Federal, state and local tax dollars are being used to buy products made in sweatshops, according to a new report released today by SweatFree Communities titled Subsidizing Sweatshops II: How our tax dollars can foster worker rights and economic recovery rather than fuel the race to the bottom. Findings include child labor, obligatory pregnancy tests, firing and blacklisting of workers who support a union, poverty wages, and forced and unpaid overtime.
The report features follow-up case studies of Eagle Industries and Propper International, two uniform companies profiled in last year’s groundbreaking report. Investigators found that Eagle and Propper still need to give significant attention to the conditions their workers face each day. According to the report, workers at Eagle Industries’ New Bedford, Massachusetts plant “are still deeply concerned about the low wages and inadequate benefits, dangerous and unhealthy working conditions, and managers’ everyday harassment of union supporters” while workers at Propper’s Suprema facility in the Dominican Republic “described a life of poverty and exhaustion, intense pressure to reach production quotas, and an unhealthy work environment.”
These same concerns underlie Eagle and Propper workers’ efforts to form a union with UNITE HERE. “The union is the only hope I have seen, because the union offers a contract and a negotiating table with the owner of the factory where he will have to realize the suffering we have endured,” said Eagle worker Elisa Rios. (Eagle Industries was recently purchased by Alliant Techsystems, a Minneapolis-based company with a partially unionized workforce.)
The report says progress is being made in a number of places around the country. More local and state governments are adopting policies that would require government contractors to meet a set of ethical standards, and advocates are calling on elected officials to join the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium to end tax dollar support for sweatshops.
To read the report, please click here.