November 18, 2007 | Share
Today Workers Bear the Cross
Crucifixes Made Under Horrific Sweatshop Conditions in China
"Jesus, take pity on me! I'm going to die of exhaustion."
--Chinese worker after 19-hour shift
Sweatshop Crucifixes Sold at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church, and Nationally by the Association for Christian Retail
NLC Response/Update (November 21, 2007)
Crucifixes Made Under Horrific Sweatshop Conditions in China
Linked to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church and
The $4.63 billion Association for Christian Retail
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, double-level 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 2 ½ 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 them 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!
Sweatshop Crucifixes 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 very being 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.
Tracking the Sweatshop Crucifixes:
We purchased crucifixes at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and on the Cathedral's website which appear to match exactly the photographs of crucifixes made at the Junxingye Factory in China, which workers were able to smuggle out of the plant. (Nor are the crucifixes cheap. The crucifix purchased at the Cathedral cost $29.95 while the one purchased from the website cost $27.95.) What was odd though is that neither the crucifixes purchased at Saint Patrick's Cathedral nor the boxes they came in listed the country of origin. We even, very carefully, separated the figure of Christ from the wooden cross, to see if the country of origin was hidden somewhere, but we found nothing. However, one of the boxes had the word "Singer" on it, which turned out to be the Singer Company, based in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan. Singer lists 66 different crucifixes on its website, many exact matches with the crucifixes made in China, but it was the system of serial numbers used by the Singer Company to identify its various crosses that confirmed without a doubt that many of Singer's crucifixes were made under deplorable sweatshop conditions at the Junxingye Factory. These were some of the crucifixes sold at Saint Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity Church. In fact, using a Singer Company production order smuggled out of the factory, we were able to purchase the exact crucifix at both Saint Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity Church, two of the largest New York outlets for Singer crucifixes.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg:
We had stumbled upon the tip of the iceberg. The Singer Company is just one of 2,055 stores and suppliers across the United States that are members of The Association for Christian Retail, which did $4.63 billion in business last year.
Though The Association for Christian Retail says its real mission is, "The spread of God's word" working together to see lives transformed by God through the power of Christian products sold through the unique and caring environment of Christian Stores," it appears that The Association for Christian Retail has decided, en masse, to follow Wal-Mart to China, where it can exploit defenseless workers and pay them pennies an hour to produce their religious goods.
Take the Singer Company, for example, which describes itself as "a dominant player in the religious gift industry." In advertising its religious products, the Singer Company sounds like "Crazy Eddie" or Wal-Mart: "All at the most competitive prices you will find in the industry. Look at our new wall cross and wall crucifix pricing and you will be pleased at our selection and prices. We will not be undersold."
Mark-ups That Would Make Even Nike Blush:
The Christian Art Gifts Company in Lombard, Illinois, makes its 100 percent polyester "Bible Bags" with "cross pullover" in China. The Bible Bags enter the U.S. from China with a total cost of production of just $1.40 each, which the Christian Art Gifts Company then turns around and retails for $17.99, a $16.59—1,185 percent— mark-up over the $1.40 cost to make the Bible Bags.
More Than a Decade Behind Kathie Lee Gifford:
We searched, but could not find, a single reference by Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church, the Singer Company, the Christian Art Gifts Company, or the Association for Christian Retail pledging that their religious products, crucifixes included, would only be made under humane conditions, by workers whose fundamental human rights are respected and who are paid at least a fair wage.
Even the lowest purveyors of cheap sweatshop garments were forced, more than a decade ago, to adopt corporate codes of conduct and factory monitoring schemes—even if just to give lip service—committing to American consumers that any worker, anywhere in the world, who makes their goods would be treated with dignity and their legal rights respected. Evidently, The Association for Christian Retail is more than a decade behind, feeling no need to address respect for even the most fundamental rights of the human beings who make their religious goods.
Something has gone terribly wrong. As things stand now, crucifixes and other religious items are being made in China by young workers who are not only being exploited and paid pennies an hour, but who also have no freedom of religion, no freedom of association, no human or worker rights, and in a country that has no freedom of the press. Following the extension of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, these crucifixes enter the U.S. duty free.
Especially during the Holiday Season, the American people can help draw a line in the sand, refusing to allow crucifixes and other religious items to be turned into just another cheap sweatshop commodity. It does not have to be this way. Certainly, the combined stature, power and prestige of Saint Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity Church can influence the Association for Christian Retail, calling for an end to sweatshop abuses and for concrete steps to guarantee that all religious items are made by workers whose rights and dignity are respected.
