Are You Sweat Free?
by Jeanna Marcinczyk
Although many of us would not even think twice about child slave labor existing, nevertheless there is child slave labor around the world today, and many of the children who are put into this labor make the clothes we wear today and even some decorations that we put on our Christmas trees. Have you ever really thought about where the items you bought were made and who had made them? Most people would probably say no, they were made buy machines. Yes maybe some of the items you bought were made in “nice” factories, but many factories are using child workers, working in conditions close to slavery to produce items we but today. Some stores using child slave labor are Gap Kids, Nike, Victoria Secret, Wal-Mart, Guess, The Limited, Inc., and much many more clothing labels. These “slave” children can be found in India, China, the United States and many more countries.
Child workers, some as young as 10, in Delhi, India, have been found working in factories in conditions close to slavery to produce Gap Kid clothing. “Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings”. Gap said that they are unaware that children were making their clothing. “The Observer discovered the children in a filthy sweatshop working on piles of beaded children's blouses marked with serial numbers that Gap admitted corresponded with its own inventory. The company has pledged to convene a meeting of its Indian suppliers as well as withdrawing tens of thousands of the embroidered girl's blouses from the market, before they reach the stores”. Gap has contracts with 23 suppliers who use children as “slaves.” In a statement from its headquarters in San Francisco Gap said: “‘we firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and their subcontractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labor to produce garments. In this situation, it's clear one of our vendors violated this agreement and a full investigation is under way.” “'Consumers in the West should not only be demanding answers from retailers as to how goods are produced but looking deep within themselves at how they spend their money!”
China is another major country that has children working in sweatshops long hours and receiving very little pay. “In recent days in an unfolding labor abuse scandal that involves the kidnapping in central China of hundreds of children, and perhaps more, some reportedly as young as 8, who have been forced to work under brutal conditions - scantily clothed, unpaid and often fed little more than water and steamed buns - in the brick kilns of Shanxi Province.” Wal-Mart has the Chinese children making their Christmas ornaments in time for the holiday season. “Turns out the Guangzhou Huanya ornaments factory in Guangdong, where the high school students worked, employs children as young as 12, who are forced to work 15 hour days, 7 days a week. These kids earn only half of China's minimum wage—just 26 cents an hour.” These children decided to take action and started sneaking cell phones into the factory, going on strike, and filing a complaint with the local labor bureau and the NLC, regarding the working conditions. “As if the long hours and pitiful paychecks weren't bad enough, workers at the factory have been exposed to dangerous chemicals that cause skin rashes and sores. The management of the factory doesn't pay for medical bills or allow sick days and docks workers who quit unexpectedly an entire month's pay.” Wal-Mart says it's investigating the situation, but has not taken full action yet. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) issued a statement accusing Wal-Mart’s practices. “‘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.’”
It’s really shocking to know that our very own country, the United Sates, has sweatshops. There are about 80 sweatshops in Los Angeles. In the U.S. one of the many sweatshops makes jeans for Guess. Workers are mostly Latina and Asian immigrant women, making less than the minimum wage and often working 10 to 12 hours a day for fewer than 50 dollars. “In 1992, the U.S. Department of Labor accused Guess contractors of failing to pay their employees overtime or the minimum wage. Guess paid the back wages and promised to more carefully monitor its operations. But soon the company was busted for illegal sweatshops. In 1996, the company fired workers attempting to organize a union, shut down their California plants and moved its sewing operations to Mexico and Latin America in order to avoid labor abuse citations. The company still advertises itself as ‘All-American.’”.
In India, China, and the United States the ages of the children working in these conditions, receiving the wages they earn, if any, and the amount of hours they work in unbelievable. In India “children as young as 10, came from a poor farming district on the other side of the country, and said they had never been given promised wages for working up to 15 hours a day.” In China children as young as 8 are working 15 hour days, 7 days a week for 26 cents. In the United States children are working 10 to 12 hours a day.
Imagine working those long hours everyday for very little pay at such a young age. Could you do it? Highly doubt it. So the next time you go shopping, pay close attention to where you’re shopping and what clothing brands and decorations you are purchasing because you never know if its sweat free.