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USA: NGO report alleges companies supplying state uniforms source products from firms "engaged in serious human rights & labor" abuses

On 1 July 2008 SweatFree Communities released a report called “Subsidizing Sweatshops” which alleged severe human rights violations in factories used by companies that supply public employee uniforms to the USA federal government.  To see the full report see Subsidizing Sweatshops; to read the accompanying press release see Tax Dollars Fund Sweatshops, New Study Says.

The report makes allegations against the following companies:

-       Bob Barker Company - see response below
-       Cintas Corp. - response [DOC]
-       Eagle Industries - response [DOC]
-       Fechheimer Brothers - we have invited Fechheimer to respond, but have not received a response
-       Lion Apparel - response [PDF]City of Los Angeles statement re Lion Apparel [PDF]
-       Propper International - we have invited Propper to respond, but have not received a response
-       Rocky Brands - see response below
-       Williamson-Dickie - see response below

In addition, the report refers to Blauer Manufacturing, "take additional steps to realize their goal that workers producing for Blauer 'be treated humanely and fairly'.”  See also this 22 July letter [PDF] from Bjorn Claeson, Executive Director of SweatFree Communities, regarding Blauer.

The articles below detail the allegations and contain statements from some of the companies.  In response to the companies' statements, SweatFree Communities issued this reply:
-       Subsidizing Sweatshops: Companies Respond and We Reply [PDF], 30 Jul 2008

N.Y. State contract tied to sweatshop labor, group charges, Kenneth Lovett, New York Daily News, 30 Jun 2008
The report, Subsidizing Sweatshops, will be released Monday. It was done by…SweatFree Communities, to highlight human rights violations in factories [three of the 12 companies cited…Rocky Brands, Lion Apparel and Bob Barker Co.] that make government-purchased clothing, like uniforms…A Rocky Brands spokesman declined comment. Spokesmen for Lion and Eagle either could not be reached or had no immediate comment…Bob Barker Co…denies its factories violate labor standards. [also refers to Lehigh Safety Shoe Co.]

Group chides Ohio for link to sweatshop factories, Associated Press, 2 July 2008
[A] report …alleges abusive working conditions in factories that supply the Bob Barker Co. Inc. and Dayton-based Lion Apparel...[the Bob Barker Company] told the state…that it complied with all international labor standards and is consistently monitored by representatives of the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production…Lion Apparel said in a statement its employees have visited the factory on a regular basis and have found no violations. The company also said third-party audit reports turned up no evidence of violations."If we find any of these alleged violations to be proven, we'll take immediate action with the owner and management of the factory to correct the problems as the report suggests," said Hayley Fudge, corporate marketing associate.

Companies respond to sweatshop allegations, Steven Elbow, Capital Times, 3 Jul 2008
SweatFree Communities…report alleged… that workers at Williamson-Dickie's factories in Pakistan are employed by an employment contractor that forces long hours for poverty wages…Williamson-Dickie said…"The company...requires that all manufacturing facilities, including subcontractors, comply with...Williamson-Dickie's policies and guidelines for the fair and safe treatment of employees," Blauersupplier Charming Enterprises Ltd…[was accused of using] child labor and forc[ing] employees to work long hours of overtime in abysmal conditions at its plant in...China. Blauer issued a statement saying the company discontinued its relationship with the manufacturer cited in the report 15 months ago...Fechheimer Brothers [part of Berkshire Hathaway], which the report alleges used a Korean-owned factory in Honduras that used police to beat down attempts to organize after workers became fed up with unsafe working conditions, forced overtime and low wages, did not respond to a request for comment.

Group alleges labor abuse, Lynn Anderson, Baltimore Sun, 3 Jul 2008
Companies that [were accused by SweatFree Communities of] doing business with sweatshops …are the Bob Barker Co., Cintas Corp., Lion Apparel and Rocky Shoes... The companies denied yesterday that they foster sweatshop labor practices..."Rocky Brands is committed to supporting human rights worldwide, and we expect the same from our business partners," said...a spokesman for Rocky Shoes...A spokeswoman for Cintas said the company expects its vendors to adhere to a code of conduct that is more stringent than most local laws. "All of our vendors and suppliers are audited annually,"

Group tells Vt.: No sweat, Howard Weiss-Tisman, Brattleboro Reformer,  7 Jul 2008
Rocky Brands Inc. and The Bob Barker Company, two manufacturers that hold current contracts with [Vermont]… have done business with factories in China and Bangladesh that have been cited for severe human and labor rights violations, according to a report issued last week by SweatFree Communities... A public relations firm handling Rocky Brands, said the company is no longer working with the Chinese factory mentioned in the report and said the company was "committed to supporting human rights worldwide… We do not tolerate violations of our code of conduct,"...Robert Barker, president of the Bob Barker Company, said "We do not condone, and have never been involved with, any violation of labor laws, directly o[r] indirectly, to our knowledge. We follow specific measures to ensure our suppliers are in compliance with labor laws throughout the world." 

Report: Bosses ordered workers to lie, Kathleen Moore, Daily Gazette [New York, USA], 4 Jul 2008
Schenectady...buys its firefighter jackets from Fechheimer Brothers Company, which gets the uniforms from the independently-owned Hui Yang Charming Garments factory... Fechheimer...Senior Vice President Fred Heldman told the city [previously] that his company isn’t responsible for the working conditions in Chinese plants since Fechheimer doesn’t own those plants. However, he said that the plant operators follow Chinese labor laws and that Fechheimer sends qualified individuals to monitor the plants... Fechheimer officials did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday after the...report was released.

Company Responses

Cintas View Response
Eagle Industries View Response
Fechheimer Brothers (part of Berkshire Hathaway)

No Response

Lion Apparel View Response

No Response

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