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Wal-Mart's Christmas Ornaments Are Made by Children

Wal-Mart's Christmas Ornaments Are Made by Children

One of several children found to be assembling the Christmas ornaments Wal-Mart sells to American families for around $2.50 per dozen. This child earns a small fraction of one penny for each ornament he produces.

December 13, 2007 —

The National Labor Committee dropped a 60-page bombshell on Target and Wal-Mart yesterday, uncovering labor abuses at a factory in China's Guangzhou province that produces Christmas ornaments for the retailers. The NLC's report details numerous violations including the employment of children as young as 12 working 10, 12 and 15-hour days, seven days a week, for less than China's minimum wage. Among the other allegations listed in the report:

  • The average employee at the factory spends 84 hours per week at the factory and works for 77 of those hours.
  • The factory did not pay China's legally mandated overtime premium.
  • The median wage was 49 cents an hour, with some workers earning as little as 26 cents an hour. The minimum wage in China is 55 cents an hour.
  • Several 12 and 13-year old children were found to be working at the factory, working the same 10-15 hour days as the other employees, sometimes overnight.
  • Employees working with toxic paints were not provided with even the most minimal protective equiptment. Those who developed skin rashes or other illnesses from their exposure to these toxic chemicals were not compensated or offered medical care and were forced to quit their jobs.
  • The factory withholds one month's wages at all times, so that employees who quit or are fired are cheated out of these wages when they leave.
  • Many workers go for months without a day off.
  • Workers who requested Sundays off were told to find work elsewhere.

The scandal threatens to reverse some of the recent gains Wal-Mart has made in repairing its image. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart trumpeted the hiring of more than 200 factory inspectors to help ensure that human rights abuses like the ones detailed in this report weren't going on in its factories. Even after more than 500 high school-aged employees went on strike over poor working conditions this summer, Wal-Mart either failed to inspect the factory or failed to notice that it employed children and cheated workers out of pay. Either way, the inspection system is clearly flawed, and until the retail giant can demostrate its effectiveness, consumers should assume that shopping at Wal-Mart means buying sweatshop-made products.

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