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New York Post  |  November 21, 2007  |  Share



November 21, 2007 -- St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity Church pulled crucifixes from their gift shops yesterday after an activist group charged the crosses were made in appalling Chinese sweatshops.

The National Labor Committee said girls as young as 15 made the wooden crosses, working up to 15½ hours a day - for 26.5 cents an hour - at the Junxingye factory in southern China.

The group's director, Charles Kernaghan, accused a Queens distributor of "sneaking these things into the United States."

He also charged that St. Patrick's and Trinity, two of the city's most prestigious churches, had failed to detect the "abusive and illegal conditions under which their crucifixes were made."

"If they can't get it right, who is going to get it right?" Kernaghan said.

Church officials said they were checking into the allegations.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, said officials at St. Patrick's gift shop have "removed the crucifixes while they try to gather facts."

Trinity Church also pulled the crucifixes. "We don't associate with sweatshops," said Diane Reed, a spokesman for the Episcopal church. "We're very selective about the products that we carry."

The church's supplier, the Singer Co. of Long Island City, said it had been dealing for seven years with a Chinese firm, Full Start Ltd., and not with the Junxingye factory.

"We told them from the beginning that we don't tolerate sweatshops," said the company's president, Gerald Singer.

The firm is contacting Full Start's office in Hong Kong to determine where the crucifixes came from, he said.

Reed said Trinity Church officials believed the crucifixes were made in Italy.

Singer officials said they didn't know how the church came to that conclusion.

"We know they're made in China," Singer said. "As far as we know, it is not in a sweatshop and has never been one."

Singer and church officials said they knew nothing about the charges until Kernaghan held a press conference in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral yesterday. "It seems to me as if this individual was trying to exploit the cathedral as way of calling attention to himself and his cause," Zwilling said.

The National Labor Committee issued a 73-page report describing how the factory workers live on "awful" company food and sleep in primitive dorms.

After being charged for the food and dorms, their take-home pay is nine cents an hour, the report said.

Kernaghan said the crucifixes were sold at markups of up to 1,000 percent.

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

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