Wednesday, November 18, 2009

International labor advocates slam sweatshop labor in the Philippines

Press Release
November 18, 2009

Two international labor rights groups slammed the exploitation of sweatshop labor around the world including the Philippines. The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) released a report yesterday that listed two big American companies in its “Sweatshop Hall of Shame 2010” for using subcontractors based in the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) in Lapu-Lapu City that violate fundamental labor rights and standards. Meanwhile the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) celebrated its 20th anniversary by launching a book that chronicles the rise of the anti-sweatshop movement. The CCC has recently worked with the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) in defending workers in several factories in the MEZ that produce for famous companies like Adidas and Abercrombie and Fitch.

Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson, said “We welcome the critical report of the ILRF and the excellent work of the CCC in support of the struggle of workers in the Philippines and around the world. If only our own Department of Labor and Employment was as vigilant as the ILRF and CCC then there would be less workers suffering from poverty wages and dire working conditions.”

The ILRF is a Washington DC-based advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. The ILRF’s Hall of Shame inductees are companies that “are responsible for evading fair labor standards and often are slow to respond or provide no response at all to any attempts by the ILRF and workers to improve working conditions.”

ILRF called on American shoppers to “take the time to ask about labor standards at the factories that produce Abercrombie and Fitch and Hollister clothing.” The demand stemmed from the labor dispute at Alta Mode Inc., an Abercrombie and Fitch contractor, where the union is accusing management of unfair labor practice and interference in the right to organize. The ILRF report states that “Workers have struggled for a union as an antidote to a production quota set beyond human capacity.”

Meanwhile the CCC has national campaigns in 12 European countries with a network of 250 organisations worldwide. The CCC inspired book titled "Clean Clothes" by Dutch writer and photographer Liesbeth Sluiter recounts that “all along the garment industry’s supply chains, workers, including children, are exploited through poverty wages, unpaid overtime and harsh anti-union measures.”

According to the ILRF report, at the Paul Yu factory, a supplier of the US home furnishings retailer Pier 1 Imports, employees were unjustly suspended for forming a workers association and protesting against rampant contractualization. ILRF revealed that it communicated with Pier 1 Imports but the company refused to take any meaningful action. The report relates that “The workers of Paul Yu are a testament to how companies like Pier 1 Imports continuously fail to meet their own corporate social responsibility commitment.”

The copy of the ILRF report can be accessed at Details of the CCC anniversary commemoration and book launching can be confirmed via Below is a copy of the CCC press release.

Anti-sweatshop 'Clean Clothes Campaign' Marks 20 Years
New Book Charts Growth of Global Movement

Nov. 16, 2009 - The worldwide anti-sweatshop Clean Clothes Campaign marks 20 years this month, and coinciding with the anniversary a new book on the movement will be launched on November 18. "Clean Clothes" by Dutch writer and photographer Liesbeth Sluiter takes an independent look at how the campaign has grown from an ad-hoc feminist coalition in Holland to an international labour-rights activist network that put corporate accountability on the fashion industry's agenda.

The campaign, one of the most prominent anti-sweatshop organizations today, aims to improve the wages and conditions of workers in the global garment industry. Large retailers such as Tesco, Walmart and Carrefour lure shoppers in with prices that seem too good to be true. This book shows that they’re too good to be fair.

All along the industry’s supply chains, workers, including children, are exploited through poverty wages, unpaid overtime and harsh anti-union measures. The campaign urges those in charge of the garment industry’s supply lines to protect their workers and treat them fairly.

This dynamic account of direct engagement by concerned consumers is a must read for those that see globalisation differently and want their shopping choices to support the most vulnerable people involved in the clothing industry.

Liesbeth Sluiter is a Dutch freelance photographer and journalist, who has worked for over 25 years with a passionate focus on environment, gender and global development issues. She is the author of The Mekong Currency (1993), published in the UK, the Netherlands, and Japan, and has written numerous articles on development and environmental issues.

The CCC has national campaigns in 12 European countries with a network of 250 organisations worldwide, including development organisations, trade unions, women's organisations, human-rights defenders. In the Philippines the Partido ng Manggagawa works together with the CCC to defend labor rights and welfare in the export zones.

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