The Junxingye Factory in China also produces medallions, pins, key chains and other memorabilia for the University of Michigan, Rutgers, Auburn, Washington, Brigham Young and others, along with medallions carrying the insignias of the U.S. Army and Navy, and the PGA.
"Jesus, take pity on me! I'm going to die of exhaustion."
A worker describes being forced in April 2007 to work a 19-hour shift, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., while making crucifixes for export to the U.S. After just four hours of sleep, the workers were called at 8:00 a.m. that same morning to return to work.
"The products had to be finished by [April] 25th and all of the workers in our department had been working until three o'clock in the morning. We had been working nonstop for just about 16 ½ hours. We were making crucifixes. All the workers were extremely tired and eager to go to sleep. Starting around midnight, everyone was beginning to get hungry as well. But the boss was so stingy that he didn't provide us with snacks to keep us going. We could only sneak out of the factory to buy snacks with our own money, and psyche ourselves up to keep working. At 8:00 a.m. the morning of the 26th, it seemed as if our heads had just hit the pillows before our coworkers began to call for us to get up and get back to work again. The manager arranged for me to load the boxes for shipment. I, along with everybody else, was busy moving things onto the truck. In total, we had close to 300 boxes of crucifixes and other things as well. Everything was so heavy; each box was about 20 kilograms [44 pounds]! We were so tired. My shoulders, legs, and waist went weak. While we were moving the boxes of crucifixes, one of my coworkers suddenly cried out: "Jesus, take pity on me! I'm going to die of exhaustion." This was one of my coworkers, 'X.' He has been at the plant for less than a month. He was short, no more than 1.65 meters [5.4 feet] tall. This job was just too tiring for him. Listening to him also made me feel bad for myself. I am planning to leave this plant. Even if they don't pay me the rest of my wages, I have to go!"
Young women on the assembly line, some appearing to be just 15 or 16 years
old. Workers sit on hard wooden benches without backrests.
Every single labor law in China—including core ILO internationally recognized worker rights standards—are being systematically and grossly violated on a daily basis at the Junxingye factory.
Junxingye Metal and Plastic Products Factory
Chuancha Industrial Zone
Machong Town, Dongguan City
Guangdong Province, China
Workforce: Three hundred to 400 workers, mostly young women, several appearing to be just 15 or 16 years old.
Production: The factory produces many different styles of crosses and crucifixes for export to the United States, along with medallions, badges, lapel pins, coins and key chains for U.S. universities including Michigan and Rutgers, for the U.S. Army and Navy, Nissan, PGA and others.
The Junxingye factory is in a walled compound with security guards manning a locked entrance gate. As a tactic to hold down costs, the factory is organized into different departments, each headed by a "boss" and operating almost as independent contractors.
It appears that the Junxingye Metal and Plastic factory may be owned by the much larger Full Start, Ltd. Company or is, at least, a major contractor of Full Start, which is also based in Dongguan and owns five factories. Full Start also produces crucifixes and university goods.
Extreme Hour Violations
Mandatory overtime: routine 14 to 15 ½ hour shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., seven days a week, with frequent 18 and 19-hour shifts ending at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
Before shipments of crucifixes or university goods have to leave for the U.S. there are 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.
It is common for the young workers to be at the factory over 100 hours a week, forced to work 51 hours of overtime, which exceeds China's legal limit of allowable overtime by 514 percent!
In China, the regular legal workweek is eight hours a day, five days a week, for a total of 40 hours. All work beyond that is considered overtime, which must be voluntary, paid at a premium, and may not under any circumstances exceed three hours a day, nine hours a week or 36 hours a month.
Junxingye management and its U.S. clients completely ignore China's hours laws, in broad daylight and apparently with complete impunity.
The routine shift at the Junxingye factory is 14 to 15 ½ hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., seven days a week.
Routing 14 to 15 ½ Hour Daily Shift
|8:00 a.m. — 12:00 noon||(Work, 4 hours)|
|12:00 noon — 1:30 p.m.||(Lunch, 1 ½ hours)
|1:30 p.m. — 5:30 p.m.||(Work, 4 hours)|
|5:30 p.m. — 6:30 p.m.||(Supper, 1 hour)|
|6:30 p.m. — 10:00 or 11:30 p.m.||(Overtime, 3 ½ to 5 hours)|
Depending upon production needs, there are also frequent mandatory 17, 18 and 19-hour shifts, which keep the workers at the factory to 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
Before shipments of crucifixes and university goods must leave for the U.S., there are mandatory all-night shifts stretching 22 ½ to 25 hours, from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 6:30 or 9:00 a.m. the following morning. Such all-night shifts typically occur on average three or four times a month.
