Recently, there have been numerous articles posted on this blog citing sweatshop conditions in other countries, such as Bangladesh, India, and China. Unfortunately, the New York State Department of Labor has found comparable workers’ rights violations right here in the local area of Long Island City, Queens, New York, where a manufacturer violated the state’s minimum wage and overtime laws by paying by piece rate, falsified timesheets, refused to pay overtime, and coached employees to lie to investigators (NYS Dept. of Labor). Jin Shun and Venture 47, and even more recently, Garlee NY Incorporated are all names of one garment contractor located at 47-51 33rd Street. The factory changed its name several times to try to elude investigation (NYT).
Sesame Street’s “Ernie Building Set” was released on July 15 in the United States and Europe, a product assembled in a sweatshop factory in Shenzhen, China by young exploited workers. In a recent report, “Nightmare on Sesame Street,” international workers’ right group, the National Labor Committee, uncovered “abusive sweatshop conditions” of excessive work hours, forced overtime, insufficient protection and hazardous work environment, child labor, poor living conditions, and illegally low wages.
July 7, 2008
Have you ever wondered how large retail chain stores are able to sell name brand clothes for so cheap? The price may not be as cheap as it seems. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind is to question the quality of the merchandise. However, raw material is not the only resource big companies have skimped on in the name of high profits.
"Nearly everyone who's looked at Wal-Mart's practices as an employer—its union busting, sex discrimination, low wages, and minimal benefits—has concluded that it's America's retail bad guy. By contrast, many who've examined the practices of Wal-Mart's competitor Costco—including New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse in his recent book The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker—conclude that it's the good guy.
With the recent slump in the construction industry as a consequence of the past lax and irresponsible practices of the real estate market, more and more construction workers are having trouble finding jobs for more than one day per week.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research has released a new report which finds that low-wage workers benefit most in terms of pay increases when joining a labor union. While the report didn't cite specific industries, many retail and food workers fall into the income category analyzed in the study.
American Rights at Work, a pro-employee non-profit, has a piece exposing the "Coalition for a Democratic Workplace", an anti-worker front group funded in part by the Retail Industry Leaders Association. (American Rights at Work)
RILA is quick to attack any progressive initiative that benefits workers whether it's making corporate trade deals more fair or reforming labor law.
In a shameful move, the large electronics retailer Circuit City fired all of its senior sales staff just over a year ago. After a "cooling-off period", the 3,400 full-time workers were offered part-time jobs with lower wages, reduced benefits, and insecure work schedules.
Former CompUSA employee John Mahan was one of the workers at the chain lucky enough to get a severance check in the sell-off by the private equity arm of Gordon Brothers Group LLC. John was kind enough to share the check with Brandworkers. You can take a look at it here.
For more background on the irresponsible business practices of Gordon Brothers which promised proper treatment of CompUSA's landlords, creditors, and customers but not workers, check out this internal document laying out the severance plan. According to the document, to qualify for severance employees needed to:
By Kathleen Salmon
In 2006, the Retail Action Project (RAP) initiated a multi-faceted campaign to protest workplace injustices at Yellow Rat Bastard (YRB), a chain of clothing stores in the Soho neighborhood of New York.
RAP started by surveying YRB workers which revealed wage and hour violations, verbal abuse and unhealthy working conditions, such as rats in the stores. They found that YRB owner Henry Ishay violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by not awarding overtime for work weeks lasting up to 70 hours and disregarding the then-minimum wage of $6.75 an hour. New workers were found to receive as little as $5.25 an hour. These results prompted RAP to organize workers to remedy these injustices.