October Exposé: Coca Cola

Hey guys! Happy October and welcome to another monthly exposé!

This month I am exposing a worldwide fave, a multinational corporation that brings joy and cavities to people of all ages, races etc.

COCA-COLA (CC)

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Can’t lie, I’m not surprised by the content I found regarding their corrupt past and present. However, I am really quite shocked by the extent to which CC has destroyed lives all around the world. Article after article, there’s a lot to take in.

In order to make this a bit more digestible, I’ve summarised everything to the best of my abilty, and provided links if you’re eager to find out more.

Anyways, let’s get straight into it.


Water

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Bottling plants require a large amount of water, 1.9L of water required to make one small bottle of Coca-Cola. This doesn’t even cover all of it, as growing the sugar cane used in their drinks results in an extra 400 litres of water to make a bottle of Cola. 

CC has faced crisis in India, due to their mismanagement of water in the country. It has systemically rinsed villages of their water resources, leaving them with little or toxic water resources. It continues to operate bottling plants in places where the demand for water already exceeds the amount of water available, and proposes new plants in areas where communities already have limited access to safe drinking water. 

However, activists have been taking a stand against Coca Cola. And they’ve succeeded:

Tamil Nadu

In March this year, it was reported that 1m traders in Tamil Nadu, India, were boycotting Coca-Cola and Pepsi drinks after two Indian trade associations called them out for exploiting India’s water resources.

“These foreign companies are using up scarce water resources of the state,” K Mohan, secretary of the Vanigar Sangam, one of the associations supporting the boycott.

Indeed, in January, Tamil Nadu had been declared by officials as ‘drought-hit’, with many villagers suffering as a result.

“[Foreign companies] are exploiting the state’s water bodies to manufacture aerated drinks while farmers were facing severe drought.” Vikram Raja, president of the Vanigar Sangam trade association.

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Kerala

This bold boycott spread to Kerala, where traders also decided to ban the sale of Coca Cola and Pepsi. It was decided that when the boycott was officially approved, sales of beverages and tender coconut produced by locals would be promoted instead. The government was in support of this, and stated it would further restrict the use of groundwater at Palakkad, Kerala.

The region of Plachimada in Palakkad was particularly affected by CC’s activities. A bottling plant was built there in 1999, and CC were permitted to extract up to 1.5mL of water, as well as extract ground water to meet its demands of 3.8L of water for 1L of cola. This led to a decline in the quality of groundwater, with high concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions in the water. The by-product of this was initially sold to villagers as fertiliser However, in 2003, it was found that it contained high levels of toxic metals and the carcinogen cadmium. These problems were extremely problematic to the people living in this region.

“The area’s farming industry has been devastated and jobs, as well as the health of the local people, have been put at risk.”

The reality of the situation can be understood most harrowingly when referring to the account of K Kanniamma, a 70 year old who lived in Plachimada village.

“Before the factory opened here we were dependent on our water requirements on our well. Once the factory opened the water level in the wells started going down. 

Initially, we did not know the reason for it. When we used that water, our eyes and skin had a burning sensation. Only then we realised that our water had been poisoned.”

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70-year-old Kanniamma recounts a time from before the Coca-Cola factory when they had sweet water in their wells

Public anger led to villagers forming the ‘Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy,’ a body fighting for the closure of the factory in Plachimada, in 2002. Awareness camps and torchlight vigils were organised, resulting in several villagers picketing the factory. As a result, Coca-Cola slapped charges against the leaders. 

Listening to the locals, the local self-government organisation (the Perumatty Panchayat) refused to renew CC’s license on account of the exploitation of natural resources thet had affected the public.  However, CC then approached the government’s Local Self-Government Department, who overruled the banning of their licence, and allowed them to continue its operations, as long as it found alternative sources of water supply. Members of the Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy continued to be active and in 2004, the plant in Plachimada was shut. Finally, the 12-year old case reached closure when Coca-Cola gave up its license, stating that it did not intend to resume production from Plachimadia. The activists had succeeded.

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But wait, it gets even better.

In March 2010, a High Power Committee established by the state government of Kerala recommended that CC be fined the equivalent of $48m for damages caused as a result of the company’s bottling operations in Plachimadia. The report stated:

“It is obligatory that they pay the compensation to the affected people for the agricultural losses, health problems, loss of wages, loss of educational opportunities, and the pollution caused to the water resources.”

The report clarified that the compensation suggested did not include damages caused by the reduction in water, and that such damages must be assessed.

The report also agreed that Coca-Cola should be held criminally liable for its  actions in Plachimada.

India’s activists have proved the power of the people. The very fact that they got their governments to stand up against a multinational corporation such as CC is honestly one of the most inspiring things I have ever read.


Sugar Cane

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According to findings from this year,  CC made limited efforts to tackle forced labour risks in their sugarcane supply chain. This includes a high risk of debt bondage imposed on workers in India and human trafficking risks in Guatemala.

For example, CC was unable to provide an example of grievance procedures carried out (procedures where workers could complain about working conditions) when labour abuses were identified. This indicated that workers/suppliers were not properly instructed on complaint procedures. There was also little law enforcement or contracts to protect workers.

Agricultural workers, particularly migrants were most at risk. Indeed, Brazil and India, the two largest sugarcane producers in the world, rely on mostly migrants and rural workers with little education. Workers manually harvest sugarcane under hazardous working conditions, long working hours, and low wages. Lack of language skills and education leave these workers further vulnerable to exploitation and deception over work and wages.

CC was unable to commit to its agreement in 2013 to disclose the names of all its direct sugarcane suppliers within three years. This would enable researchers to conduct extensive research regarding the working conditions under CC’s suppliers.

Israel

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CC has been a staunch supporter of Israel and it’s illegal occupation of Palestine. 

In 2009, CC hosted a special reception at their headquarters to honour General Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who served as Israeli Defence Minister under Ariel Sharon and was in charge of the storming of a refugee camp in 2002, leaving hundreds of Palestinians dead.

Every year, CC financially supports the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Awards which honors companies that have contributed most to the Israeli economy. In 2009, a CC sponsored award went to the lobbying group AIPAC for its lobbying of the American Senate to reject the UN call for immediate ceasefire and support the continuation of the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Most recently, it has been operating in Atarot and Shadmot Mehola illegal settlements. Israel has been building illegal settlements on Palestinian land since 1967, after it illegally occupied Gaza and the West Bank. This inhuman practice violates international law, and continues to destroy Palestinian lives.

In addition, CC has built a bottling plant in Gaza, which is under siege. This is a problem, as Palestinians in Gaza face a chronic shortage of freshwater, and access to water is limited to 6-8 hours for 1-4 days a week for Gazans. Inevitably, this raises questions regarding the amount of water that is left for Gazans after CC has extracted large quantities from the area. There is also concern regarding the factory’s electricity supply, as the only power plant in Gaza is only able to supply 30% of the population in irregular intervals. It has been indicated that Coke will be given preferential access to water and electricity, and will also be allowed the passage of necessary materials, while essential building materials for hospitals are barred. It is clearly not about creating jobs for Palestinians- if CC truly cared, they would call for the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

Moreover, it has been revealed that Coca Cola sent thousands of dollars ($13,850) to Im Tirtzu, an extremist, pro-settlement Israeli group. This group has described the Nakba (literally translates as ‘the catastrophe’- where an estimated 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes and hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages depopulated and destroyed) as ‘rubbish – a collection of tall tales and myths’. They have also launched smear campaigns against Jewish critics of Israeli policy, accusing them of being ‘planted’ by anti-Israel groups for propaganda and spying. 

For more info on Coca-Cola’s history with Israel and Zionism hit up http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-coca-cola.html#f48

Orange groves

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In 2012, an investigation found that thousands of African migrant workers were being exploited in Italian orange groves. Coca-Cola is one of the major buyers of concentrated orange juice in Calabria which it uses for its Fanta brand in Italy. Many of these workers were refugees who had made the journey across the Mediterranean. They were found earning as little as £21 for a days picking in the orange groves, and that many lived in slum conditions in makeshift camps without power or sanitation, and fell prey to gangmasters who in some cases charged a fee for organising their picking shifts. Pietro Molinaro, head of Coldiretti Calabria, the regional branch of Italy’s national farming union, claimed that previous attempts to raise the issue of low prices and its link to poor working conditions with Coca-Cola had not received a response.

"This area is facing a big problem: the price big companies pay for this juice is not fair. All in all they force the small processing plants in the area – those that squeeze oranges and produce concentrate – to underpay for raw materials.”



Human Rights Violations

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Coca-Cola has a very dark past regarding its human rights violations, and the murder of activists.

Coca-Cola is accused by Colombian courts of financing terrorism for their ties with the now disbanded paramilitary group United Self-Defence Forces of Columbia, hiring hitmen from them between 1990 and 2002 to kill at least 10 trade union leaders who were trying to organise at CC plants. The paramilitary group was responsible for a number of massacres, human rights abuses, kidnappings and extortions that resulted in the displacement of thousands of Colombians.

The human rights violations continue. For example, On June 25, 2015 thugs killed retired Coca Cola worker Wilmer Enrique Giraldo. Wilmer had been injured at work, was forced from his job, received death threats, and fled in fear to Medellin.  Luis Enrique Girado Arango, his father, also worked for Coca Cola and also belonged to a trade union. Paramilitaries assassinated Luis Enrique Girado in 1994.

For more info regarding CC and their attempts to silence trade unions and workers’ actively fighting for justice against CC’s exploitative practices around the world, check out http://www.iuf.org/ccww/?q=taxonomy/term/99.

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So there you have it. A whole range of crimes committed by just one corporation, destroying lives across the world. It is pretty dire stuff, but we must not and cannot respond with despondence. We must utilise our anger and sadness with ACTION, and I don’t mean going around breaking shit, I mean making sure you CALL COCA COLA OUT. Multinational corporations are dependent on consumer approval, so to let them know that you, as a regular consumer, are disgusted by their actions- this can have a HUGE impact. 

Below are the contact deets you can use to message them and ask them what they’re doing to ensure the safety and security of their workers and those affected by their actions.

Twitter: @CocaCola

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cocacolaGB/?brand_redir=40796308305

Insta: @cocacola

Contact form: https://contactform.coca-cola.co.uk

Phone Number: 020 8237 3000

Catch you for the next exposé and remember BUN COCA COLA 2K17 XXXXX

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September Exposé: Louis Vuitton

Hey guys! Another exposé and this time it’s slightly different.

Generally, there is a wide assumption that, due to the hugely excessive price tags luxury brands place on their products, more money is invested in fair wages, safe work conditions, ethically sourced materials etc.

NAH B.

This month, I’m going to prove that this is not the case, by exposing a rather well known luxury brand…

LOUIS VUITTON

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We see our faves wearing their attire, the A list models stunting on the catwalk in all LV everything, their over the top blockbuster-esque adverts that make me think wow is it really that deep. But don’t be fooled by the glitz and glam of it all. 

From torturing animals, to poor working conditions, to refusing to disclose any information regarding their supply chain, its time we digged a lil deeper into why we need to be wary of luxury brands such as this one.

P.S. I really struggled to get the line ‘Louis Vuitton under her underarm’ out of my head during this whole process #pray4yisha



ANIMAL CRUELTY

Firstly, I disagree with the murder of animals for the sake of fashion. It literally makes no sense to me, is messed up, and cannot be justified. 