Worker Dorm. Workers wash their clothing by hand and hang it to dry.
The norm is to be forced to work seven days a week, with some departments going for months at a time without a single day off. Under the best case scenario, some workers will be allowed one day, or at very most two days off a month. But this is certainly not the case throughout the factory.
All overtime is strictly mandatory, and workers have no choice but to work overtime every night and on the weekends. Anyone missing even a single overtime shift will be docked a full day's wages as punishment. Overtime is so common every night that when the workers are actually allowed out at 5:30 p.m. and not 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., or later, they refer to this as a "rest day."
As impossible as it may sound, after deductions for room and board, some hourly workers are earning a take-home wage of just nine cents an hour! Of course, this means that workers paid on an hourly basis at Junxingye have no choice but to work excessive amounts of overtime, seven days a week just to survive.
Working every day from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., seven days a week, with an hour-and-a-half break for lunch and another hour for supper, the hourly workers are routinely at the factory 108 ½ hours a week, while actually toiling 91 hours, including 51 hours of mandatory overtime, which exceeds China's legal limit on allowable overtime hours by a stunning 514 percent! Even working these incredible hours, the workers are just barely surviving.
When production orders dip, the "shortest" workweek at the Junxingye factory appears to have the workers at the factory 91 hours while working 75 ½ hours. The weekday shift is 14 hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., while on the weekend, the workers have "rest days," toiling just two 10 ½ hour shifts and getting out "early" at 6:30 p.m.
As mentioned, daily work shifts in the factory are very fluid, depending upon the size of production orders and impending delivery or shipment dates.
A weekly work schedule such as the following would not be uncommon:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 8:00 a.m. — 11:30 p.m. (15 ½ hour shift)
Thursday: 8:00 a.m. — 3:00 a.m. (19-hour shift)
Friday: 8:00 a.m. — 5:30 p.m. (9 ½ hour shift)
Saturday, Sunday 8:00 a.m. — 10:00 p.m. (14-hour shift)
Such a schedule would have the workers at the factory 103 hours a week, while actually working 86 hours, including 46 hours of mandatory overtime, which exceeds China's legal limit by 454 percent.
Any way you look at it, the hours at the Junxingye factory are grueling, exhausting and illegal. One can only imagine how difficult it is for the young women forced to work so many hours on an assembly line, sitting on hard wooden stools, lacking a back rest or even a cushion, while racing to complete their production goal of finishing thousands of operations a day, all for just pennies an hour.
Many workers paid just 26 ½ cents an hour, which drops to a take-home wage of nine cents an hour after mandatory deduction for primitive dorms and food.
Workers routinely cheated of more than half the wages legally due them.
Workers are paid just half the legal minimum wage of 55 cents an hour, which is already set at below subsistence levels.
Workers earning just $2.12 a day and $10.61 a week instead of the legal minimum of $4.37 a day and $21.87 a week.
Workers paid just 42 cents an hour for forced overtime, which is less than half the $0.82 to $1.09 they are legally owed.
Some piece rate workers appear to earn the legal minimum wage, but only if they race to complete their mandatory production goals or remain working for free until they do so. These workers are also paid less than half the overtime wage due them.
At the Junxingye factory, there are two wage systems, one hourly and the other according to piece rate.
Hourly workers, who appear to be the majority in the factory, earn just 26 ½ cents an hour and $10.61 a week, which is slightly less than half (48.5%) of what they are legally owed.
The legal minimum wage in Dongguan City has remained at 690 RMB ($91.51) a month since September 2006, which amounts to 55 cents an hour, $4.37 a day and $21.87 a week.
