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US: Senator Says Wal-Mart Sells Products From Sweatshops

by ReutersNew York Times
December 13th, 2007

A Democratic senator said Wednesday that Christmas tree ornaments sold at Wal-Mart Stores and other major retailers were made in a Chinese sweatshop employing workers as young as 12 and others who work more than 100 hours a week.

“There is virtually no enforcement anywhere on these issues,” Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota said at a news conference concerning the release of a study on Chinese sweatshops that provide cheap goods for the American market. “Our country needs to insist that our trading partners enforce their own labor laws and respect international labor standards.”

The study was conducted by the National Labor Committee, a human rights organization, and highlighted conditions at the Guangzhou Huanya Gift company, an ornament maker in China that employs 8,000 workers.

It found that some employees had been paid as little as 26 cents an hour, half the legal minimum wage in China, and that employees in the spray paint department had handled potentially dangerous chemicals with little or no protection.

Efforts to reach Guangzhou Huanya for comment were not successful.

Wal-Mart said it had started an investigation immediately after receiving a copy of the report. “Through our rigorous ethical standards program, Wal-Mart aggressively deals with any allegations of improper conditions at our suppliers’ factories,” a company spokesman said.

Mr. Dorgan said the report highlighted a “serious trade problem” that has also been brought to the public’s attention by recalls for millions of Chinese-made toys in recent months.

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