Obviously then, I was absolutely horrified when I read and watched the extent of the torture animals are enduring to provide the materials LV use for their products. I’ve linked the videos, but be warned, they are extremely graphic and hard to watch.

Rabbit farms

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In 2014, the animal welfare campaigning group Last Chance for Animals released research they had been conducting for two years on 70 rabbit farms in Spain, from which high end brands including LV had sourced from. Rabbits were found confined to tiny cages with unstable flooring for their entire two year lives and workers were found “callously bashing sick rabbits to death.” The crippled, diseased and severely wounded rabbits were left to suffer with no medical treatment. Sometimes farmers strangled baby rabbits and left them to die. Honestly, the video is absolutely heartbreaking, I literally cannot understand how such behaviour can be normalised and practiced so carelessly. https://vimeo.com/105515629

Crocodile farms: 

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(I actually made the decision to make a post on LV after reading about this particular case in Tansy Hoskins’ ‘The Anticapitalist Book of Fashion’- a great book!)

Earlier this year, PETA bought a stake in Louis Vuitton’s owner LVMH, to pressure them to stop using crocodile skin, and giving them the right to attend shareholder meetings and question the board. 

This comes after an investigation in crocodile farms in Vietnam, where tens of thousands of them are raised and killed to make ‘luxury’ leather bags. They found crocodiles living in crammed filthy pits, hacked apart and left to die. Workers electroshocked crocodiles then attempted to kill them by cutting into their necks and ramming metal rods down their spines. The animals shake vigorously when this happens, and can still be alive after having been cut open and left to bleed out. Indeed, experts have found that crocodiles remain conscious for over an hour after their spinal cord has been severed and their blood vessels cut. Can you imagine that kind of pain!? The investigators also witnessed the skin being cut off crocodiles, observing one crocodile that continued to move after being skinned, clearly still alive.  In just one farm, 1,500 crocodiles were slaughtered every three months. About 5,000 were kept in concrete enclosures, some narrower than the length of their bodies, and kept in these conditions for 15 months before being killed. https://investigations.peta.org/vietnam-crocodile-skin-farm/

POOR WORKING CONDITIONS IN ITALY

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Researchers have found poor working conditions among workers producing shoes for big brands, including Louis Vuitton, in Italy. For example, while a family requires at least €1600 to afford a decent standard of living, workers at entry level were found receiving wages that wouldn’t go any higher than €1200, with home workers receiving just €850. The illegal industry is also growing, with subcontracting firms secretly hiring workers at lower prices, and workers receiving contracts requiring them to work excessive hours, or work on day rates which severely cut their wages. This move towards insecure and flexible labour and thus the overall reduction of social protection is the result of Italy competing with countries such as Bangladesh to provide cheap labour to brands.

POTENTIAL RIGHTS ABUSES IN BANGLADESH

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In Bangladesh, two mobile telephone systems have been set up, allowing garment workers to anonymously report signs of human trafficking, delayed wages and child labour. From Jan-June 2016, there were responses from 85 factories (about 3% of sector), and Louis Vuitton was found to be among many brands who sourced from these factories. Altogether, 5200 workers dialled into the system, reporting at least 500 incidents of child labour. The data found that 20% of the sample were at an elevated or high risk of child labour, while 60% were at an elevated or high risk of fire safety violations.

In particular, one article has reported on workers toiling in leather tanneries in Bangladesh, which provide the leather used to make products for brands including Louis Vuitton. Those working in these tanneries in Bangladesh take high health risks and frequently fall ill, due to the chemicals they are required to use without protective equipment and the laborious tasks required of them. Workers are found suffering from chronic skin diseases, respiratory illnesses and gastric problems, however continue to work in these conditions, due to their desperate financial situation. There is also concerns regarding the number of young people found working in these tanneries, including a 13 year old who was found working 10-hour days.

“Every month I am ill. Any time I can get sick because this environment is so bad, but I don’t have any other employment options.” Mohammed Belal- a 30 year old tannery worker who has worked in leather tanneries since he was 10, he suffers from gastric problems and headaches


HIDING THEIR ABUSE

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You may notice that this exposé is shorter than previous ones. That’s because Louis Vuitton is hiding pretty much EVERYTHING. They refuse to disclose information regarding their supplies, their main production countries, nor do they disclose the names and addresses of their supplier factories. Indeed, Louis Vuitton and many other luxury brands are rated very low in terms of transparency, at just 15%.  This allows them to get away with much more than is probably mentioned in this post. We are even told to assume the worst, considering there is literally no information on their website regarding sourcing or labour standards policies.

In fact, this was highlighted in an attempted investigation by The Guardian. They found that many of LV’s shoes that were stamped as ‘Made in Italy’ were actually made in Transylvania, in secret, hidden factories. Management apparently make great efforts to avoid LV factories turning up on a Google Search. The factory they attempted to investigate had no mention of LV, just a shadow of the Louis Vuitton checkerboard print on the factory walls. 

While these shoes were made in Transylvania, they were ‘finished’ in France and Italy (soles are added). This is because, according to European parliament laws,  the country of origin for a product is the one where the items underwent “the last, substantial, economically justified processing”.This means that, by having the soles added in Italy or France, LV can have that prestige ‘made in Italy/France’ title on their products, while exploiting the low-wage labour in Romania, where a worker’s earnings for six months is equal to a single pair of mid-priced Louis Vuitton leather court shoes (idk what they are either).

As the Guardian researchers came across a big glass window overlooking the factory floor, with hundreds of workers inside, they were quickly ushered away from the glass and the factory visit was then abruptly ended.


So there you go. It’s important to note that most of these criticisms apply to the majority of luxury brands, so please don’t exempt them from criticism because they are equally as clapped.

 What pisses me off the most about these luxury brands is that they continue to exploit workers and torture animals, while being held in high esteem by society and the media, as though to possess anything by these criminals, or be associated with them in anyway is a sign that you have ‘made it’ or have safely secured a spot in the upper echelons of life. There is nothing prestige or distinguished about skinning crocodiles alive or hiding your workers so no one knows about the abuses you’re committing just for you to become one of the most profitable brands in the world.

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Once again, we need to get our voices heard and call them out on their bullshit. Below are ways in which you can contact Louis Vuitton and let them know we are fully aware of their corruption.

Twitter: @LouisVuitton_UK @LouisVuitton

https://www.lvmh.com/contact/

Insta: @lmvh


Sources:

https://www.fashionunited.com/fashion-news/fashion/fashion-labels-deny-sourcing-from-horror-fur-farms-in-spain-20141709497081

https://investigations.peta.org/vietnam-crocodile-skin-farm/

http://www.triplepundit.com/2016/10/early-warning-systems-reveals-child-labor-bangladeshs-garment-industry/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/17/revealed-the-romanian-site-where-louis-vuitton-makes-its-italian-shoes

https://issuu.com/fashionrevolution/docs/fr_fashiontransparencyindex2017

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/peta-buys-louis-vuitton-fashion-moet-hennessey-shares-stocks-lvmh-crocodile-skin-products-exotic-a7525631.html

https://cleanclothes.org/news/2015/01/23/italian-factory-conditions-deteriorate

http://www.ucanews.com/news/the-extremely-unhealthy-life-of-the-bangladesh-tannery-worker/70421

August Exposé: ASOS

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Hey guys! Yet another exposé on one of biggest brands that you know and love outcheaa.

I wasn’t actually aware of how deep the
situation was with this month’s brand until it was mentioned in a recent
Dispatches series that came out regarding their workers’ conditions. Only
difference was, many of the workers exploited by this company reside here in
the UK.

I’m talking about the one and only…..ASOS!

ASOS is an online shopping site that describes itself as a brand dedicated to ’20-somethings’, offering
‘cutting-edge’ fashion, and selling over 8,000 branded and own-branded
products. They have pretty big dreams for their brand, with their founder Nick Robertson stating he wants the company to become the ‘Amazon’ of fashion.

Tbh they’re doing pretty well financially. In the last four months, their retail
sales have gone up 32%, and last year revenue grew by 26%, with sales of
£1,403.7m.

According to Forbes, they currently
have an enterprise value (total value) of $6.1bn.

Bruh.

However, as always, their fortune is dependent on the abuse and exploitation of their workers. Here’s what we found.



Abusive working conditions in their
warehouse

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All the operations of ASOS take place in a warehouse in South Yorkshire.
Buzzfeed (yes I know BF can be weird af but this is actually a crucial study
they did) conducted an investigation at the warehouse and
revealed the harsh conditions workers endure.

High Targets

  • Workers are required to meet very high targets set by management, and many struggle to hit their expected hourly performance. For example, pickers must collect 160 items an hour in to meet orders. 
  • Workers are unable to, and often discouraged from, taking toilet and water breaks.
  • Workers have handscanners attached to them, allowing management to track
    their working speed. A Tannoy system is used to call out those who are falling
    behind.

“If you cannot do the target, they come to you every hour and say you have
to improve it or you will get a performance management meeting with HR.”

“You are literally treated like a machine.”

Arbitrary Firing of Workers

  • Workers have had their contracts ended following illness or time taken off
    to care for sick relatives. 
  • One former worker claimed they collapsed at work
    and were taken to hospital, only to return home to a letter informing them
    their contract had been terminated due to four days of absence. 
  • Another worker
    took a day off to care for their mother who had had an emergency surgery, and
    was told by their team leader that taking time off was ‘ridiculous’.
  • Research for Dispatches also found that ASOS workers would be offered permanent jobs after completing 12 weeks, but were laid off before completion of this period.

Wages

  • ASOS runs reactively e.g. if sales have slowed, they will use promotions and
    flash sales to encourage customers to buy. Because these promotions are
    launched at short notice, demand can be unpredictable. Therefore, ASOS relies
    on their staff to be flexible
  • ASOS uses a ‘flex’ system that requires workers to
    be available to work or stand down from a shift at short notice every other
    week to help the company cope with fluctuations in sales volumes. 
  • As a result,
    shifts are regularly cancelled at short notice. In some cases, people are given
    only 3 hours notice that they are going to work longer, or are told they are
    not needed despite having travelled to work.
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  • Due to this system, many people are owed hours. One worker was owed 100
    hours.
  • Labour MP Owen Smith called the flex system ‘one of the worse forms of
    zero-hours arrangements’ he had come across.
  • Research by the Channel 4 Dispatches team found workers being paid  as low as £3.08 an hour before expenses. Workers were often
    hired as apprentices, so they could be paid less. 

Strict rules

  • Staff are
    prohibited from having cosmetics, jewellery, watches, and electronic devices
    including mobile phones on them at any time during a shift. One staff notice
    explains ‘If you are found to be entering the warehouse with any of these items
    your assignment will be TERMINATED’.
  • Workers were docked 15 minutes pay for clocking in one minute late, or even
    on the hour, despite the long queues for workers to enter and exit due to
    security checks. Buzzfeed calculated that a deduction on their standard hourly
    wage of £7.45 per hour, means workers could be paid less than minimum wage, £5.59 for
    59 minutes of work.
  • Typically, dismissal follows a verbal warning, a first written warning, and
    a final written warning, but agency workers said they could be dismissed without
    notice, following just a verbal warning.
  • Due to issues with theft, staff are subjected to extensive security
    precautions. There are random searches during shifts, when visiting bathrooms,
    and on entering and exiting buildings. Workers are also subjected to
    Breathalyser tests after injuries, including one worker who was required to
    take tests after a cut to the finger. 
  • One worker was suspended after she
    refused to let security guards search her car until she had finished eating
    lunch.