Legal Minimum Wage in Dongguan
(690 RMB a month)
55 cents an hour
$ 4.37 a day (8 hours)
$ 21.87 a week (40 hours)
$ 91.51 a month
$ 1,098.14 a year
All weekday overtime must be paid at a 50 percent premium, or 82 cents an hour, while weekend overtime must be compensated as double time, $1.09 an hour.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security sets the legal minimum wage of 55 cents an hour based on an average of 20.92 working days each month, after deducting for weekends and the 10 national holidays. (365 days a year — 104 weekend days and 10 national holidays = 251 work days per year; 251 ÷ 12 months = 20.92 days; 690 RMB ÷ 20.92 days = 32.98 RMB/day; 32.98 RMB ÷ 8 hours = 4.12 RMB/hour; 4.12 RMB ÷ 7.54 RMB/$1 = 55 cents. Exchange rate 7.54 RMB = $1.00)
In broad daylight, and apparently with total impunity, Junxingye factory management pays the hourly workers slightly less than half of the legal minimum wage.
Illegal Hourly Wages Paid at Junxingye Factory
(346.67 RMB per Month)
26.5 cents an hour
$ 2.12 a day (8 hours)
$ 10.61 a week (40 hours)
$ 45.98 a month
$ 551.72 a year
Instead of paying the legal 82-cent premium for weekday overtime and a $1.09 rate for weekend work, the Junxingye factory pays a flat 3.2 RMB, or just 42 cents an hour, which is even below the legal minimum wage, let alone the overtime premium.
These serious wage violations are made even worse by the fact that the legal minimum wage is itself set at below subsistence levels. The only way factory workers in China can even half survive on the 55-cent an hour legal minimum wage is by living in primitive company dorms, eating awful factory food, working extraordinary amounts of overtime, often seven days a week, and constantly denying themselves in order to save every single cent to send home to their families. When you cut the legal minimum wage in half, like the Junxingye factory is doing, you are talking about workers trapped in misery. Nor do the primitive dorms and terrible food come cheaply, so the reality is even worse. At the Junxingye factory, management deducts 180 RMB ($23.87) each month from the workers' wages for food, another 50 RMB ($6.63) in dorm fees. This drops the workers' take-home wage to an incredible 9 cents an hour, 74 cents a day, and $3.70 a week!
After Deductions for Room and Board
9 cents an hour
74 cents a day (8 hours)
$3.70 a week (40 hours)
$15.47 a month
It is no wonder then, that the hourly workers report routinely working 13 hours a day, seven days a week and going for months on end without a single day off. It is the only way the workers can survive. Such a schedule—15 ½ hours a day from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., seven days a week—puts the workers at the factory 108 ½ hours a week, while actually toiling 91 hours.
Legally, the workers should have earned at least $70.71 for working a 91-hour week, including 51 hours of overtime, which is hardly a lordly sum of money, given that it averages out to only 78 cents an hour. (For the regular 40 hours, the workers should have earned $21.87, while the 25 hours of weekday overtime should be compensated at $20.50 and the 26 hours of weekend overtime at $28.34, for a total of $70.71.)
Despite routinely working 51 hours of overtime each week, the crucifix workers report earning, at best, 1,000 RMB ($132.63) per month, or just $30.61 per week. They are being paid an average of just 34 cents an hour, which is just 43 percent of what they are owed under China's laws.
The workers paid by piece rate—including those in the Painting department—appear to be earning the legal minimum wage of 55 cents an hour and $21.87 per week. But they only earn this by racing each day to complete their mandatory production goals and often staying extra hours to do so—without pay. Piece rate workers also earn the illegal 3.2 RMB (42 cent) wage for overtime hours.
General consensus in the factory is that when it is fairly busy, the workweek is rarely less than 75 hours. This holds for the piece rate workers as well, who also report earning at most 1,000 RMB ($132.63) a month. In this case, the workers are being paid $30.61 a week, for an average of just 41 cents an hour, despite working 35 hours of overtime. The workers should have earned at least $55.84 for the 75-hour work week, and not the $30.61 they are being paid. This means the workers are being shortchanged of $25.23—or 45 percent of the wages legally due them.
Some departments allow their workers just two days to review their monthly pay stubs before returning them to management. If the workers lose their paystubs, they can be docked a full month's wages. Not a single worker in the factory could decipher how their wages were calculated. All they knew is that they were being cheated.
Housed in Primitive and Filthy Company Dorms
In both the women's and men's dorms, the workers are housed under extremely primitive conditions, sleeping on narrow double-level metal bunk beds that lFine the walls of each room. Workers hang plastic or old sheets over their cubicle opening to provide some privacy. There is no other furniture in the rooms, not a table, chair or cabinet. The rooms are dirty and in complete disarray, as the workers have no place to properly store even their few personal belongings. Each dorm room has two fans.
