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Labor Laws Violated, Group Says

June 05, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Factories making products in China and elsewhere for Nike Inc., Levi Strauss & Co. and five other companies violated labor laws, ranging from inadequate pay to failure to provide proper hearing protection, an industry-supported group said.

A contractor for Nike in China paid its workers less than the minimum wage of 31 cents an hour, and a contractor for Liz Claiborne Inc. in China failed to register workers ages 16 to 18, the Fair Labor Assn. said in a report released Wednesday in Washington.

U.S. clothing and footwear companies have come under fire from human rights advocates, unions and universities for relying on factories in places such as China, Central America and Indonesia that don't follow internationally accepted labor standards. That has led to some consumer boycotts.

Seven companies -- Nike, Levi, Liz Claiborne, Reebok International Ltd., Adidas-Salomon, Eddie Bauer Inc. and Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. -- have agreed to allow the Fair Labor Assn. to inspect factories that make their products. The report released Wednesday detailed results of inspections in 48 factories in several countries between August 2001 and July 2002. China accounted for more audits than any other country.

"We want conditions to be good in the factories," Roberta Karp, general counsel for Liz Claiborne, said in a telephone interview. "Consumers demand it and we demand it of ourselves."

In all, the seven companies agreeing to the inspections have at least 3,000 subcontractors, including about 600 in China. Worldwide, as many as 80,000 factories export apparel to the U.S., said Auret van Heerden, executive director of the association.

In many instances, factories have corrected faults found by inspectors, according to the association's audit reports.

San Francisco-based Levi Strauss dropped out of the program in October.

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