“We are all being treated like
thieves, from the start and all the time.”

The Use of Viscose

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  • Viscose is a popular man-made fibre used by fast fashion companies. It is produced
    using a highly chemical-intensive process that is having disastrous
    environmental and human health impacts
  • Viscose is commonly manufactured in Asia. In a recent study looking into
    viscose manufacturing plants in Indonesia, China and India, manufacturers were
    found dumping untreated wastewater, which contaminated local lakes and
    waterways. This has led to severe health issues, including a growing incidence
    of cancer, with villagers no longer drinking from the well water, fearing for their
    health. 
  • In one lake, the water had turned black, killing fish and shrimps, and
    stunting crop growth. 
  • The factories have also destroyed many traditional
    livelihoods, particularly affecting local fishermen.
  • ASOS was found to be sourcing from two polluting companies in Indonesia and
    India.

“The water from the wells was never this sour,
the government came and marked the hand
pumps red and asked us not to drink from
them. But what do we do for water? Now just
one well supplies water to the whole village.”


Refugee Exploitation

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  • Many clothes sold in Britain are now made in Turkey because the
    country is close to Europe and is used to dealing with orders speedily. 
  • A recent BBC Panorama investigation found garment factories in Turkey exploiting Syrian refugees. 
  • Most of them didn’t have work permits and were working illegally. Many were earning little more than a pound an hour, and in terrible working
    conditions, knowing they were being exploited but couldn’t do anything about
    it.
  • In one back-street workshop, Syrian children were found working. Here, they
    disovered an ASOS sample in the office. 

    ASOS accepted its clothes were made in the factory (they found 11 Syrian adults and three under 16 year olds working doing the same work as the adults) but said it was not an approved factory. 

  • One
    of the refugees told Panorama they were poorly treated at the factory. He said:

 “If anything happens to a Syrian, they will throw him away like a piece of
cloth.”


So there you have it. ASOS really isn’t all that its making itself out to be. As the target audience, it is crucial that young people like us speak out against ASOS and their human rights abuses. Make sure you get in contact with them, and tell them to fix themselves. Next day deliveries, promotional sales, and fast access to the latest fashion trends seem like reasonable offers, but they are only made possible through the mental and physical torture of workers to meet our demands.

Check the contact deets below:

Twitter: @ASOS

Insta: @ASOS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ASOS

Chat line: http://www.asos.com/customer-service/customer-care/help/?help=/app/home 

Number: 

020 7756 1000

Change won’t happen unless we demand it. 

BUN ASOS.

July Exposé: Nike Inc

Another month, another exposé.

This month I’m highlighting the reality behind one of the most iconic brands in the world. The majority of us possess something with that glorious tick on it, and I’m sure many of you, like me, get overly gassed about their trainers. I even try to avoid overwearing my hightops (luckily found in a charity shop) just because I fear ruining their pengness.

At the same time, it is crucial that we understand the cost that comes with our consumption of their branded products, and the suffering that comes with it. Many will turn a blind eye, but how can we when we are unwillingly complicit in the situation?? 

This is exactly why we need to be aware, why we need to call out Nike, and why we need to keep the voices of workers loud and clear. As Nike continues to  shroud their voices with a glamorous mask consisting of million dollar ads, embarrassing attempts to pander to certain demographics to show they care (yes I’m @’ing their Nike hijab #cringe), and using A list stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Bella Hadid to promote their goods, they are attempting to make us forget our humanity, our basic morals, our belief in basic human rights, and to ‘Just Do It.’

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Nike Inc is an American multinational corporation designing, creating, and selling footwear, clothing, equipment, accessories and services. It is one of the world’s largest suppliers of athletes shoes and apparel. In fact, just last year, their revenue totalled $32,376,000, with a gross profit of nearly $15m. 

In the ‘90s, Nike underwent harsh criticism after exploitative, sweatshop conditions were discovered in their factories. Ever since, Nike has strived to recover their positive image. Indeed, they were the first company to disclose the contracted factories they used, and according to one of its reports, 86% of it’s factories meet basic standards. Their efforts have succeeded, with many hailing Nike for having led the way for transparency.

However, recent research  indicates this is not the case, and that their insane profits come at the expense of worker’s rights and dignity, particularly for the large percentage of women working for them. 

Check out some of the most recent findings exposing Nike for its crimes against humanity. 


Mass Fainting in Cambodia

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Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/mass-fainting-cambodia-factories-brings-countrys-textile-industry-under-scrutiny-1994128

Last month, a report showed that over the past year, more than 500 workers in factories supplying Nike were hospitalised due to ‘mass faintings.’ This is a common phenomena in Cambodia, where a large number of garment workers faint simultaneously. The most serious episode involved 360 workers collapsing over three days. The women collapsing were working 10 hour days, six days a week, and reported feeling exhausted and hungry, while temperatures reached as high as 37C. In one episode, 28 people collapsed while rushing to escape a fire. None of these factories were paying living wage. 

Another issue in these factories included the fact that workers were only given short-term contracts, which would only be renewed if workers agreed to working overtime. This only added to the exhaustion of workers.

Working Conditions in Factories in Vietnam


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Source: http://theothersideofnike.weebly.com

(These are all findings from 2016)


Living Conditions: Women were found living in squalid conditions near the factories, where they mostly shared single rooms with 2-5 family members.


Wages: Pay is so low workers are unable to meet their basic needs. Four of the workers had been laid off after their factory burned down, so were particularly struggling. The Worker’s Rights Consortium found that the living wage for garment workers here is three times the current minimum wage.

According to managers, Nike’s prices hadn’t kept up with the factories’ rising costs in materials and wages. Indeed, where the price Nike paid for clothes increased by just 2.5%, there was an average 9% increase in wages- putting a strain on the manufacturers.

“Workers still have nothing in Vietnam…Our lives are very difficult.”


Punishments: Arbitrary punishments from factory managers include: Financial penalties and threats of dismissal for making mistakes, not working fast enough, sitting down and lateness. Workers were also intimidated and frequently humiliated by managers. Managers would shout at them, hurl insults or swear at them, or threaten to fire them if they complained about work pressure or low pay. Workers in one factory reported seeing managers throwing shoes at workers, and one witnessed a manager grab the nose of a worker and threaten to slap her if she filed a complaint. The same worker also claimed her manager had called her a “di cho,” the equivalent to bitch or whore. Other workers have also spoken of vulgar names being aimed at female workers.

Ridiculous work rules include a ban on yawning, wearing headphones and having a snack on the factory floor. Workers would be harassed for having a toilet break, including being photographed when they entered and exit the bathroom.

“They’re just so mean,” she said. “‘You’re an adult, make people respect you!’”


Lack of Child Care Provisions: Mothers are having to choose between sending their children to unlicensed child care services considered under qualified or dangerous, or leaving them with family in home villages they could visit only once or twice a year. One mother’s child was poorly, so was sent to live with her family, as she couldn’t afford the hospital visits. During the next two years she only saw her daughter once, “I missed her so much. I cried every night and felt very guilty, but what was I supposed to do?” She brought her back after 2 years but had to leave her in an unlicensed daycare centre for 2/3 of her salary. “I was very worried, because I often hear stories of how they slap children and shout at them.” Her aunt’s 14-month old baby child had choked to death at one of these places.


Inability to mobilise: One worker explained the difficulty with complaining about working conditions: “We have voices, but we can’t really speak.” 

The response to complaints was to “make your life harder and try to make you quiet,” and workers also explained that they felt constantly watched by company cameras, which they believed was to deter workers from stealing or organising protests/strikes.

At Hansae factory, the head of the union is the factory’s top human resources manager. This makes it difficult to engage in any discussions with management. As one worker put it : “Any wage negotiation at Hansae would, quite literally, involve management negotiating with itself.”


Audits: During inspections, workers had never been asked by an inspector, whose visits are usually announced ahead of time to workers, how they liked their job.

“They only care about the quality, they never ask us anything.”


Discrimination against pregnant women: When workers are pregnant, they are required to work less hours. However, their targets aren’t lowered and remain the same, meaning they must work extra hard to complete their quotas.

“When you’re pregnant, you only have to work seven hours a day,” she explained, “but they didn’t lower my daily quota, so I have to work extra hard and this is very tough.”  

One pregnant worker received a small hazardous work bonus for working in the gluing section, but feared that the chemicals would have a negative effect on her unborn baby.

Some pregnant workers have been fired when it was discovered they were pregnant.

In November 2015, it was found that a supplier for Nike, Puma, Columbia, and Adidas had been laying off dozens of pregnant women. When these brands were informed, Columbia, Puma, and Adidas said they would ask the factory to stop their actions, while Nike made no such commitment.

image

Source: https://nikesweatshops.org/2017/03/03/just-cut-it-national-campaign-video/

Working conditions: One factory failed to maintain required temperature levels, resulting in workers routinely collapsing unconscious due to overworking and excessive heat. They were then forced to return to work minutes after waking up. Forced overtime, as well as denial of sick leave and toilet breaks was also found, along with exposure to hazardous solvents. One worker was forced to work overtime despite having a funeral to attend.


Working Conditions in Indonesia

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Source: http://www.modbee.com/living/article18774009.html

Working conditions in Indonesia are very similar to those in Vietnam.

High targets: Workers are expected to fulfil extremely high targets and are punished if they are unable to do so. They are given an hour break each day but conditions prevent these breaks from being a period of rest. For example, in one factory each building had only one restroom, with 15 stalls for 850 women, so much of the break was spent waiting in the queue.


“I work in the sewing section, and I’m expected to process 100 shoes per hour. If we don’t meet our quotas, we just get yelled at. Before, they’d be using hands, everything. But now, we just get yelled at. And then the quotas are piled into the next day.”

Waste: Burn piles are found scattered around factories. These are piles of scrap materials from garment factories that are piled up and set on fire. Sections of shoes are found littered everywhere.

Poor meals: Workers are given one meal a day that, despite no longer having maggots in them, smell bad so they hardly eat it. 

Health + Safety: Other than fire training, no other safety training takes place.

“Because I work in the sewing section, my biggest risk is to get my hands cut by the needle, and there’s no instruction on how to avoid an accident.”

Long hours: Factory shifts are supposed to be 10 hours, five days a week, then five hours on the sixth day, but workers were routinely not paid for additional hours. When workers filed for the salary they were owed, they were asked by management to only take a bit, as otherwise the factory would be moved to another country (an example of the pressure factories face to please corporations, and the constant fear of losing work to places where wages are lower).

Nike Denies Monitoring Organisations Access to Factories

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Source: http://www.civicaction.center/action/thunderclap-end-nikesweatshops

in 2015, the Worker’s Rights Consortium (WRC; the world’s premier anti-sweatshop monitoring organisation) sought access to the Vietnamese factory Hansae. However, the WRC were denied access for 9 months. In 2016, the WRC decided to report on the working conditions in Hansae using offsite interviews with workers instead, revealing some horrific findings mentioned above. These findings had been missed by the Fair Labour Association, a self-monitoring organisation funded by Nike, which was meant to inspect Nike’s factories. Two months after this, Nike responded by allowing them access to the factory.