One young woman worker described her dorm room as follows:
"The dorms are really bad. The rooms are old. They have mud on the floor and no tiles. The walls are dirty. Each room has six beds. Moss grows on the floor in the bathrooms."
Another worker, a man, described his dorm in much the same way:
"The room is dirty and disorderly. There are shoes all over the floor, filling the air with a foul smell. Plastic food bags and cigarette butts are all over the floor. The glass in the door is broken and there is a piece of cloth covering it up. The walls are smudged black and there are spider webs on the ceiling."
Each month, management deducts 50 RMB ($6.63) from the workers' wages for dorm fees.
Company food is also "awful""workers constantly hungry
Workers describe the food served at the factory cafeteria as being both "awful" and "too little." The cafeteria does not supply plates, so the workers must carry their own mess tins, line up and wait their turn as staff scoops food into their tins.
Here how one worker recently described his lunch:
"There were four entrees, two meat dishes and two vegetable dishes. There was also a huge pot of vegetable soup which was served. The two vegetable dishes were stir-fried bean sprouts and gourd. The bean sprouts were not cooked in very much oil. It tasted like eating grass. The thick bean sauce mixed with the gourd was not cooked. It was pretty disgusting. The so-called "meat dishes" had a tiny bit more oil and small meat bits. The meat bits were so small that they were impossible to lift up with the chop sticks. The soup in the pot was really just water. There were a few vegetable leaves floating at the top and a few drops of oil."
For breakfast, the workers receive just one steamed bun, or one fried dough stick, a watery rice gruel and any food left over from dinner two days before. All the workers complain that the food is never enough and by 10:00 a.m. everyone is hungry again.
Whether the workers want to or not—and of course, no one would choose to eat at the factory if they could afford to go elsewhere—it is mandatory to eat in the company cafeteria, as management automatically deducts 180 RMB ($23.87) each month from the workers' wages for board fees. Whether a worker eats in the factory cafeteria or not, it does not matter, as the $23.87 will still be automatically deducted each month.
While descriptions of the workers' primitive dorm conditions and terrible food will no doubt strike most people as horrific and prison-like, the fees deducted each month from the workers' wages for room and board may seem insignificant. So it is important to note that the hourly workers are being paid—of course, illegally—just 26 ½ cents an hour and $10.61 a week. After deductions for room and board, the workers take-home wages actually drop to an unbelievable nine cents an hour, and $3.70 a week! So the workers are in fact paying dearly for the miserable conditions they are forced to endure.
Workers Stripped of their Rights
Illegally, workers have no contract:
From the first day the workers enter the Junxingye factory, they are stripped of their rights and cheated. Management refuses to sign an employment contract with the workers—as is required under Chinese law—leaving them in a sort of limbo, stripped of the legal rights afforded full-time workers with a contract. Without a written contract, workers have no idea what their hours or wages are supposed to be, or even how the wages and benefits are calculated, making it easy for management to routinely cheat the workers.
Without a contract, workers have no security and can easily be fired under any trumped-up pretext. On the other hand, not having a contract makes it almost impossible for the workers to quit. They are in a trap. A worker wishing to leave the factory must first apply for permission to do so from management, and permission is almost never granted. If a worker still goes ahead and quits on her own, as punishment she will be forced to forfeit up to two months' wages—an enormous amount of very hard-earned money for these poor workers. Despite its being illegal, management always withhold one month's back wages from each worker, which of course gives management even more leverage and control over the workers. For example, a worker who enters the factory on September 1 will not receive his first wages until the end of October. (As noted, it is illegal for an employer to withhold a worker's wages for more than 30 days.)
Without a contract, workers are also being cheated of statutory paid holidays, sick days, paid maternity leave, health insurance and so on.
No Sick Days:
Workers have to beg for sick days, which are routinely rejected by management, and even—on the rarest of occasions—when a sick day is granted, it is without pay. (By law, the factory must pay at least 80 percent of the legal minimum wage for sick days.)
Anyone taking a day off without permission—no matter what the emergency—will lose that day and be docked another 50 RMB ($6.63), which is the equivalent of one-and-a-half day's wages.
No Paid National Holidays:
China has four major statutory national holidays: Labor Day (May 1), National Day (October 1), Sping Festival and New Year's Day. By law, all workers must receive New Years Day off with pay. For each of the other three holidays, the workers are to receive three days off with pay. In many factories in China, the workers choose to work on the weekends before and after a holiday, so they can extend their vacations to one full week. The workers refer to these seven days off as the "golden week."
