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Report: China Makes Crucifixes Sold in NY

New York Sun  |  November 21, 2007  |  Share  |  Source article


Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 21, 2007

Crucifixes sold by some of New York's most prominent churches may have been made by children slaving in Chinese sweatshops, a new report by the National Labor Committee says.

The report accuses a manufacturer of religious goods, the Singer Co., of outsourcing production to China, where it says young women making the wooden carosses were forced to toil under harsh conditions for 100 hours a week. They were paid 26 cents an hour, according to the report, which is based on production orders and pictures smuggled out of factories gathered by an anonymous third party that the advocacy group declined to identify, citing human rights conditions in China.

"It's ironic these crosses are made by workers in China who have no religious freedom," the director of the National Labor Committee, Charles Kernaghan, said.

The report also accuses a major trade association for purveyors of religious goods, the Association for Christian Retail, of knowing about the practice.

The president and CEO of the trade group, Bill Anderson, called the report's accusations "irresponsible and unfounded."

"Most of our suppliers as well as many of our retailers make regular visits to the Orient to ensure quality control as well as inspect working conditions. While they cannot be 100% certain, our suppliers are confident they are offering products made in factories where workers are treated fairly," he said.

A woman who answered the phone at the Singer Co., who did not identify herself, said, "We do not deal with any sweatshops in China."

St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity Church both sell crucifixes made by the company, according to the National Labor Committee.

The labor group said it did not contact the churches ahead of releasing the report.

A spokeswoman for Trinity Church, Diane Reed, said the church had been told by Singer that the crucifixes were made in Italy.

"We're very selective about the products that we carry. We don't associate with sweatshops," she said, adding: "We're pulling the products from the shelves until we can determine the source of origin."

St. Patrick's Cathedral directed requests for comment to the Archdiocese of New York. A spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said he believed the report "was an attempt to exploit the Cathedral."

"This is something that he did not attempt to discuss with us beforehand. At this point, it's not something we can say anything about," he said. St. Patrick's gift shop has removed the crucifixes while it checks into the allegations.

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

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