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17 Jul 2023

Zhen Wang, Wisconsin Watch (USA)

USA: Walmart pulls Milwaukee Tool gloves over alleged use of Chinese prison labour


"Walmart pulls Milwaukee Tool gloves allegedly made by Chinese prisoners" 17 July 2023

Walmart, the largest retailer in the United States, is no longer selling Milwaukee Tool-branded gloves on its online marketplace  — responding to allegations that a subcontractor for the Brookfield, Wisconsin-based tool company relied on forced Chinese prison labor to manufacture certain models of gloves. 

“We looked into the allegations regarding the gloves in question, and we made a decision to de-list those from the marketplace,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s chief sustainability officer, told shareholders during a virtual meeting on May 31, according to a transcript reviewed by Wisconsin Watch.

In a follow up letter to a shareholder, a Walmart official confirmed that the company removed the gloves from its third-party platform, blocked future sales and does not sell the branded gloves in its stores or on its website.

“Walmart does not tolerate involuntary prison labor in its supply chain, even when allowed by local law,” Blair Cromwell, a Walmart spokesperson, told Wisconsin Watch in an email. “Our Standards for Suppliers prohibit it. We find such allegations very concerning and take action to address them.” [...]

The confirmation to shareholders came months after Chinese exile Shi Minglei, who now lives in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, launched a public campaign to pressure Milwaukee Tool to stop sourcing gloves allegedly made under grueling conditions at Chishan Prison in China’s central Hunan Province — and to urge giant retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, and The Home Depot to stop selling the gloves or helping third parties do so. [...]

Milwaukee Tool has not responded to Wisconsin Watch’s questions about how it investigates allegations of human rights abuses within its supply chain, but it says it has “found no evidence to support the claims being made.”

“Milwaukee Tool regularly conducts a complete and thorough review of our global operations and supply chain,” spokeswoman Kaitlyn Kasper said in an email July 13, adding that the company has “strict policies and procedures in place to ensure that no authorized Milwaukee Tool products are manufactured by using forced labor.” [...]