New York Raids Alleged Sweatshop

Discussion
Jul 25, 2008

By George Anderson

It wasn’t a factory in China or Bangladesh or somewhere in Central America that was charged with paying below minimum wage and forcing workers to labor for long hours without overtime pay. No, the latest factory to be tagged with the “sweatshop” label was found in the borough of Queens, a short trip from the fashion halls of Manhattan.

On Wednesday of this week, New York State’s Department of Labor raided a factory owned by Jin Shun Inc., that investigators said has manufactured goods for Gap, Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret.

According to Labor Department, Shin Jun underpaid more than 100 workers some $3 million in wages since 2005. Before that time, the factory was operated under the name Venture 47. Workers there were not paid some $2.5 million due them.

The company’s supplied by Shin Jun were quick to respond to the New York investigation.

Gap said it did not currently have any goods being produced by the factory and would suspend any future activity until the case was cleared up. The company issued a statement that said it is “committed to doing business in a socially responsible way, and we take this matter extremely seriously. We appreciate the New York Department of Labor bringing this to our attention, and we plan to fully cooperate with authorities to ensure the workers are treated fairly.”

Macy’s told Forbes that it had initiated its own investigation of Shin Jun and that the allegations made against the factory “represent a serious violation of our company’s stringent vendor/supplier code of conduct.”

Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, said, “We are committed to continuing to improve our procedures and programs, and we have a policy of zero tolerance for those vendors and factories that are unwilling or unable to work with us to achieve such compliance.”

Discussion Questions: Do allegations that a retailer is sourcing goods from an unethical supplier, even if still not legally established, hurt the retailer in any substantive way? Do allegations that a sweatshop is being operated domestically have more or less of an impact on consumer opinion than reports of such practices taking place overseas?

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5 Comments on "New York Raids Alleged Sweatshop"


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Steve Bramhall
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Steve Bramhall
13 years 9 months ago

What this article says to me is eyes have been off the ball. These things should not surprise those companies or at least they should be able to say something more substantial than it is not in line with our policy. And maybe they will be able to as the story unfolds.

All that said, I would question whether workers are really forced to work there. What form does this force take? I am assuming it is not like Saudi Arabia where employers retain the employees passport, provide the employees work visa which is tied to the company, pay for the accommodation and pick the worker up in the morning.

The books need to be opened to tell the full story and see if this really is a case of unnecessary exploitation.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
13 years 9 months ago

These sourcing allegations fall–mostly–on many deaf ears and disinterested eyes when in competition with supplying and satisfying consumer wants and needs. Many consumers, wrongly or not, silently say to themselves something such as this: “What is the use of fretting about an unfortunate view of things if I get what I want.” Today’s shame: consumer cynicism.

Rick Moss
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

In clicking through some random blogs this morning, it appears that most are focusing on the way Jin Shun Inc. allegedly duped the Labor Department inspectors, but a statement from The Consumerist is telling. Referring to the public statements made by Macy’s, Gap and Victoria’s Secret: “…all of which makes us wonder whether any of these companies ever investigated the factory personally. (It’s not like it was in some remote part of China.)”

David Livingston
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Consumers probably couldn’t care less about reports of a sweatshop in Queens. Consumers are more concerned about quality and price rather than the human resource issues at a garment factory. If we don’t care that Walmart has people working off the clock, I doubt consumers care much about a so called “sweatshop” in Queens.

If the workers feel they are being treated unfairly, they would move to another line of work. Now thanks to the New York Department of Labor, they have seriously jeopardized the employment of 100 workers and harmed the reputation of some major retailers.

Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Most customers don’t care how manufacturers treat their workers. Most customers don’t care how retailers treat their workers. Considering the number of suppliers and factories, very few are inspected by retailers, and most inspections are scheduled in advance. So the inspectors’ visits aren’t a surprise and often “inspection” is actually merchandise quality control inspection, not labor standards inspection.

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