Although they were granted permission , they were then continually refused future access for investigations in other factories. After the sweatshop scandal in the 90s, universities in America now require Nike to be monitored for its working conditions. However, Nike is the only University of Washington-licensed apparel brand to block factory investigations by one of the university’s affiliated monitoring organisaitons, and is the only collegiate apparel brand that refuses to sign onto anti-sweatshop standards, which require it to allow the WRC or another organisation into their factories.

Nike says it can’t control who inspects a supplier’s factory, and that it wouldn’t normally assist an outside group like the WRC. “These are not our factories to control,” But this just shows that Nike do not want to be accountable to an independent investigative body, and want to police themselves.



Ability to Organise Denied

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Source: http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2013/07/04/surviving-as-a-garment-worker/

Cambodia

In 2013, garment workers in Cambodia striked for increased wages, which led to the sacking of 415 workers identified by management as participating in the strike. Arrest warrants were issued for 16 people: eight were jailed, while the others were in hiding. Management forced workers to give their fingerprints and continued to intimidate and dismiss those supporting the strike and calling for the release of the eight imprisoned trade unionists.

During the strike workers were dispersed by over 1000 riot police with stun batons on numerous occasions. over 30 workers were injured including 2 pregnant women who lost their babies when they were epushed to the ground by police.

on one occasion, at least 23 Cambodian workers were injured among the 3000 mostly female workers protesting.

“There was a pregnant woman among them. She lost blood and then she lost the baby.”

image

Indonesia

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Source: http://www.popsspot.com/2014/05/jim-keady-deported-banned-indonesia-nike-protest/

In 2013, workers in factories supplying Nike protested for higher wages, resulting in authorities raising the minimum wage. But an investigation found that at least six Nike suppliers resisted implementing the pay rise. At one factory, high-ranking members of the military accompanied managers as they pressured mainly female employees to sign a document stating they were willing to go without a pay rise.

“We got summoned by military personnel that the company had hired to interrogate us and they intimidated us.”

Factory managers also asked trade union officials to sign what they thought was an attendance sheet, but it was attached to a document stating that they supported the company’s request. 

Under Indonesian law, factories can apply to be excused from paying the minimum wage if they could demonstrate it would our them financially, and that their workers back this position. All but one of the 7/8 Nike suppliers were seeking exemption.

Money Invested in Sponsors vs Money Invested in Workers

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Football championships are an opportunity for the main sportswear brands (Nike, Adidas and Puma) to release new marketing campaigns. These often have extremely high budgets. For example, Nike’s last World Cup campaign cost an estimated 68m dollars! Deals among the 10 biggest teams with brands rose from €262 to more than €405m since 2013. In addition, annual contracts with Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba reached sums of between €35-€40m in 2015.

For each shoe model, the brands set their desired retail price and profit margin, and from there calculate the maximum production cost for the item. From this, they determine how much workers are to be paid.

Each year, there are significant changes in the list of partner factories, due to brands moving from one country to another seeking cheaper labour, in order to increase their profit margins. Indeed, Nike are massively shifting their sourcing from China, where wages have significantly increased, to places where workers are paid less and worker conditions are less regulated, such as Myanmar, allowing significant labour cost savings.

So how much do you reckon ends up going to workers? Clue: not a lot.

In 2015, 2% of the retail price of footwear went to workers’ wages, compared with 1% of consumer or professional jerseys. For one Euro 2016 jersey, workers received less than €0.65, while the jersey was sold for about €85.

As one worker in Indonesia put it:

“Nike is a big brand. They can have (soccer great Cristiano) Ronaldo and Tiger Woods as their ambassadors. For me, a decade of working for them isn’t even one of their contracts. Of course it needs to be improved.”

This is also extremely ironic, given the huge investment in the ‘Girl Effect’, an organisation run by Nike, that works to end poverty globally, by giving girls and women the opportunity to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. 

Don’t push out such ideas if you aren’t even willing to empower your OWN workers by paying them a decent living wage. THAT is how you get people out of poverty. 

In fact, paying a living wage would only mean a few dozen cents more added to the final price. But with these savings, sportswear brands are able to invest in their lavish marketing. The Clean Clothes Campaign found that the ndorsement costs of the 10 largest European football clubs since 2013 would have been sufficient to pay living wages to 165,000 workers in Vietnam and 110,000 workers in Indonesia. ‘Low wages result not from a lack of means, but from a global business model that should be reexamined.’

Pricks.


So now you know the situation, what can we do?

1) Raise awareness: share this, or anything you feel will be valuable to let people know what is going down. We cannot add to the silence that is being subjected upon workers. It isn’t right. So please, tell your friends, your family, your ex etc, let them know what is happening.

2) Call out Nike: Every time you buy something from Nike, or browse on their website, why not take a couple of minutes out of your time to tweet them, email them etc, and ask what they’re doing to improve workers’ rights? It won’t take long, and if more of us do it, they will realise that the masses are ‘woke’ and aren’t blinded by their bullshit (sorry for my language).

3) Get Involved: There are awesome activists doing big tings out here, especially American university students, who are relentlessly calling out Nike and protesting against any contracts their uni has with Nike. Do check out the United Students Against Sweatshops, and all the work they do- they’re sick. They are also holding a Global Call to Action Against Nike on July 25th, in response to the continuation of exploitation in their chain. find out more here 

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Source: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912blaskeygasper.html

References and other sources:

http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/nke/financials?query=income-statement

Mass fainting in Cambodia: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/25/female-cambodian-garment-workers-mass-fainting

Vietnam:

http://workersrights.org/freports/WRC%20Assessment%20re%20Hansae%20Vietnam%2012.6.16.pdf

http://www.dailyuw.com/opinion/article_1e37e88c-466a-11e7-acc9-1335389353eb.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nike-labor-rights-vietnam_us_56d893f2e4b0000de403b7d0

http://www.kgw.com/money/business/reports-find-wage-theft-verbal-abuse-forced-overtime-at-nike-contract-factory/369560869

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_grind/2016/08/nike_s_supply_chain_doesn_t_live_up_to_the_ideals_of_its_girl_effect_campaign.html

Indonesia:

http://www.modbee.com/living/article18774009.html

Denied Rights:

http://news.sky.com/story/cambodia-workers-hurt-at-nike-pay-protest-10444589

http://www.industriall-union.org/415-cambodian-nike-workers-sacked-for-striking

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/nike-supplier-resisting-pay-rises-in-indonesia-8452946.html

Workers wages vs Endorsements

https://cleanclothes.org/news/2016/07/06/nike-adidas-and-pumas-workers-earn-poverty-wages-to-pay-for-european-championship-endorsements

June Exposé: WALT DISNEY

Hey guys!

Another month, another insight into the criminal activities relentlessly conducted by our most-loved companies! This Month we might break a few hearts with this one, so I apologise in advance for this.

At the same time, it is crucial that we know what the companies that we love are complicit in, and should feel evermore compelled to make ourselves, and others, aware of what is happening.

So without further ado, here’s our exposé on……..

WALT FRIKKING DISNEYYYYYYYYYY.

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Source: http://disneysweatshop.blogspot.co.uk/

That’s right.

The people who pretty much made our childhoods.

I can’t lie, I always feel conflicting feels when I reminisce and become nostalgic over Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahantas (when I rewatched it years later and saw she fell in love with her coloniser I was like nah), and Mulan, as I’ve always been somewhat aware that Disney was complicit in some dark stuff, I just wasn’t completely sure what. The conflicting feels return whenever I see a Disney store, where it looks all magical and shit. But it is these precise feels, where we feel conflicted between our morals and our desires that we need to utilise to challenge Disney, and let them know that as consumers of their media and their products, we aren’t afraid to stand up against any unethical practices. In fact we are more obliged to call it out.

As expected, Walt Disney are BALLING. In 2016, the Walt Disney Company held assets worth a total of over $92bn. In the same year, they generated global revenue of £55.63bn, marking their highest figure to date. In fact, Disney comes in at second among the biggest media conglomerates. The focus of the article will be regarding the manufacture of their consumer products, which in 2016, resulted in $1.7bn earned from consumer products in retail and other sales, and $3.82bn from giving licensing and publishing permission to people wanting to use their brand.

With a mission to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment, it’s an absolute shame a large part of their success is dependent on the exploitation of people in the Global South. Anyways, lets get onto it then. Here’s why Mickey ain’t that fine.


Tazreen Factory Fire

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Source: http://globalcomment.com/disposable-labor-tazreen-fire-in-bangladesh/

On 24 November 2012, a factory fire in the Tazreen Factory in Bangladesh killed 112 people. Survivors spoke of how the exit doors were locked and as a result, many were burned alive from being trapped inside, while over a hundred workers were injured jumping from the windows, causing injuries that have left them in constant agony.

At least four register books listed Disney as one of the buyers from this factory. Indeed, among the clothes found in the rubble, Disney themed children’s clothes were found.

However, Disney explained that Tazreen was not actually a supplier they had authorised to produce their products, but that these clothes had been made for Walmart at a different factory, and were left at Tazreen for storage without Walmart or Disney’s permission. Therefore, they are supposedly innocent

What is crazy, is the length of this explanation given by Disney to wipe their hands clean of any responsibility, just to avoid paying compensation to the families and victims of the fire. Scroll up again and see how much these lot earn. It’s pathetic tbh.


Avoiding Responsibility (again)

After the collapse of the eight story garment factory Rana Plaza where 1,138 garment workers were killed, Disney stopped the production of its clothes in Bangladesh, and agreed to end production in other areas where they believed working conditions were not suitable, including Ecuador, Venezuela, Belarus, and Pakistan. Disney stated that they would consider permitting production in Bangladesh again, as long they agreed to partner with the Better Work Program (a programme which aims to improve labour standards in garment industry). 

Liana Foxvog and Judy Gearhart of the International Labor Rights Forum explain that this was a terrible decision, as it only validated and justified the practice of factory owners hiding their problems from brands, in fear of them stopping production and taking their business elsewhere. This therefore prevents any actual improvements to factories.

Conditions in Factories in China

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source: http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/D-Report-final-v3.pdf

These findings are based on research conducted by China Labour Watch (CLW), who in 2016, underwent an investigation of a number of factories supplying toys for Disney, and Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), who between 2015-2016, conducted an investigation of factories supplying Disney. Here is what they found:

Long working hours: According to the law, workers should not work over 8 hours a day- however this can be increased under certain circumstances, with overtime hours limited to 36hrs a month. However, CLW found that workers were working 11hour days, with more than 50hrs overtime, reaching 100hrs in half of the factories. In one factory, it was also found that when workers were having lunch, the automated machine on the production line they were working on wouldn’t stop. This meant workers were required to finish lunch quickly in order to deal with the piled up backlog of products.

In SACOM’s investigation, it was found that workers worked an average of 10hrs a day with one rest day per week, and in three other factories they received two rest days each month during peak season. Some workers worked 144hrs of overtime per month, but weren’t even paid overtime wages. These long working hours only made workers more prone to injuries due to weariness. One worker explained:

“I can hardly walk after work. I stand 12 hours at work and even a day at work makes me really tired.”

Another issue was how hard it is to apply for leave, as workers would be punished if they applied for leave or were absent from work. E.g. in one factory, if a worker was absent for a day, the factory would deduct three days from his/her wages.

