Reports

November, 16 2005 |  Share

Chinese Workers Are Beaten and Hospitalized

 

Chinese Workers Making Furniture For Levitz and Jennifer Are Beaten and Hospitalized

"Chinese Sofa Factory Workers Go on Strike", Associated Press

In October, management at the Italian owned DeCoro factory in the Shenzhen Free Trade Zone in Southern China--the largest sofa manufacturing plant in the world--arbitrarily slashed wages by 20 percent. On October 28, ten workers went to factory management seeking an explanation and to try to reverse the wage cuts. Management responded by confiscating their factory ID cards so they could no longer enter the factory. On October 30, these workers staged a sit-down demonstration in front of the factory. The following day when these 10 workers attempted to enter the plant, they were attacked by five Italian supervisors who punched and kicked the workers. The workers required hospitalization.

One of the workers, Liang Tian, reported: "I was the first one beaten, he pulled me up and punched me hard in my stomach. I was knocked out for a few seconds. He stamped on my face while I was lying on the ground. It was really humiliating."

Li Fangwei, another of the beaten workers confirmed that "they regularly beat Chinese workers. They are like wolves. They are racists and treat us like slaves."

On Tuesday, November 1, in protest, all 3,000 DeCoro workers struck and took to the streets marching from the Free Trade Zone to a nearby highway chanting, "Stop violence, restore justice and protect our human rights!" The march was quickly dispersed at 11:00 a.m. by riot police armed with shields and clubs.

Earlier, the workers explained, "We reported the case to the police when they first beat us. But the police did nothing. We don't trust the authorities anymore. We will protect ourselves."

In September, 80 workers had been fired from the DeCoro factory for refusing to accept similar wage cuts.

No unions are allowed in the Shenzhen Industrial Zone, leaving a management committee solely responsible for all labor affairs.

The workers at the DeCoro factory report working six and seven days a week with no regularly scheduled day off. It is only when they are able to complete Sunday's production quota by Saturday night that they receive a day off. Though highly skilled workers earn $57 to $85 a week--relatively high by China's standards--they illegally have no health insurance, no pension or work-related insurance. Workers are allocated just three disposable respiratory masks per month, despite dust filled air in the foam cutting section and the heavy smell of glue where cloth is wrapped over the shaped foam.

Internal Company Document Links Levitz Furniture Company To the DeCoro plant in China.


 

  The DeCoro plant in China was founded in 1997 by Italian businessman Luca Rici who set out to "revolutionize" the furniture industry by using inexpensive Chinese labor "to manufacture quality Italian leather furniture at previously unachievable prices." (By comparison, the average wage for a production worker in the U.S. furniture industry is $14.24 an hour.) For DeCoro, the cheap wage strategy worked, turning it into "one of the leading leather upholstered furniture producers in the world." The DeCoro website attributes its success in part to its "skilled and dedicated workforce in China to deliver exceptional products...." The DeCoro website does not mention the routine beatings of its workers, but it does note that "systems for accountability are also in place to encourage workers to excel and take pride in every aspect of their work."

In a comparable month one year earlier, in November 2004, the National Labor Committee was able to track more than $3.8 million worth of sofas, ottomans and chairs exported from the DeCoro factory in China to the United States.

  Among the U.S. companies importing furniture from the DeCoro factory in China are: Levitz Furniture Company, Wickes Furniture, Jennifer Convertibles, Z-Gallerie, BEJ Wholesale and others.

 North Carolina is the largest furniture producer in the U.S., followed by Mississippi, California and Tennessee. In North Carolina, there has been a 21 percent decline in furniture employment since 1998. In 2003, 25 furniture plants in North Carolina were either closed or downsized resulting in the loss of 3,955 jobs.

DeCoro Factory in China

DeCoro Industrial (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd.
Li Jing Road
Shenzhen Export Processing Zone
Long Gang District
Shenzhen, China

 

DeCoro U.S. Headquarters

Laurence Crink
Executive Vice President of Sales, North America
DeCoro USA, Ltd.
1403 East Chester Drive
Suite 104
High Port, North Carolina

phone: 336.885.9440
fax: 336.885.1648

Besides the U.S., DeCoro has offices in the United Kingdom, France, Luxembourg, South Africa, Australia, and Israel.

More research will follow, including the DeCoro workers' demands in China and an action strategy to help provide solidarity.

Sources of the research:

  • China Labour Bulletin (www.china-labour.org.hk) "Workers at Italian Sofa Factory Went on Strike as Three Allegedly Beaten by Italian Supervisors" and
  • CLB, "Italian Sofa Maker in Shenzhen Violates China's Labour Law, No OSH"
  • South China Morning Post, November 3, 2005, "Shenzhen Workers Protest at Beatings" by Chow Chung-Yan
  • Associated Press, November 3, 2005, "Chinese Sofa Factory Workers go on Strike" by Elaine Kurtenbach;
  • National Labor Committee Port Import and Export Reporting Service (PIERS) research and U.S. store research.


Summary of Shipments from DeCoro Factory in China To selected U.S. Furniture Retailers November 2004

From:

DeCoro Factory in China to U.S.

Over $2 million worth of imports to the U.S. in a single month. 

To:
Levitz Furniture Company LLC
300 Crossways Park Drive Woodbury, NY 11797

Imported $240,240 of leather sofas, ottomans, and seats for the DeCoro factory in China.

To:
Wickes Furniture
8333 Hermosa Avenue
Rancho Cacamonga, CA 91730

Imported $237,294 of leather sofas, ottomans and seats for the DeCoro factory in China.

To:
Jennifer Covertibles
12060 Cabernet Drive
 Fontana, CA 92337

Imported $69,417 of sofa beds from the DeCoro factory in China.

 
To:
Z-Gallerie
1855 West 139th St.
Gardena, CA 90249-3013

Imported $67,784 of leather sofas, ottomans and seats from the DeCoro factory in China.

Source: Port Import Export Reporting Service (PIERS), November 2004

What follows are example Bill of Lading documents associated with several shipments: