If Not You,Then Who Will Guard the Global Village?
• An estimated 10 percent of the employees were children who were denied the ability to attend school.
• During peak seasons, workers were forced to work upward of 75 hours per week.
• Employees were paid base wages of 31 cents per hour (an hourly wage well below local government standards).
• They were subject to verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse as well as physical searches upon entering the facility.
• Bathroom privileges were limited to only twice per day.
• Armed guards surveilled workers during their shifts.
• They were provided no health benefits, sick days or vacation time.
Americans were appalled at the harsh conditions. Kathie Lee cried. With labor laws firmly in place in this country, abuses of this magnitude were unfathomable. Unfortunately, the lure of excessively cheap labor proved to be too enticing for America’s CEOs to pass up.
But consumer outrage during this early sweep of sweatshop exposés forced large American textile companies to take a look at the need for some sort of system of self-monitoring and factory auditing. Kernaghan explained the evolution: “I was actually at meetings where the
company said they knew they had to have some monitoring, some way to make their customers and the people purchasing their goods [feel] assured … that conditions were OK. They came up with this idea of a voluntary code of conduct, in that they would monitor themselves, because after all, who else could better monitor them but themselves?”
But when posed the question, “Do factory audits work?,” Kernaghan gave a
hesitant yes-and-no response. He explained, “Audits and monitoring limit abuses to a degree. Without these audits the message is, ‘We don’t care and the buyers don’t care. So, do what you gotta do. Just get it done and give us the cheapest price.’ A company that does not audit and monitor overseas factories is sending about the worst message you can send.”