High production targets: To meet deadlines, many workers would work ’til midnight or even 1am, with employers refusing to let workers leave until all goods were ready. During peak season they often worked till the morning. In the toy factories, workers were barely given time to rest, in order to meet their targets. In fact, during the 11hr working day, they would only be given a 40-60minute lunch break.

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Source: https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/06/14/injuries-long-hours-and-low-pay-disney-failing-to-protect-chinese-workers-at-supplier-factories-says-ngo/

Lack of safety precautions: SACOM found extremely dangerous working conditions in the factories they investigated. For example, in a metal department in one of the factories, workers reported that work injuries took place every month, sometimes four or five in a month. one worker explained injuries he had witnessed:

“In July, a worker from Guangxi Province was hit by production materials weighing over 100kg at the chest; a worker got hit at his leg, a whole arm of a worker got trapped in a machine and another worker lost four fingers at work.”

These injuries are ignored by the factories, as workers are left to handle themselves.

Another worker explained how he had lost one segment of a finger in each hand. As he was covered by work injury insurance, the factory was required to pay for his medical expenses, food allowance, and rehabilitation fees, but the employer had been cutting his entitled benefits. For example, the allowance they gave him was not enough, as the hospital was in an expensive neighbourhood, and he also struggled with the costs of transportation to visit the hospital and buying medicine. 

“Shit! They are so inhuman! Such a big factory and yet so stingy with this kind of minor expenses, they should at least think about humanity!”

The fact that these workers are given insufficient training and equipment makes them prone to injuries such as this.

Indeed, this has also led to accidents involving harmful chemicals, as the researchers found that despite the risks some of the chemicals posed, workers were not informed, nor were they given training or protective gear. For example, in some of the factories, paint containing toulene was used, which irritates the throat, lungs, eyes and skin, and can lead to headaches, dizziness and other symptoms. Long-term inhalation can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system. As the factories had not installed adequate ventilation systems, workers were left with prolonged exposure to toluene in a confined space, leaving many feeling unwell. Basic face masks were given but they did little to block out fumes.

Similarly in the toy factories, CLW found that there were no instructions for workers working with toxic materials, as well as a lack of protective gear. For example, the toxic liquid banana oil was widely used, which, under direct exposure, can make the skin chapped and cause eyes and mucosa membrane irritation. If it is inhaled in high concentrations, it can impair the lungs and central nervous system. In one factory it was estimated that workers were exposed to a poisonous environment for more than two hours a day.

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Source: http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/D-Report-final-v3.pdf

Lack of unionisation: Among the factories studied by SACOM, only 3/8 claimed to have trade unions. However, these unions were not representative of workers, as their executive members were not elected by the workers. In the toy factories, factories either lacked a union or the unions were inactive. Workers were also unaware of who their representatives were, nor were there any contact details. There was no independent and effective complaints channel either. Although some factories had an opinion box and a companies hotline, the opinion box was covered in dust and results were yet to be seen from the companies hotline.

Poor wages: CLW found that workers were paid merely 5% above the minimum wage, forcing workers to work overtime. This caused problems for workers during off season, where there was little to no overtime work. SACOM found monthly wages for workers to be under the legal minimum wage, while other factories adopted piece rates- paying people depending on how much work they did. This meant that new employees, due to lower productivity, could only earn 1,000 yuan per month, which was not near enough. This also meant that if a worker couldn’t work faster, their wages would be lower than they already are. One worker explained that though she had only half a rest day each week, she still earned far below the legal minimum wage.

Poor living conditions: Among the toy factories, it was found that workers received food low in nutrition, while their dormitories were old and dirty, with electrical wiring all over the floor. In one particular dormitory building, 320 workers shared 24 bathrooms and 24 toilets. There was no access to hot water, and there were no shower heads, meaning workers had to bathe using a bucket or pan. Each room contained eight beds, four fans and nothing else. The building was also very old, with rusted pipes and rust evidently flowing in the water.

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Source: http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/upfile/2016_06_08/The%20Dark%20World%20of%20Disney.pdf

Bias auditor visits: Factories were informed before the arrival of auditors, so were able to hide things in advance. When auditors came, they rarely spoke to front-line workers, and were therefore unable to discover real labour conditions. Factory owners made sure workers wouldn’t reveal anything, telling them how to answer questions, and giving them a list to memorise of what they should not tell.

Contracts: SACOM found that many employees did not sign an official contract, meaning that their benefits, salary and rights were not guaranteed. To make matters worse, employers did not make their contribution to workers’ social insurance, jeopardising the workers’ rights to access medical, retirement and unemployment protection.

Child labour: In order to cut labour costs, factories often used students, temporary workers and dispatched workers. This included a 15 year old girl, who was found frequently working until 10pm or midnight. If she didn’t obey orders to work overtime, she would be dismissed. Although students performed the same amount as workers, they were paid less.

Penalties: Strict penalty systems were found in factories by SACOM. For example, in one factory, workers would be fined for leaving early for a meal, for using an electric cooker in the dormitory, or for not finishing food, with a security guard stationed near rubbish bins to check for leftovers. Names of those being punished would be publicly displayed.


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Source: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2050355/disney-severs-contract-chinese-toy-factory-over-alleged-labour

Personally, I am shocked at how well these findings have been hidden. With the previous corporations we’ve exposed, I’ve heard here and there about their corrupt practices, but with Disney I was genuinely shocked when I read about these conditions, particularly the fact that these findings are from only last year!

There are people out there being exploited to the max to make Disney’s toys and clothing, and having read some of the accounts, it is quite frankly shameful. 

Selling happiness and fairy tales to young kids while abusing workers’ rights. I’ll say it again. Shameful.

If you’d like to contact Disney and demand some answers, here are their contact details:
Twitter: @WaltDisneyCo
Instagram: @disney
Email: TWDC.Corp.Communications@Disney.com

If you do send any tweets/messages etc do show us and we’ll upload it!

People over profits all day errday!

Love && Solidarity

Oh So Ethical xx

References:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/273556/net-income-of-the-walt-disney-company/

http://elitedaily.com/money/the-worlds-10-largest-media-conglomerates/.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/294132/consumer-product-revenue-of-the-walt-disney-company-by-segment/.

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/05/02/when-does-corporate-responsibility-mean-abandoning-ship/disneys-decision-to-pull-out-of-bangladesh-is-a-mistake

http://sacom.hk/report-no-wonderland-for-workers-investigative-report-on-labour-conditions-at-disneys-supplier-factories-in-china/

http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/upfile/2016_06_08/The%20Dark%20World%20of%20Disney.pdf

http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/upfile/2016_11_07/Toy%20Industry%20Investigation-FINAL%2011.14.pdf

Other studies on Disney factories from previous years not included here:

http://www.globallabourrights.org/reports/document/0403-IGLHR-DisneySweatshopInBangladeshNiagra.pdf

https://issuu.com/iglhr/docs/1212_dream_international_toys_china_408b569c59015f/2?ff=true&e=3616543/6956371

http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/report/104

http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/upfile/2015_11_20/2015.11.20%20The%20Other%20Side%20of%20Fairy%20Tales%20-%20EN%20final.small.pdf

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-china-factory-protest-pension-disney-20151212-story.html

May Exposé: UNIQLO

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Source: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/position-and-analysis/uniqlos-neglect-of-its-suppliers-labour-exploitation

Hey guys! So its now May (how pls) and this month we will be exposing the one and only…..UNIQLOOOOO!

UNIQLO is a clothing company, which was originally founded
in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1949 as a textiles manufacturer. It is now a global
brand with over 1000 stores around the world.[1]

According to their website, their clothes are ‘simple and
essential yet universal, so people can freely combine them with their own
unique styles…’[2]

That’s all good but here’s my fave part; UNIQLO’s reasoning
for why they do what they do:

‘Because if all people can look and feel better every day,
then maybe the world can be a little better too.’ [3]

LOOOOOLL ALLOW IT. (can we end the exposé here bc thats enough to bait out uniqlo tbh- cringey af)

Despite how cringey this sounds however, it looks like it’s
working, as according to Forbes, UNIQLO has a brand value of $7b, with sales of
$11.4bn recorded in May 2016 [4]. In addition, it turns out UNIQLO’s CEO Tadashi Yanai is the richest man in Japan![5].

As with most retailers, UNIQLO’s financial growth has done
little to ensure the wellbeing of those who it depends on to achieve its level
of monetary success. Check out what’s been lowkey going on recently in UNIQLO
supplier factories, and information on how you can get in contact with them and
demand answers!


CHINA

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Source: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1678477/uniqlo-suppliers-put-workers-danger

Last year, War on
Want and a labour organisation in China known as Students and Scholars against
Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) released a report revealing findings from four
of the 70 factories in China that produce for UNIQLO. These factories had been
recognised by UNIQLO as the best-performing factories. Here’s what they found:[6]

EXCESSIVE WORKING HOURS:

Standard working hours per month in these factories is 174
hours, excluding the excessive overtime hours added on top of this. However in
many cases this was largely exceeded. Indeed, in one factory, workers were
working 132 hours of overtime, while in another, workers were working 150 hours
overtime- nearly the same amount as two full time jobs for less than a living
wage.

In some cases, workers were required to work from 7:30am to
midnight, seven days a week. Often they weren’t given leave to take a rest,
working these excessive hours for two months straight. When production was at
its peak, workers had to soak their feet in hot water to relieve the pain and
fatigue after standing for hours.

Due to wages being so low, workers are compelled to work
overtime. This is exacerbated by the fact that workers are not properly paid
for overtime e.g. workers were not paid double on weekends when they were
supposed to.

UNSAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT

There were many health hazards found in UNIQLO factories,
including:

High temperatures: Factory floors are found to be at very
high temperatures, for example, on the knitting floor of one factory it was 38°C.

No protective gear:  Men
were seen working topless whilst women were found working in sweat-drenched
clothes. In addition, workers in dyeing departments were expected to work with
heavy loads of fabric that weighed up to 600kg with no protective gear, risking
burns or chemical exposure.

Poor ventilation: Poor ventilation and a high density of
cotton fibre in the air increased the risk of byssinosis (a serious
occupational asthma and respiratory irritation). Moreover, as cotton dust is
combustible this can, and has, led to dust explosions.  

Use of toxic chemicals: The use of harmful chemicals in some
factories has led to toxic waste water flooding factory floors, exposing the
workers to these chemicals and also exposing workers to the risk of
electrocution.

Falls from 2-metre high stepladders are found to be common
when working with rolls of yarn- as workers are in a rush to meet targets.

PUNITIVE MEASURES:

Many factories use harsh protocols to ensure workers are
meeting targets and ensure product quality. For example, in one factory,
workers’ wages were deducted if the quality of their work was not up to
standard or if they were found resting outside their 30-minute lunch and dinner
breaks.

Fines were also issued. For example, at another factory, a
worker had his entire wage for the day deducted when he was caught attempting
to iron two sleeves at the same time instead of one at a time. Like for
real!?!?

In another factory, workers were encouraged to report mistakes
made by colleagues. Money would be deducted from the salary of the worker who
made the mistake, and transferred to the salary of the worker who had reported
the mistake. Managers regularly used the factory
broadcasting system to name and shame workers who weren’t hitting their
production targets. At one factory, if workers could not reach the target,
other workers would have to take on the extra work.

