Workers Bear the Cross Introduction
Crucifixes Made Under Horrific Sweatshop Conditions
- At the Junxingye factory in China, the mostly young women—including several 15 and 16-year-olds—making crucifixes are forced to work 14 to 15 ½ hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., seven days a week. There are also frequent 18 and 19-hour shifts ending at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Before shipments of crucifixes must leave for the U.S., there are even mandatory, all-night 22 ½ to 25-hour shifts from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 6:30 or 9:00 a.m. the following morning. Workers are routinely at the factory over 100 hours a week, including being forced to work 51 hours of overtime, which exceeds China’s legal limit by 514 percent. Young women go for months on end without a single day off.
- After being forced to work a 19-hour shift, one worker cried out, “Jesus, take pity on me! I’m going to die of exhaustion.”
- Workers paid just 26 ½ cents an hour, less than half China’s legal minimum wage of 55 cents, which is itself set at below subsistence levels. Workers earning just $2.12 a day and $10.61 a week. After mandatory deductions for primitive company dorms and food, the workers’ take-home wage drops to a shocking nine cents an hour, 74 cents a day and $3.70 a week. Workers toiling 91 hours a week are paid just $30.61, which is only 43 percent of the $70.71 they are legally owed.
- Workers housed in primitive and filthy company dorms, sleeping on narrow, doublelevel bunk beds. Workers drape old sheets or plastic over their cubicles for privacy. There is no other furniture, not a table, chair or bureau. The walls are smudged black, spider webs cling to the ceiling and moss is growing on the bathroom floor.
- Workers describe the company food as “awful.” The soup is a large pot of water with a few vegetable leaves and drops of oil floating on top. In the so-called “meat dish,” the bits of meat are so small that the workers cannot lift them with their chopsticks.
- Workers fear they may be handling toxic chemicals, paints and solvents—whose fumes sting their eyes and skin contact causes rashes— but management refuses to provide even the names of the chemicals, let alone their potential health hazards.
- Illegally, workers are not provided an employment contract, which strips them of the legal rights afforded full time workers under China’s laws. The crucifix workers have no paid sick days, no paid maternity leave, no paid holidays and no health insurance—all of which are mandated under China’s laws. Anyone missing a day will, as punishment, be docked 2½ days’ wages. Every single labor law in China is being grossly violated at the Junxingye factory along with the United Nations/ International Labor Organization’s worker rights standards.
- It appears that the $4.63 billion Association for Christian Retail has decided, en masse, to follow Wal-Mart to China, where they can exploit defenseless workers and pay the pennies an hour to produce their religious goods. The workers in China have no freedom of religion.
- Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church and the Association for Christian Retail—with their 2,055 member stores and suppliers—are ten years behind Kathie Lee Gifford, lacking even rudimentary corporate codes of conduct pledging to the American people that their religious products will be made only under humane conditions by workers whose legal rights are protected and who are fairly paid. Nor do these religious organizations have any factory monitoring program.
- The National Labor Committee is eager to work with Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church and the Association for Christian Retail to guarantee that the human rights of young workers across the world producing religious goods are finally protected.
- As things stand now in the global economy, corporate trademarks and products are protected by enforceable laws backed up by stiff sanctions. But there are no similar laws to protect the rights of the human being who made the product. This is immoral, and it must change!
Made in China
by Charles Kernaghan
First it was toys, then clothing and sneakers, sporting goods, furniture, and now crucifixes. Crucifixes are being made at the Junxingye Factory in Dongguan, China, by mostly young women— several just 15 and 16 years old—forced to work routine 14 to 15 ½-hour shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., seven days a week. There are also frequent 17 to 18 hour shifts ending at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and even monthly all-night 22 ½ to 25-hour shifts before shipments must leave for the U.S. All overtime is mandatory, and anyone missing even a single overtime shift will be docked a full day’s wages. It is common for the workers to be at the factory at least 100 hours a week. Workers are paid just 26 ½ cents an hour, which is half of China’s legal minimum wage (already set at a below-subsistence level) of 55 cents an hour. After fees deducted for room and board, the workers take-home wage can drop to just nine cents an hour. Workers are housed in primitive dorm rooms sleeping on narrow double-level metal bunk beds that line the walls. There is no other furniture, and the rooms reek of perspiration. The walls are filthy, smudged with black, while spider webs cling to the ceiling. The bathrooms are so damp and dirty that moss grows on the floor. Workers describe the soup they are fed as water with a few vegetable leaves and drops of oil floating at the top. Anyone missing a day due to sickness will, as punishment, be docked two-and-a-half day’s wages. Workers fear that they may be handling toxic chemicals, but they are not told the names of the chemicals and paints, let alone their potential health hazards.
Every single labor law in China is being grossly violated in broad daylight, leaving the young workers trapped in an abusive sweatshop, stripped of their rights, voiceless and with nowhere to turn for help.