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Chinese Christmas Ornaments Made in Sweatshop, Labor Group Says

Bloomberg  |  December 12, 2007  |  Share  |  Source article

Christmas ornaments made in a factory in China and sold at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. were produced in sweatshop conditions, a report by a labor advocacy group said.

The National Labor Committee based its allegations on smuggled videotapes, documents and interviews with workers from the Guangzhou Huanya Gift Ltd. Co. in Guangdong province. The group said employees included children who were forced to work 16-hour shifts and were paid below the Chinese minimum wage.

Wal-Mart monitors its suppliers and will investigate the allegations, company spokesman Richard Coyle said in an e-mail.

The photos of the child workers and descriptions of the working conditions prompted one lawmaker to renew a push for legislation that would prohibit imports of goods from factories that fail to provide workers with basic labor protections.

``There is nothing in the law that prohibits against imports of products made from sweatshop labor, and I think that needs to change,'' North Dakota Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan said at a press conference. Dorgan held up an ornament pictured in the Chinese factory, which he said was purchased at Wal-Mart.

The New York-based National Labor Committee has investigated labor abuses in Central America, Jordan and other countries in recent years. Today's report on the Christmas ornaments accused Wal-Mart and other retailers in the U.S. of failing to police their production facilities overseas.

``Far from kindling the holiday spirit, the conditions under which the mostly young women workers in China produce goods for Wal-Mart are dehumanizing,'' the report said.

Wal-Mart says it maintains a strict compliance code with more than 200 people monitoring conditions in factories of its suppliers.

``As soon as Wal-Mart learned about the Christmas tree ornament report, we contacted the National Labor Committee and they have not returned our call,'' Coyle said in his statement. ``Now that we have a copy of their report, we have launched an immediate investigation.''

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