How's this for a "communist" country? For May Day—Workers' Day—management at the Junxingye factory allows just one day off, and without pay! It is the same with all the other holidays.
Illegally, Workers are not inscribed in the National Social Security Program:
By law, management must inscribe its workers in the mandatory national Social Security system, which provides insurance for work injuries, health care, paid maternity leave, a small pension and unemployment compensation. Junxingye management again simply ignores the law, which means that the workers are stripped of their right to health care, which is an enormous problem in China. The workers lack all security, living from day to day, as the pitifully low wage they receive would never allow them to even begin to afford proper medical care.
Workers Handle Dangerous Chemicals and Paints
Workers fear that they may be handling hazardous or toxic chemicals, paints and solvents, but management refuses to provide even the names of the chemicals, let alone their potential health hazards. In the Painting department, workers use a medical syringe to apply the paint on the small items they are working on, which are then placed in an oven to dry. Workers report that fumes from the paints and solvents sting their eyes, and that contact with the chemicals leaves rashes on their skin.
Junxingye Metals & Plastics Factory
Dongguan City, China
Young women on the assembly line, some appearing to be just 15 or 16 years
old. Workers sit on hard wooden benches without backrests.
The factory is in a walled compound with a locked
entrance gate manned by security guards.
Crucifixes and other Religious Items made under Sweatshop Conditions in China
A Member of the Association for Christian Retail
Made in China and entering the U.S. Duty-Free
2-15 Borden Avenue
Long Island City, New York 11101-5893
President: Gerald Singer
Vice President: Mario Singer
Phone: (718) 392-5410
Fax: (718) 784-1757
The Singer Company was founded in 1940 and today is owned by Classic Medallics Inc., which in turn is owned and run by the same Singer family Fashion. Singer/Classic Medallions describe themselves as "a dominant player in the religious gift industry." Singer's website, www.singer-co.com, displays 66 different model crosses, including "Wall Crucifixes," "Sick Call Sets," "Brass Wall Crucifixes," "Christ Wall Crosses," "Fine Pewter Locket Cross Necklaces," "Brass and Wood Wall Crosses" and "Traditional Wall Crucifixes." Singer has over $10 million in annual sales. It appears that most of the Singer/Classic Medallions products are made in China. Singer is a member of the Association for Christian Retail.
Singer states that "all" of its religious products are "at the most competitive prices you will find in the industry. Look at our new Wall Cross and Wall Crucifix pricing and you will be pleased at our selection and prices. We will not be undersold."
Singer/Classic Medallics's Imports from China
"Metal Cross (Ornament)" imported June 12, 2007 from Full Start Company in China.
"Metal Cross" imported March 14, 2007 from the Full Start Ltd Company in China.
"Crib Bless the Baby Crucifix, Silver and Gold Jesus Log Crucifixes, Prayer Color Box" imported March 4, 2007 from the Go R Design Company in Shenzhen, China.
"Religious Articles" imported November 3, 2006 from the Formosan Mercantile Company in China.
"Religious Articles, plastic box calendar" imported July 6, 2006 from the Formosan Mercantile Co. in China.
Singer/Classic Medalions also imports the following products from China: "Wooden base clocks," "plaques," "wooden frames," "plastic parts," "metal wares," "metal key chains," "metal box for jewelry," "mechanical pencils," "paper pads," "beer mugs," etc.
Singer crucifixes made in China enter the U.S. duty-free under the harmonized tariff code #830629.
Is the Singer Company also violating U.S. Customs Law?
United States Customs officials may want to review the Singer Company's practice of not listing the country of origin on the crucifixes it sells in the U.S., many of which the National Labor Committee has been able to track back to abusive manufacturers in China. Neither the Singer crucifixes in Saint Patrick's Cathedral nor those in Trinity Church—Singer's two largest crucifix outlets in New York City—are marked with a country of origin. In contrast, "Celtic Crosses" manufactured in China for the Melhame Company and sold in Saint Patrick's Cathedral are at least marked, "Made in China," both on the cross and the box. The Melhame Company, based in Melville, Long Island, is another member of the Association for Christian Retail that heavily relies on cheap labor in China to make its Christian goods. For example, Melhame outsources the printing of "Catholic Baby's First Bible" and "Catholic Baby's First Bedtime Bible" to the Hung Hing Printing Company in Shenzhen, China, which is a sweatshop: characterized by frequent injuries, young women fainting due to excessive heat, 13-hour shifts and pitifully low wages. (See the joint National Labor Committee/Students and Scholars Against Sweatshops report "Disney's Children's Books Made with the Blood, Sweat and Tears of Young Workers in China," August 18, 2005.)