NO UNIONS ALLOWED

It is extremely hard for workers to voice their concerns, as
there is no collective, democratic body representing workers in negotiations
with management.  In one factory, the
chairperson of the union was also the manager at the factory, therefore making
it easier to quash any attempts to advocate workers’ rights. At the same
factory, it was heard that when workers organised a strike against low wages in
2009, management hired gangsters to physically assault the workers’ leaders and
suppress the strike. In another case, workers who had led a strike against high
temperatures on the shop floor were dismissed.

In addition, in June 2015, a supplier of UNIQLO called Artigas Clothing shut down without notice and refused compensation for more than 500 workers. After hearing about the possibility of a closure in December 2014, 1000 workers went on strike and demanded that the company pay their pension and overtime payments. The police and factory management shut down the strike and forced workers to return to work, ignoring their demands. Then when June 2015 arrived, workers slept in the factory for weeks to prevent the factory closing without giving the workers their compensation and pension payments, and wished to collectively speak to management. The factory owners rejected, so workers petitioned to the provincial government to resolve the dispute, which led to violent police repression and the detention of 150 workers. One of the female leaders was given indefinite detention in an attempt to force workers to sign a ‘voluntary’ resignation if they wanted her release. 359 workers were pressured into signing through individual visits by management as well. Workers were forcibly removed to work in another factory, and workers wh were part of the collective action were dismissed. UNIQLO did nothing to support the workers.

BRIBERY TO GET AWAY WITH ABUSES

During factory audits, when inspectors come to check out the
workers’ conditions to report back to retailers, workers are often bribed (e.g.
using a cash reward) and compelled to give responses the factory wants them to
give. Considering that workers may be giving false information about their
working conditions, it is worrying to think how much worse conditions may
actually be.

This report caused a stir, and thanks to the ongoing
campaigning of War on Want and SACOM, this January UNIQLO agreed to make its
supply chain public, making it easier to locate where UNIQLO’s clothes are made
and therefore making it easier to track conditions, organise and build a
stronger movement of workers in the area. Then in March, the pressure from
campaigners further led to UNIQLO publishing their list of 146 core factory
suppliers across seven countries in Asia!

INDONESIA

image

Source: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/position-and-analysis/uniqlos-neglect-of-its-suppliers-labour-exploitation

 In 2015, a factory making clothes for UNIQLO in
Indonesia closed down, leaving around 4000 workers without a job, with four
months of wages unpaid and compensation amounting to nearly $11m! Workers have
been forced into homelessness and unemployment with no support whatsoever from
UNIQLO. Two years later and workers are still waiting for their wages and
compensation. It’s absolutely ridiculous[7] 

CAMBODIA

image

In 2015, Human Rights Now (HRN) visited Cambodia and
found a supplier to UNIQLO, where a male worker revealed the horrific conditions
workers were enduring. He was asked to work overtime almost everyday, including
working 24 consecutive hours. However, he was never paid for overtime hours
after 6 pm. In fact, after 24 hours of overtime shifts, workers were only given
$5. If workers didn’t work overtime, their contracts would not be renewed. Workers
from this and one other factory claimed that they were union members, which was
why management refused to renew their contracts. Many workers were said to pass
out due to high temperatures and a lack of air conditioning. In addition, workers
would not receive safety equipment such as goggles or a mask to cover their mouths
and noses from the detergent odours in the laundry department. However, they wouldn’t
have been able to use the masks anyway, because of the high temperature of the
room, making it difficult to breathe with them on. Workers would be forced to
wear masks and goggles only when inspectors came.[8] 

In addition, the coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’
Democratic Union (CCAWDU) found that in 2014, 6,715 people were dismissed due
to their active participation in labour unions. In late 2015, 50 workers were
dismissed due to their union membership. In December the factory were ordered
by the Arbitration Council to reinstate the 50 workers, but they refused. A
strike began in February 2016, but instead of reinstating the workers, another
55 were terminated, and union members were refused contract renewals.[9]


image

Source: http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/newscast/474

Now we know the situation It is our duty to stand in
solidarity with the workers who are tirelessly risking their lives to stand up
to UNIQLO, to work in dignity, and to ensure justice for themselves and their
colleagues. They are out there risking their lives as union members,
protesting, allowing reporters to tell their stories. It is the very least we
can do.

This is a petition to demand UNIQLO to pay the Indonesian workers
who were layoff their wages and compensation: http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1819&ea.campaign.id=65507

CONTACT THEM: Let them know you know what they’re up to, and
that you are concerned.

Twitter: @uniqlo_uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uniqlo.uk/?ref=br_rs

Instagram: @uniqlo_uk

Email: https://www.uniqlo.com/uk/en/contactus

Source: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/position-and-analysis/uniqlos-neglect-of-its-suppliers-labour-exploitation

Love&&Solidarity!

[1] https://www.uniqlo.com/uk/en/company/

[2] https://www.uniqlo.com/uk/en/company/about_uniqlo.html

[3]
Ibid

[4] https://www.forbes.com/companies/uniqlo/.

[5] http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1819&ea.campaign.id=65507

[6] media.waronwant.org/sites/default/files/WoW_uniqlo%20report%202016.pdf?_ga=2.50691241.1070563432.1493166082-1283920894.1475261908

[7] http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1819&ea.campaign.id=65507

[8] http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/default.aspx?TabId=836&CompanyId=554121&CategoryId=421

[9] http://media.waronwant.org/sites/default/files/WoW_uniqlo%20report%202016.pdf?_ga=2.26959997.15892055.1493503177-1283920894.1475261908

Exposing Nestlé

image

Hey guys!

Welcome to April’s Monthly Movement, another opportunity for you to find out about the latest goings on within our wellknown retailers and companies, and the corrupt practices they are silently allowing to happen.

This month we are focusing on a brand well-known to pretty much everyone and anyone. A company that permeates through our society in far more areas and avenues than we realise, who are casually exploiting the environment and people in order to maximise profits.  

NESTLE.

Nestle is a Swiss transnational food and drink company, who has been titled as the largest company in the world for three years now (2014-2016). They mean business, with 29 of their brands having annual sales of about $1.1 billion! It is also one of the main shareholders of l’Oreal, and in 2010 introduced The Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, which aims to develop ‘a new industry between food and pharmaceuticals, by creating foods with preventative health properties as well as skin research centres worldwide’.

The irony is that while Nestlé are out here pushing a positive image, concerned with health and nutrition, their business thrives on the suffering of millions. Here’s why. 

P.s. I’m having trouble with adding footnotes so sorry for the numbers everywhere, I will try to figure it out!


‘Baby Killers’

Nestlé have had a history of corrupt practices, in particular a scandal in 1974, where Nestlé were accused of contributing to the death and illness of millions of children in developing countries.

In a bid to sell their formula milk, Nestlé encouraged mothers in poverty-stricken cities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to bottle-feed their children with Western style infant milk, despite increasing awareness of breastfeeding being healthier. Nurses (qualified or not) would visit homes, encouraging mothers to buy the formula milk, playing on mothers’ fears of their children being undernourished. In addition, in exchange for handing out the formula, hospitals received freebies, including baby bottles, as well as free architectural services to hospitals to aid newborn care. To make matters worse, mothers were diluting the formula milk in order to save money, but weren’t aware that ovediluting it, especially with contaminated water (many of the targeted women had no access to clean water1), could prevent children absorbing the nutrients in food, causing malnutrition. Reliance on baby formula is said to have led to malnutrition and diarrheal diseases, and hindered infant growth, including emotional and physical development, killing millions of children each year.2  

Activists organized an international boycott that lasted until 1984, when Nestlé agreed to reform its practices. However, when the firm continued to violate labelling laws and its own promises, activists took up the cause once more and has continued since. Baby Milk Action has outlined a four-point plan with demands for Nestlé, but the company has yet to respond.

Asking a Famine-struck Country for $$$

Another scandal includes the time Nestlé had the audacity to demand $6m/£3.7m from Ethiopia, at a time when it was struggling with a famine in 2002. The money was compensation for an Ethiopian business that the previous military government nationalised in 1975. According to Oxfam, this money was enough to feed 1,000,000 people! In response, the Ethiopian government offered to pay $1.5m but Nestle stood by its demand. In the end, due to public demand, they settled for the $1.5m payment.3

Workers Involved in Demanding Better Conditions Murdered

Nestlé has also been found to deny workers their right to protest for better working conditions. For example, in 2005 a former employee of Nestlé in Cambodia was murdered by paramilitaries. Luciano Romero had received death threats after being wrongly described by the local Nestlé management as a (left-wing) guerrilla fighter. A commander of the paramilitary group convicted of killing Romero gave evidence that his group was part-funded by the particular Nestlé company Romero had worked for. Nestlé management was accused of being aware of these activities and not taking necessary steps to protect Romero. However, Nestlé denies the allegations, and pointed out that Columbia was a dangerous place at the time, implying it was out of their control.4

A more recent incident occurred in 2013, when a worker named Oscar López Triviño was shot and killed. He worked for Nestlé and had been a member of a union for Food Industry Workers (Sinaltrainal). A day before his death, a paramilitary group sent a death threat to two leaders of the union. Members of the union had been on hunger strike in front of the factory, demanding that various agreements were respected.

Since its creation in 1982, Sinaltrainal had received repeated death threats from paramilitaries and more than 20 members killed. 13 of those killed had worked for Nestlé5.
 

Exploiting Water Sources

This is a big one.

There have been a lot of issues regarding Nestlé and water privitization, particularly in areas with plenty of ground water. Indeed, the company famously declared that water should be defined as a need—not as a human right.

Groundwater is a drinkable, natural resource that can be accessed through wells and pumping. It can take hundreds to thousands of years to accumulate or replenish and is therefore not a renewable resource. Only 2.5 per cent of the water on Earth is freshwater, and this resource is becoming increasingly scarce over time.6  However big drinking water companies, particularly Nestlé, do not seem concerned, and are taking out gallons of water every second.

For example, Sacramento, California, is in the fourth year of a record drought, with one year of water supply left in its reservoirs – yet Nestlé continues to bottle city water to sell back to the public at a big profit.  It is claimed that the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers, even during the drought, while those living in Sacremento have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them. In fact, Nestlé pays only 65 cents for each 470 gallons it pumps out of the ground, and then sells it back to Sacramento with big profits. 10

Last month in Michigan, activists made complaints against a request from Nestlé to pump more groundwater, demanding that the Department of Environmental Quality reject the $200 permit to take 210m gallons of water a year.7  Amidst demands by activists in Michigan, insisting that the Department of Environmental Quality reject the $200 permit to take 210 gallons a year, inconsistencies in Nestlé’s permit application have been found. For example, in one region, Nestlé state that the flow of water per minute is 195 gallons a minute, despite the water being fairly still. In another region, a local surveyor estimates the water here in fact runs 195 gallons a minute, however Nestlé states that it is actually 2,058 gallons per minute. Evidence of dry regions where springs would flow and trout thrived 15 years ago are found, as well as a swamp where, 17 years ago, people wouldn’t have been possible to walk through. However, once Nestlé got involved around 20 years ago, people soon were able to walk through it with their street shoes!8.

