Another Walmart Sweatshop Story
Posted on June 21, 2012 by jway
“The company treats us the way a slave driver treats his slaves.”
“Security guards often beat the workers.”
“Sometimes I want to die. I work like hell every day for such a dull life. I want to find a reason to live.”
These are the words of factory workers in China at Hong Kong-owned VTech, a large supplier of electronics to Walmart, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. The report provides further evidence that Walmart’s so-called “ethical” supply chain is anything but good for workers in the developing world.
The report, “VTech Sweatshop in China: AT&T, Motorola, Walmart and others endorse the China model,” finds that VTech workers in Dongguan, Guangdong Province are “held under deplorable and illegal sweatshop conditions” inducing many young workers to commit suicide. Alleged violations at VTech include forced 12 to 15-hour shifts 6 days a week, pay below the legally mandated minimum wage, filthy living conditions, lack of social security benefits and withheld wages when workers quit.
VTech is the largest manufacturer of cordless phones in the world, owns three factories in Dongguan, and has annual revenues of $1.8 billion. VTech products, which include phones and phone components, circuit boards, and electronic learning systems for kids, are carried at Walmart and other US retailers and are sold under many brands, including AT&T, Motorola, Sony and Phillips.
The new report is certainly a disappointing indication of Walmart’s failure to verify its claims that conditions for its supply chain workers are fair, just and safe. However, it’s not exactly surprising, given Walmart’s business model, in which the burden of cost-cutting falls on the shoulders of low-wage retail, logistics and manufacturing workers while executives and shareholders pocket the profits.
- Just last week, half a million garment workers in Bangladesh, where Walmart is a major buyer, took to the streets in protest of poverty wages.
- On June 4, Mexican guestworkers on H-2B visas in Louisiana went on strike to bring to light severe violations at their workplace, CJ’s Seafood, including rat-infested housing, forced and long work hours without overtime pay and threats made against them and their families.
- The National Employment Law Center released a report in early June detailing the ‘Walmart Effect’ on US warehouse workers in Southern California, where the use of third-party labor contractors and subcontractors has led to depressed wages and benefits for a largely Latino workforce
- In April, reports surfaced that migrant workers at a Walmart shrimp supplier in Thailand were victims of labor trafficking, as reported by Grist.
- Hong Kong-based whistleblowing NGO SACOM, now well-known for its investigations of Apple-supplier Foxconn, has repeatedly exposed serious labor violations at Chinese factories that produce toys for Walmart.
This post was written by Rebecca Cassler.