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Int’l Human Rights Day: “Sweat-Free” Shopping Tips in MI

December 10, 2007

Detroit, MI – "Sweat-free" shopping this holiday season in Michigan will take some homework. A man who has crusaded against sweatshop-style labor conditions worldwide says these types of production facilities are still the main suppliers to the some the biggest retailers in the United States, especially toy and clothing companies.

When Charlie Kernaghan, with the National Labor Committee, speaks in Detroit tonight, he'll present evidence from factories in China to make his points in connection with International Human Rights Day.

"The workers tell us they're sweating all day; the factory's incredibly hot. They have to sit on hard wooden benches with no backs. The workers are cheated out of about two days' wages, every single week."

For Kernaghan, the recent scares over poisonous and dangerous toys are directly related to what he calls the "sweatshop mentality" of production. He points out that companies want to make larger and larger profits, when it would take only pennies to make products safer, and ensure that production methods and conditions are humane.

"Why are they producing toxic toys when it would only cost 10 cents per toy to check for hazardous or toxic chemicals? They could screen every toy for 10 cents."

Kernaghan's investigations have led to reforms for Gap clothing company suppliers, and he's now focusing on Mattel. Mattel responds that it is auditing factories to try to make sure conditions are fair and safe. Kernaghan notes that unlike their international counterparts, most U.S.-made products are sweatshop-free, as a result of laws and investigations.

Deborah Smith/John Robinson, Public News Service - MI