Production Order for Singer Crucifixes
Smuggled out of the Dongguan Junxingye Metal and Plastic Products Factory in China
The Singer Crucifix (model # SE 04309) was ordered on February 5, 2007. The Christ figure would be made of zinc and tin-lead alloys, with antique bronze electroplating, and nailed directly on the wooden cross. This model of crucifix requires press printing and the "product shall be of high quality. Please pay attention to all aspects of products' quality." On time delivery was also very important to Singer. The following notice was attached to the production order: "All bosses! Please pay attention!!! Punishment for production delay is 500 RMB / day ($66.31) in all departments." Too bad Singer and other Christian retailers do not have the same concern for the human rights of the workers as they do for quality and on-time delivery of their products.
Christian Products Made in China—
Low on Respect for Human Rights But High on Mark-Ups
The Association for Christian Retail
9240 Explorer Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado # 80920
The Association for Christian Retail (formerly called the Christian Booksellers Association—CBA) is a nonprofit trade association (501-C-6) founded nearly 60 years ago, "representing Christian retailers and suppliers around the world." With 2,055 member Christian stores and 4.63 Billion in sales in 2006, the association says their real mission is "The spread of God's word"All our member stores share with CBA a common goal—to succeed in the ministry of Christian retail, working together to see lives transformed by God through the power of Christian products sold through the unique and caring environment of Christian stores." The association provides support to "members looking to increase traffic and sales and profitability in their stores."
The association's Christian stores not only carry crucifixes, Bibles and other books, but also children's products and apparel.
The Association for Christian Retail has the power to demand positive change:
With its $4.63 Billion in sales in 2006, The Association for Christian Retail is larger than some of the best known apparel companies in the U.S., including Levi Strauss & Co. ($4.1 Billion in sales); Tommy Hilfiger Corp. ($1.8 Billion); Gap's Banana Republic ($2.5 Billion); and Ann Taylor Stores Corp. ($2.1 Billion).
The Association for Christian Retail is a real player, with the power—should they choose to exercise it—to immediately demand that workers anywhere in the world making their products be guaranteed their legal rights and fair wages. One would think such a commitment would fit quite well into their stated Christian mission.
Huge Mark-Ups on Religious Goods Produced in China
Consider the Christian Art Gifts, Inc. company in Lombard, Illinois, a member of The Association for Christian Retail, which makes large and medium-sized 100 percent polyester woven "Bible Bags" with "cross pullover" in China. The "Bible Bags" were made in China by the Union Rich Plastic Factory and imported to Christian Art Gifts on March 13, 2007. Shipping records based on U.S. customs documents show the "Bible Bags" arriving in the U.S. with a landed customs value of just $1.40 each. The landed customs value represents the total cost of production—all materials, accessories, direct and indirect labor, profits to the factory in China and even shipping costs. The "Bible Bags," which cost just $1.40 to make, are turned around by the Christian Arts Gifts company and sold on their website for $17.99. This means that the Christian Art Gifts company is marking up the retail price of the "Bible Bags" by a shocking $16.59, which is a 1,185 percent mark-up over the $1.40 total cost of production.
Such mark-ups would cause even profit-crazed Nike to blush.
A second example: On June 1, 2007, the Christian Art Gifts Company imported Highlighter pens(item Pen-172), used for Bible study, from the Ningbo Wuyon Pen Manufacturing Company in Zhejing, China. The total cost to produce the highlighter pens in China was 23 cents each. Once the pen entered the U.S., the Christian Art Gifts Company marked up the retail price by $1.76, selling the pens at $1.99 each, which is another stunning mark-up of 765 percent.
One would think there is enough money here, given the enormous mark-ups, to treat the workers in China with at least a modicum of respect and to pay them fairly.
What you do unto the least of your brothers, you do unto me.
