This Christmas we learned about Halloween items sold in the USA produced in Chinese slave labor camps under threat of violence. Julie Keith of Damascus, Oregon found a handwritten letter placed in old Halloween decorations from an imprisoned worker imploring her to help by giving the letter to the World Human Right Organization.
This story caps off a year muddled in stories of poor working conditions in China. Conditions are poor enough for the laborers who make your iPod to commit suicide. Is it really worth the small savings? Inexpensive Chinese goods come at a price. In October we learned that Foxconn put up to 200 14-16 year old "interns" on the manufacturing line. The minimum working age in China is 16. They will likely be working 60 hours at 18. It's not enough that paid workers make next to nothing and work in horrible conditions but they need to get kids to work for free?
Foxconn manufactures the iPad, iPhone, iPod, Kindle, Playstation 3, and the Xbox 360.Today many Americans are asking themselves what do we do? What is our responsibility as ethical consumers? We might not have realized it is this bad as we now learn of a unique letter placed in Halloween decorations by an imprisoned Chinese worker.
The letter that Julie Keith found in old Halloween decorations urged her to take action to help the workers who are now slaves after committing small crimes. Many of these Chinese workers are held without a trial. They're held without trial for crimes like theft, prostitution, and abusing drugs. The United Nations Human Rights Council reports that 190,000 Chinese citizens are locked up in 320 "re-education" centers in 2009, this is in addition to the 1.6 million people who were jailed in their prison system. The 50 year old "re-education" through labor program is known as "laodong jiaoyang." Isn't this enough for you to spend a little more energy seeking American products when utilizing your buying power?
The letter from the imprisoned worker reads,
"If you occassionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands [of] people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever. This product produced by Unit 8, Department 2 Mashanja, Labour Camp, Shenyang, Liaoning China. People who work here, have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays, otherwise they will suffer torturement beatings, rude remarks, nearly no payment (10 yuan/month). People who work here suffer punishment 1-3 years on average without Court Sentencing many of them are Falungong practitioners who are totally innocent people only because they have different beliefs than the Chinese Communist Party Government. They often suffer more punishment than others."
The Halloween decorations were purchased at Kmart, they released a statement:
"Sears Holdings has a Global Compliance Program which helps to ensure that vendors and factories producing merchandise for our company adhere to specific Program Requirements, and all local laws pertaining to employment standards and workplace practices. Failure to comply with any of the Program Requirements, including the use of forced labor, may result in a loss of business or factory termination. We understand the seriousness of this allegation, and will continue to investigate."