Many residents were upset after it was revealed that the Department of Environmental Quality wanted to approve a 167 increase on a well Nestlé owns in Osceola County. That means that they would be pumping nearly 210 million gallons of groundwater per year for $200. One individual pointed out how Nestlé was taking water for so cheap, while people in Flint can’t even get access to clean water.9

This is also occurring in Canada. For example in Ontario, despite their permit expiring, Nestle was allowed to keep extracting water even in the midst of a severe drought. Nestlé has three permits to take up to 8.3m litres of water every day for bottling, while Nestlé Waters Canada (division of Nestlé Canada) has six Ontario permits allowing it to take an additional 12m litres a day. 11 When authorities in Centre Wellington in Ontario learned that Nestlé had put a bid on a spring water well in their region, they decided to counter with a competing bid, to safeguard the water supply for the township’s fast-growing population. However, Nestlé outbid, and the Centre Wellington authorities were unable to outbid Nestlé. Nestlé Waters Canada said it wasn’t aware that the counter-offer was from the township of Centre Wellington until well after the purchase was made. 12


Forced Labour in Thailand

A study conducted by Nestlé itself found that impoverished migrant workers in Thailand are sold or lured by false promises and forced to catch and process fish that ends up in Nestlé’s supply chains. The labourers come from Thailand’s much poorer neighbours Myanmar and Cambodia. Brokers illegally charge them fees to get jobs, trapping them into working on fishing vessels and at ports, mills and seafood farms in Thailand to pay back more money than they earn. “Sometimes, the net is too heavy and workers get pulled into the water and just disappear. When someone dies, he gets thrown into the water,” one Burmese worker explained. Underage workers were also found, and were forced to fish. Workers said they work without rest, food and water available is minimal, outside contact is cut off, and they are given fake identities to hide that they are working illegally13

Lead Found in Food

When a food inspector spotted a pack of Maggi noodles with a sign stating ‘no added MSG’ in India, he sent it to a lab for testing. It was found that the noodles did in fact contain MSG, however Lead was also found to be present, and had over 1000 times more than what Nestlé India had claimed.

MSG is a controversial ingredient that is legal in India but requires disclosure on products. It has been blamed for many health problems, including cancer. Lead is naturally present in small concentrations in air, water, and soil, and so it is expected that trace amounts show up in the food supply- but not 1000x over the expected quantity! Significant exposure to lead causes wide-ranging and serious health effects, particularly in children.14

Due to a slow response from Nestlé , who repeatedly denied any problems with their products, there was a huge commotion, with national newspapers reporting the story, and word going round about plans to boycott the brand. In the end, 38,000 tonnes of Maggi noodles were destroyed after the brand was banned. From commanding 80% share of India’s noodle market, Maggi went down to 0 in just a month. Maggi returned to shelves in November 2015.

Palm Oil

Last year, Amnesty found that many popular brands, including Nestlé, use palm oil produced by child workers in dangerous conditions. Children aged from eight to 14 were carrying out dangerous work without safety equipment, were exposed to toxic pesticides and regularly carried sacks of palm fruit weighing 25kg.15

In addition, the researchers found that women were forced to work long hours under the threat of having their pay cut- earning as little as $2.50 a day in extreme cases. Workers were also suffering severe injuries from paraquat, an acutely toxic chemical still used in the plantations despite being banned in the EU and by the palm oil company Wilmar itself. Long hours were required in order to meet ridiculously high targets, involving highly physically demanding tasks such as operating heavy manual equipment to cut fruit from trees 20 meters tall. Attempting to meet targets left workers in significant physical pain, and they also faced a range of penalties for things like not picking up palm fruits on the ground and picking unripe fruit.16

Coffee 


Last year, Nestlé admitted that coffee beans from Brazilian plantations using slave labour may have ended up in their coffee, because they do not know the names of all the plantations that supply them- buying beans from middlemen and exporters in a muddled supply chain.
 
In these plantations, workers are often people trafficked to work for little or no pay, and forced to live on rubbish heaps and drink water alongside animals. In addition, it has been found that a Brazilian coffee worker earns about $2 (£1.42) to fill a 60-litre sack of coffee, with less than 2% of the retail price going to the worker. Coffee workers also often use toxic pesticides that have been banned in the EU,  with workers complaining of difficulty breathing, skin rashes and birth defects.17

Chocolate

Nestlé have been hit with several lawsuits accusing them of having abuse in their coca production chain.

For example in 2005, Nestle had a lawsuit filed against them, accusing them of being complicit in the use of child labour in the Ivory Coast. The plaintiffs, originally child slaves from Mali sold to plantations in the 1990s, say that Nestlé and other companies had aided and encouraged human rights violations, and were aware of the problem of child slavery in the region, yet continued to provide financial and technical assistance to local farmers to get the cheapest product. Nestle bid for the lawsuit to be thrown out, alongside two other companies, but recently the US top court rejected the bid. The plaintiffs explained how they worked 14-hour days under armed guard without pay six days week. Sleeping on the floors of locked rooms and given only food scraps, those caught trying to escape were severely beaten or forced to drink urine. Some had their feet cut open, with salt or pepper sprinkled on their wounds.18

Just a few days ago, a district court in California unfortunately threw out lawsuits accusing Hershey and Nestlé of misleading consumers by failing to disclose cocoa in some chocolate brands may come from slave labour. The chief magistrate dismissed the claims, stating that it was not for courts to decide what’s on chocolate wrappers.19


While transparency has increased, and Nestlé have promised to change- these promises have only been made because the public demanded it. We need to ensure we keep pressurising Nestlé to fix up and CHECK THEMSELVES !

There are many simple ways you can let them know how you feel, or to enquire about any of the controversies discussed above:

Twitter/Instagram: @Nestle

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nestle

Email: send them an online message here at https://www.nestle.com/info/contactus/contactus?country=United%20Kingdom

Address:
Nestlé S.A.
Avenue Nestlé 55,
1800 Vevey, Switzerland

Love && Solidarity!

H&M: EXPOSED

image

(source: http://www.fluter.de/gruen-gruen-gruen-sind-alle-unsere-kleider)

Hey guys- welcome to our first Monthly Movement!

Monthly Movement is a segment where we will be exposing companies who, behind
their attempts to appeal squeaky clean and innocent, are continuing to commit
crimes against humanity.

We will delve into the darker side of these companies, using
the most recent studies and reports released, as well as provide information on
how you can contact these companies and make it clear that as consumers, we
demand change.

Join
us as we continue to put pressure on big businesses to CARE ABOUT THEIR
WORKERS and put PEOPLE OVER PROFITS.


Our first exposé is of H&M who, behind the greenwashing
and recycling campaigns, continues to thrive on the exploitation of impoverished
workers.

H&M is owed by the 32nd richest man in the
world, Mr Stefan Persson, who is worth $19.2bn.

This guy is rich af.

Don’t believe me? In 2015 he received permission to build a
three-storey mansion in Wiltshire, with a pool, orangery (a whole damn
conservatory of oranges), all-weather tennis courts, space for 12 cars, and six
full-time staff to look after the mansion[1].
In 2009, our fave supplier of cheap garmz bought a whole damn village in Hampshire for £25m[2].
Yes, a VILLAGE.

So, given the abundance of wealth he has accumulated, he
must be doing the most to ensure his business is running as ethically and
humanely as possible…?

Nah.

Human rights abuses have been reported throughout H&M’s
production line, and across the various countries they have factories in. Here
are the most recent findings on how Mr Persson likes to treat the very people
who helped him attain that conservatory of oranges.

CHILD LABOUR:

  • In a
    report in 2015, workers in a Cambodian factory supplying H&M reported that
    their factory had been employing children under 15, who were made to do the
    same jobs as adults, which are very labour intensive.[3]
  • Just
    last summer, two writers described how children as young as 14 were being hired
    by factories in Myanmar producing for H&M.
    Many more girls aged under 18 were found working from 7/8am ‘til about
    8pm and sometimes as late as 10pm[4].This
    is no surprise, as more and more retailers have started to source their clothes
    from Myanmar, which, in 2015, set one of the lowest minimum wages in the world[5].
    This means companies can pay workers less, resulting in greater profits.

REFUGEES:

  • H&M have admitted to finding young Syrian
    refugee children working in factories supplying clothes for them in Turkey[6].
  • Only
    7000 out of the approx. 250,000-400,000 Syrian refugees working in Turkey have
    work permits, so the majority are undocumented, meaning they are unable to
    obtain an employment contract or social security. This can lead to poor working
    conditions, such as earning under
    minimum wage and long working hours, as they are able to be easily dismissed
    and unable to complain about their conditions. This is the case with many
    garment factories in Turkey.[7]

POOR WAGES:

  • In gold and platinum H&M suppliers,
    wages were found to fall far below living wage. For example in Cambodia,
    workers earned on average $187.97, but required about $240 a month just to
    survive. Workers in India were also given wages way below the living standard,
    and despite routinely working up to 17 hours a day or 8 overtime hours a day,
    workers were not paid the expected overtime payment.[8]
  • Workers in one of the ‘best’ H&M suppliers
    explained that if workers arrived 6 to 10 minutes late their wages were reduced
    by $1. Lateness exceeding 10 minutes would lead to a deduction of $15.00. This
    is equal to two days’ wages. Though this is not against the law, these
    deductions reduce the pitiful wages they already receive. At another factory,
    workers stated that paid sick leave was limited to two days.[9]
  • Attendance bonus in another factory would be
    reduced by $2.50 and a worker’s daily wage would be lost if a worker was sick. However, this is against the law if a
    worker can provide a proper doctor’s certificate.[10]
  • Workers in Myanmar were found to be working for 13p
    an hour in factories supplying H&M- half the minimum wage.[11]

WORKING
HOURS:

  • Team leaders in factories supplying H&M
    have been found to force workers to work on their days off (Sundays and public
    holidays), in order to meet high production targets. When orders had to be
    completed in a short space of time, workers were unable to refuse overtime.
    They were not paid overtime either.[12]
  • In a factory in Myanmar supplying H&M,
    workers reported working weeks exceeding 60 hours, with two of the workers
    stating that they had to work until 10pm six or seven times a month[13]

SUBCONTRACTORS:

 

  • Regulated
    factories that are listed as H&M suppliers tend to outsource work to
    unregulated subcontractors. As these subcontractors are not listed they are
    practically hidden, making it more difficult to establish accountability for
    abuse towards garment workers. This means abuse in these subcontracted factories
    is also likely to be hidden. This leads to subcontractors ignoring law
    provisions set in place to protect workers, for example, forcing workers to work
    more than they should without overtime.[14]
    Regulated factories take advantage of
    this and get away with abuse by stating that it hadn’t occurred under their
    watch and is therefore out of their control.[15]
  • For
    example in September 2014, a subcontractor to a publicly listed H&M
    supplier in Cambodia dismissed 27 workers for joining a union. As this had been
    conducted by a subcontractor H&M were not directly affiliated with, they
    simply blamed unauthorised subcontracting and denied having any responsibility.
    In another case, abuse was found to be prevalent in a textile mill in India. Women
    and girls as young as 15 had been lured from their homes with false promises, working
    60 hours a week and living in rooms with shared bathrooms that housed up to 35
    workers. Although H&M proceeded to blacklist the spinning mill they denied
    responsibility, with no further action taken[16].