--Jesus Christ, Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 25:40
Working Together with Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church
And the Association for Christian Retail
To End Exploitation of Young Workers in China
Producing Religious Goods Under Abusive Conditions
It Does Not Have To Be This Way
1) The Junxingye factory is just the tip of the iceberg. But Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church and the Association for Christian Retail should work together to clean up the factory and dorms and to work with their contractor to implement concrete changes to guarantee that the legal rights of the workers will finally be respected. The workers should also be paid the back wages and benefits due them. Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church and the Association of Christian Retail should not pull their work from the factory, as that would only further harm the workers, who have already suffered enough.
2) Unfortunately, sweatshop abuses, grueling hours, starvation wages and workers being stripped of their rights will not end until there are enforceable laws in the global economy to protect the fundamental human and worker rights of the young people who produce the goods we purchase. Currently there are enforceable laws, backed up by sanctions, to protect corporate trademarks and products, but no similar laws to protect the rights of the human beings who make the product. This is morally wrong! It would make a world of difference if Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church and the Association of Christian Retail would support legislation currently under consideration in the House and Senate—The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act—which for the first time would hold corporations legally responsible to respect fundamental human and worker rights. The legislation requires corporations to respect local labor laws—including wage and hour regulations—in the countries they produce in, as well as the United Nations/International Labor Organization's internationally recognized worker rights standards, including no child labor or forced labor, and freedom of association.
3) In the interim, as the human rights legislation moves forward, the Association for Christian Retail, with its 2,055 member stores and suppliers should follow the lead of over 130 universities across the United States—among them Notre Dame and Boston College—that have joined the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) to help improve conditions in the more than 2,000 factories around the world that produce licensed college goods. The WRC is the most effective and truly independent non-profit factory verification organization in the United States. The Association for Christian Retail should adopt the WRC's corporate code of conduct and independent monitoring program.
The National Labor Committee, along with our colleagues in the religious, labor and student communities across the country, will work together with Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church and the Association for Christian Retail in any way we can to help improve conditions for the human beings in the global economy who make the religious and other goods we all purchase.
Huge Mark-Ups on Religious Goods
Chinese Company Produces Crucifixes, University of Michigan and other School Medallions, Lapel Pins, Coins and Key Chains for Wal-Mart, the NBA Store as well as ones carrying the insignias of the White House, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corp.
Full Start Ltd. which describes itself as the "leading manufacturer of promotional products from China" has its corporate headquarters in Hou Jie Town in Dongguan City, China. In 2004, Full Start merged with the Shenzhen-based Profit Fine International Co. Ltd., and together they have five production facilities and 2,550 workers in China. Full Start also uses subcontractors.
It would certainly appear that Full Start has a close working relationship with the Junxingye Metal and Plastic Factory, which is also located in Dongguan. Workers were able to smuggle several Full Start Ltd production orders out of the Junxingye factory—one for the University of Michigan, and others for youth soccer leagues, Diamond Cut coasters and others. Junxingye may be one of the five factories in China owned by Full Start, or at the minimum it would be a major subcontractor.
Full Start also has a U.S. office located in Rhode Island.
Full Start, Ltd. U.S.
320 Newport Avenue
East Providence, RI 02916
Vice President: Mark Mercurio
Phone: (401) 431-6464
Fax: (401) 431-5959
Mr. Mercurio can no doubt clarify the exact relationship between Full Start and the Junxingye factory, which is the subject of this report documenting gross sweatshop violations in China.
Full Start definitely has a direct relationship to the Singer/Classic Medallions company, supplying the Association for Christian Retail members with goods made in China. Full Start also supplies the Jeweled Cross Company, another Christian Retail Association member, based in Massachusetts, which sells crosses to Saint Patrick's Cathedral.
Full Start's university connection comes in part through supplying the Team Golf company of Dallas, which is an officially licensed university vendor.
Examples of Full Start orders placed at the Junxingye factory follow, along with photographs of their factories and samples of the products they make.
University of Michigan Medallion
University Pins and Medallions
Produced under Horrific Sweatshop Conditions
at the Junxingye Factory
Pins for Saint Mary's, the U.S. Army and Navy,
PGA, & Golf Clubs across America were also
made under Extreme Sweatshop Conditions
Crucifixes Made under HorrificSweatshop Conditions
At the Junxingye Factory in China
Photos Smuggled Out of the Factory
Crucifixes Purchased At
St. Patrick's Cathedral & Trinity Church
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Singer SE 04 068
St. Patrick's Website
10" Tutone Brass Cross
St. Patrick's Website
Resin Celtic Cross
St. Patrick's Website
CFX Walnut Bev Sal Corp 9"
St. Patrick's Gift Shop