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Letter to Howard Stern

October 20, 2008  |  Share

October 20, 2008

Mr. Howard Stern
The Howard Stern Show
Sirius Satellite Radio
1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Dear Mr. Stern:

I can vividly remember your lampooning of Kathie Lee Gifford after we exposed the fact that 12 and 13-year-old children were sewing her clothing line under abusive sweatshop conditions for pennies an hour in Honduras.  I am now sending you a report that documents similar abusive conditions faced by women in South Korea who made Sirius Satellite radios at the Kiryung Electronics factory in Seoul.  Management limited married women to just three-month contracts so they could easily be let go—fired—if they became pregnant.  The vast majority of production line workers making the Sirius radios were hired as "temps,"  a category which stripped them of their basic rights.

Women could be fired for using the bathroom, arriving a few minutes late to work, requesting a sick day, or if they were unable to work every weekend or on national holidays.  In fact, women workers could be fired if the line supervisor did not like the way they looked.  The women making the Sirius Satellite radios routinely toiled 13 to 14-hour shifts, six and seven days a week, while being paid below subsistence level wages—trapping them and their children in a poverty-level existence.  Before Sirius radio shipments had to leave for the U.S., the women often had to work grueling all-night 24-hour shifts.  All overtime was mandatory.

A delegation of women workers from the Kiryung Electronics factory has travelled to New York City, arriving late Tuesday night, October 15, to seek a meeting with representatives of the Sirius company.  They are accompanied by representatives of the Korean Metal Workers Union, Korea's largest union.

The women fought back against the exploitative conditions at the Kiryung factory and have been on strike since the summer of 2005.  The workers—mostly women—have faced constant harassment, threats and beatings.  Factory management hired thugs to attack the strikers.  Ten of the women have just ended a hunger strike, including the chairwoman of the local union at Kiryung, who went without food for 94 days.  She is now hospitalized.

A year ago, the Kiryung factory relocated the production of Sirius Satellite radios to a low wage factory in China, telling the workers that it was Sirius management that demanded Kiryung drastically cut costs by moving to China.

The brave women from the Kiryung factory have come to New York to ask Sirius Satellite Radio to intervene with Kiryung's management to sit down and negotiate in good faith to finally end this crisis.  We will be at the building seeking a meeting with Sirius management at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 22. 

I hope you can help the women, who have suffered long enough.  Please call me if you have any questions or ideas.  Thank you.



Charles Kernaghan

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