CONTRACTS:

  • H&M
    supplier factories in Cambodia and India continue to employ workers on fixed
    duration contracts (FDCs). An FDC specifies a date for when a contract ends,
    and can be renewed one or more times for up to two years. If an FDC is extended
    so the contract is more than two years, the contract will automatically turn
    into an undetermined fixed duration contract (UDC). The UDC is better for
    employees because, unlike FDCs, if an employee’s position at the factory is
    terminated by the employer or employee, they are given a notice period, and
    entitled to two days of leave per week until they find a new job. If a UDC is
    terminated without notice or not in compliance with the given notice periods,
    the employee is entitled to wages and benefits equal to those they would have
    received during the notice period. By using FDCs, factories can avoid paying benefits
    provided by the UDCs, and do not have to provide employment to those whose
    employment has been terminated. This makes it easier to terminate workers’
    employment without any compensation. In some cases, workers are manipulated
    into terminating their employment and rejoining as new workers- denying their
    access to benefits associated with seniority. [17]
  • Platinum and silver rated H&M suppliers
    continue to use 2-6 month short-term contracts, leaving workers in a vulnerable
    position[18]
  • The majority of workers in a factory in Myanmar
    reported that they hadn’t even signed a contract[19]

WORKPLACE SAFETY:

  • In a
    recent study, workers in 9/12 Cambodian factories reported experiencing sexual
    harassment in the workplace. Only 27/201 workers knew of a committee or any other
    means of reporting harassment.[20]
  • Factory fires are common in the garment
    industry, and have led to the death of many workers who found themselves
    trapped in a fire due to blocked exits, barred windows, and having to jump from
    high buildings in an attempt to reach safety. For example, in 2010, at least 21 workers died
    and 50 were hurt in a factory fire which took place in a factory supplying for
    retailers including H&M, as they worked at night to complete orders.[21]
  • Indeed, in February 2016, a huge fire
    broke out at a H&M supplier in Bangladesh, Matrix Sweaters. Luckily it
    occurred early in the morning and most of the workers had not yet arrived for
    their shift. Safety renovations in this factory were far from complete, so if
    the fire had started a few hours later, it would have been deadly.[22]
  • Despite promises to improve health and safety, a
    recent analysis of H&M’s safety action plans for their suppliers in
    Bangladesh indicate that many factories are still unsafe, putting hundreds of
    thousands of garment workers at risk should another fire take place in their
    factory. Despite some signs of progress, 61% of the company’s supplier
    factories still do not have all required fire doors installed. In addition, 31/32
    factories were all behind schedule in terms of the targets set out for them,
    with nearly 1000 required renovations that have still not been completed. In
    January 2016, it was reported that on average, each factory had 31 uncompleted renovations.[23]
    To make things worse, it has been noted that this report only looked at
    H&M’s highest-rated Bangladesh suppliers, which accounted for just
    one-quarter of the total number of factories.[24]
    This paints a worrying picture for those factories that are not highly rated.
  • In a factory supplying H&M, workers involved in leather
    work were exposed to toxic chemicals, required to use heavy tools that can
    cause injury, and were given no protective masks. In addition, no first aid
    boxes were available, and supervisors would dismiss workers’ injuries.[25]
  • Only
    2/48 Indian garment workers interviewed in a study received safety equipment
    and none of the workers reported receiving any safety training. All 50 Indian supply
    chain workers indicated that they didn’t know of any sexual harassment
    establishment in their workplace.[26]
  • Workers
    in a factory in Myanmar supplying H&M said that they were only given
    protective gear when buyers or visitors would come to the factory.[27]

HEALTH:

  • Mass faintings have
    become a common occurrence in Cambodia, where a large number of garment workers
    faint in unison. In 2011, nearly 300 Cambodian workers passed out in
    clothing factories supplying H&M.[28]
    This is suggested to be due to various factors including a lack of nutrition,
    due to an inability to afford the correct calorific content sufficient for
    their level of physical activity, as well as terrible working conditions, such
    as overheating, limited resting periods, and a lack of food and water breaks.[29]
  • Last year, in platinum and gold rated
    H&M suppliers in Cambodia, workers reported
    excessive heat during the dry season, as well as fainting, with estimates of
    2-4 workers fainting every month- 70 to 140 faintings a year.[30]
  •  In a factory in Myanmar,
    workers noted a lack of drinking water, which made it very hard to work in the
    factory as it was too hot, and was poorly ventilated. In addition, workers
    explained that there was not enough time to go to the toilet, due to the workload.
    The toilets at this factory were said to be dirty and only cleaned when buyers
    visited the factory.[31]

 ABILITY TO ORGANISE:

  • In 9/12 factories investigated, collective
    bargaining (negotiating employment conditions) was not recognised by management
  • In a gold-rated H&M supplier in Cambodia, 105
    union members were terminated for union activity. Fifty-three were ordered back
    to work on orders from the arbitration council (independent institution that
    helps resolve collective labour disputes), but in retaliation another 55
    unionised workers were terminated. This led to a peaceful strike starting from
    Feb 24 2016 for 10 days until management filed an injuction. During the first
    days of the strike, many workers were locked inside the factory during lunch time
    by factory management to prevent them from joining the strike. Management tried
    various tactics to prevent the strike from continuing, including: renting land
    surrounding the factory so workers could not enter that area during the strike,
    giving $5 to workers who didn’t join the strike and providing a car to a person
    they believed could convince workers to not strike. Despite engaging in talks
    in efforts to reinstate the employees, H&M stated that because they were not
    the biggest buyer at the factory, they did not have leverage to change the
    situation. They continue to do business with 13 factories owned by the parent
    company.[32]
  • In late Dec 2013 and early Jan 2014, more than
    200,000 Cambodian garment workers took to the streets to demand higher wages.
    Armed soldiers chased and attacked the workers with slingshots, batons and
    metal pipes.10 union leaders and protesters were detained, some were severely
    beaten and all were held overnight. The following day police shot and killed at
    least 5 striking workers. An additional 38 people, some of whom work in the
    H&M supply chain were hospitalised during the attack, 25 suffering from
    bullet wounds and 13 arrested. After a five-month global campaign, all 23 were
    released from prison.[33]
  • In platinum H&M suppliers in Cambodia, when a
    worker tries to form an independent union, they face discrimination or are
    forced to resign[34]

TREATMENT OF PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • Workers from 11/12 H&M supplier factories in
    Cambodia reported either witnessing or experiencing termination of employment
    during pregnancy. As a result of their treatment, women are found to terminate
    pregnancies to keep their job, or will work up until the last day before
    delivery.[35]
  • In 4 Indian factories supplying H&M, all 50 workers
    reported that women were fired from their jobs during pregnancy, while
    permanent workers were forced to leave without pay for period of their
    pregnancy.[36]

While it has to be acknowledged that some improvements have
been made, particularly the increase in transparency regarding the production
of their clothing, the pace at which improvements are being made, and the
extent of the abuse people are still facing is disgusting.

Now you’ve got the facts, it is CRUCIAL that we let H&M
know how we feel.The more they feel our
rage, the more pressure they will feel to change. Retailers are completely
dependent on consumers, so let’s give them a piece of the consumer mind!

There are many simple ways you can let them know how you
feel:

 TWITTER/INSTAGRAM (tag @hm):

  • Started by the Fashion Revolution team, many
    people tweet or post a pic of something they bought and tag the brand they
    bought it from, asking them #WhoMadeMyClothes. By doing this, we are showing
    brands that their consumers are concerned about the workers who produce their
    clothes.
  • You can also send them the WANTED picture with a tweet
    saying something like…

@hm Despite your promises, abuse is rampant in your production line- what
are you going to do to protect workers?

@hm you keep reassuring the public that you care for garment workers but
the evidence shows otherwise, how can we trust you

@hm
what are you doing to address the continual abuse of your garment workers?

image

EMAIL ( customerservice.uk@hm.com)/POST
A LETTER: (H & M Hennes & Mauritz UK Ltd, 25 Argyll
street, London, W1F 7TS)

Get a strongly worded letter/email sent
through, letting them know exactly how ya feel! Here’s an example here.

 LOVE && SOLIDARITY!

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/11376488/HandM-boss-wins-battle-to-build-new-mansion-after-pheasant-shooting-complaint-is-thrown-out.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/money/2009/may/25/fashion-billionaire-buys-hampshire-village

[3] http://features.hrw.org/features/HRW_2015_reports/Cambodia_Garment_Workers/index.htm

[4]
www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/314185/fashion-victims-the-true-cost-of-h-and-m-clothing

[5]
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/aug/21/hm-factories-myanmar-employed-14-year-old-workers

[6] www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syrian-children-found-working-for-uk-clothing-suppliers-including-next-and-hm-a6845431.html

[7]
https://cleanclothes.org/news/press-releases/2017/01/18/nordic-fashion-brands-need-to-tackle-abuse-of-syrian-refugees-in-turkish-garment-factories

[8] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[9] https://cleanclothes.org/resources/national-cccs/when-best-is-far-from-good-enough-violations-of-workers2019-rights-at-four-of-h-m-best-in-class-suppliers-in-cambodia-

[10] https://cleanclothes.org/resources/national-cccs/when-best-is-far-from-good-enough-violations-of-workers2019-rights-at-four-of-h-m-best-in-class-suppliers-in-cambodia-

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/05/child-labour-myanmar-high-street-brands

[12]
http://features.hrw.org/features/HRW_2015_reports/Cambodia_Garment_Workers/index.htm

[13] https://www.somo.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Myanmar-Dilemma-Full-Report.pdf

[14]
http://features.hrw.org/features/HRW_2015_reports/Cambodia_Garment_Workers/index.htm

[15]
http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[16] http://www.livemint.com/Companies/ZBrgB0aSohV5Ybz8x9NkYN/HM-bans-Indias-Super-Spinning-after-report-of-child-labour.html

[17]
http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[18] https://cleanclothes.org/resources/national-cccs/when-best-is-far-from-good-enough-violations-of-workers2019-rights-at-four-of-h-m-best-in-class-suppliers-in-cambodia-

[19] https://www.somo.nl/the-myanmar-dilemma/

[20] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[21]
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/news/21-workers-die-in-fire-at-hm-factory-1914292.html

[22] https://cleanclothes.org/resources/publications/h-m-factories-still-not-safe/view

[23] https://cleanclothes.org/resources/publications/h-m-factories-still-not-safe/view

[24] https://qz.com/516038/report-most-of-hms-best-factories-in-bangladesh-still-dont-have-working-fire-exits/

[25] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[26] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[27] https://www.somo.nl/the-myanmar-dilemma/

[28]
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/hundreds-of-workers-collapse-at-cambodian-hampm-clothing-factory-2345537.html

[29]
https://cleanclothes.org/resources/national-cccs/shop-til-they-drop

[30] https://cleanclothes.org/resources/national-cccs/when-best-is-far-from-good-enough-violations-of-workers2019-rights-at-four-of-h-m-best-in-class-suppliers-in-cambodia-

[31] https://www.somo.nl/the-myanmar-dilemma/

[32] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[33] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[34] https://cleanclothes.org/resources/national-cccs/when-best-is-far-from-good-enough-violations-of-workers2019-rights-at-four-of-h-m-best-in-class-suppliers-in-cambodia

[35] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain

[36] http://asia.floorwage.org/workersvoices/reports/precarious-work-in-the-h-m-global-value-chain