By Tony Magliano
“Sexual predators and serial rapists run wild at Wal-Mart supplier in Jordan” is the title of a new shocking report written by the highly respected Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. According to the report, thousands of poor guest workers, mostly from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, labor at a frantic pace for 13 to 18.5 hours a day, six days a week sewing clothing for retail giants Wal-Mart and Target at the Classic Fashion sweatshop in Jordan. There, these oppressed women are cursed at, hit and shortchanged of their extremely low wages for not meeting their exhausting production goals. While these poor workers are paid on average only 61 cents an hour, Wal-Mart’s daily profits are over $38 million.
These workers are housed in primitive bed bug-infested dorms that lack heat and hot water. Furthermore, Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, explained to me that these women workers are only allowed out of Classic Fashion’s compound six hours a week.
Now, on top of all this tremendous injustice, scores of women continue to suffer sexual abuse, rape and even torture at the hands of several Classic Fashion managers, said Kernaghan. In Dec. of 2010, Kernaghan traveled to Jordan to secretly meet with several Classic Fashion workers. There he was handed several clandestine cell phone recorded heart-wrenching testimonies.
Kernaghan said the translated testimonies are so sad, he and his associate actually cried when they listened to the pain these women are forced to endure while sewing clothing for Wal-Mart and Target – who are doing nothing to end the oppression. One testimony from Kamala – a false name for her protection – reveals how these abused, raped workers feel hopeless – some even to the point of considering suicide.
“I am completely destroyed. I have nothing more to lose. I cannot face my parents. I cannot take my own life because I am extremely poor. I am the only one to take care of my parents.”
Because their families desperately need what little money these workers earn, the women feel compelled to stay and suffer as long as they can endure the pain. But Kernaghan said the back to school buying season going on right now is an ideal time to put the pressure on Wal-Mart and Target – where the majority of shoppers go to buy back to school supplies. He said the nearly $69 billion spent on back to school clothing and supplies for elementary, high school and college students offers consumers tremendous potential power!
But that power needs to be activated by parents, students, teachers and other caring people who are willing to take a few moments to e-mail and call Wal-Mart’s CEO Mike Duke at www.walmart.com/1-800-925-6278 and Target’s CEO Gregg W. Steinhafel at www.target.com/1-612-304-6073 to express their outrage over the indifference exhibited by these men toward the misery experienced by the women sewing clothing for their wealthy corporations!
Ask your family, friends, school and parish to get involved. Let’s flood Wal-Mart and Target with a sea of messages demanding an end to Classic Fashion’s oppression. And please go to www.globallabourrights.org and sign the petition to end sexual abuse at Classic Fashion. Certainly Jesus, who had a special love for the poor and oppressed, would have us do no less!
Tony Magliano is a columnist whose work appears in diocesan papers throughout the United States. If your diocesan paper does not carry his column, we encourage you to call them and request that they do.