Press

Toyota Looking Into Allegations of Human Trafficking and Sweatshop Abuses

Edmunds Inside Line |  By Anita Lienert | June, 19 2008 |  Share  | Source Article

NEW YORK — The Toyota Prius may be the darling of environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities, but a new report by a self-described human rights advocacy group accuses Toyota of "human trafficking and sweatshop abuses" in the building of its vehicles.

The National Labor Committee on Wednesday issued a 65-page report, "The Toyota You Don't Know," which accuses the Japanese automaker of using "low-wage temps" to build the popular Toyota Prius. The report also alleged that Toyota has "ties to Burmese dictators" through the Toyota Tsusho Corporation. "Toyota's much admired 'Just in Time' auto parts supply chain is riddled with sweatshop abuse, including the trafficking of foreign guest workers, mostly from China and Vietnam to Japan, who are stripped of their passports and often forced to work — including at subcontract plants supplying Toyota — 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while being paid less than half the legal minimum wage," the group said in a statement.

Toyota addressed the allegations late Wednesday with a brief statement. "We are reviewing the lengthy report issued today by the National Labor Committee," the automaker said. "As the well-being of our workforce and suppliers is one of our highest priorities, we are taking the allegations seriously." Toyota spokesman Curt McAllister told Inside Line on Thursday that the automaker has no further comment on the controversial report.

The statement accompanying the report by the National Labor Committee took pains to draw attention to the Toyota Prius hybrid and the celebrities who promote the car. "Celebrities like Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pit [sic], Bill Maher and others have led the way in turning Toyota's Prius into a symbol of concern for our environment," said Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee. "We hope that these same celebrities will now also challenge Toyota to improve its respect for human and worker rights. As a start, Toyota should cut its ties to the Burmese dictators and end the exploitation of foreign guest workers trafficked to Japan."

The National Labor Committee made headlines in 1999 for a report that targeted talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford, accusing her of using "sweatshops in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras" to produce a clothing line.

What this means to you: Some unusual bad press for the popular Prius in a report that seems to have taken Toyota by surprise.

 

Click here to view the report "The Toyota You Don't Know"