergraduate degree from Loyola University in
and a master's degree from the New School for Social Research in New York.
He has spoken at hundreds of college and universities, high schools and
religious, labor and human rights events. He also appeared on many radio
and television programs and in more than 100 newspaper articles. He has
taught at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and at SUNY's Harry Van Arsdale
Labor College in New York City.
        Kernaghan's talk at Occidental, which is free and open to the
public, is
part of the college's Intercultural Speakers Series.
        Occidental is one of more than 100 colleges and universities around
country that have adopted a Code of Conduct for manufacturers of clothing
with the college's name and logo. Occidental's code, adopted earlier this
year, requires manufacturers to pay a living wage and to publicly disclose
the location of factories producing the college's clothing.


Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Director, Public Policy Program
International & Public Affairs Center
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734

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