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NLC Response to Cathedrals

November 21, 2007  |  Share

Sweatshop Crucifixes Pulled from Saint Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity Church

Update and Response From Charles Kernaghan, director, National Labor Committee

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

While it was an excellent first step for Saint Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity Church to pull the sweatshop crucifixes from their gift shops, their responsibility does not end there.  Following a thorough investigation, Saint Patrick's and Trinity should work together with the Association for Christian Retail to clean up the Junxingye factory in China and implement concrete steps to guarantee that the legal rights of the young workers will finally be respected. 

Pulling production from the factory would only further punish these young women workers, who have suffered enough already. 

I am aware that Joseph Zwilling, a spokesperson for Saint Patrick's Cathedral, believes that the National Labor Committee "exploited" the Cathedral.  I beg to differ.  It was the young women at the Junxingye factory in China, forced to work 15 ½ hour days, seven days a week for a take-home wage of just nine cents an hour while making crucifixes for sale at Saint Patrick's, who were the ones being tragically exploited.

The Singer Company says that when they asked their longstanding contractor in China, Full Start Ltd., whether or not they used child workers or workers employed under sweatshop conditions, the company responded, no.  This would be the equivalent of asking Jack the Ripper if he respects young women.  In other words, the company's effort to monitor factory conditions has been ridiculous.  And, if the Singer Company did not have some concern about its crucifixes being made in China, why did they strip the crosses of the country of origin, "Made in China" labeling that is required by law?

The Association for Christian Retail claims that the in-depth 74-page research report issued by the National Labor Committee is "unfounded and irresponsible."  We have a single question for the Association:  If you have nothing to hide, will you immediately release the names and addresses of the factories in China that produce religious products for your 2,055 member stores and suppliers? 

Production is outsourced to China precisely because workers have no rights, can be paid pennies an hour and have no freedom of association.  Nor—we should remind the Association for Christian Retail—do these workers enjoy freedom of religion.

Some have questioned why the National Labor Committee cannot reveal our sources in China—as if this somehow undermines the credibility of the research, documentation, photos, etc.  I would ask those people to recall the recent case of Mr. Shi Tao, who has just begun a ten year prison sentence for daring to write three emails on the subject of press restrictions.  (Yahoo turned him in to the Chinese authorities.)  It is a miracle that any research at all on factory conditions in China reaches the U.S., and that is does is also a testament to the dignity and courage of the Chinese workers.

Click here to return to the NLC's November 2007 report on sweatshop crucifixes

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