-4- American Sweatshops Sew U.s. Military Uniforms.
by Gabriel Roth
Thursday, April 13, 2000
The women who work at the Lion Apparel factory in Beattyville, Ky., work long, grueling days for minimum wage. All day they breathe formaldehyde fumes, a suspected carcinogen. In the winter, they freeze; in the summers, they swelter for want of air conditioning. In the past 12 years, their employer has been cited 32 times for health and safety violations.
But keeping workers in sweatshop conditions helps Lion keep prices low for its biggest customer: the U.S. Department of Defense.
According to accounts from workers, the Lion plant and others that make uniforms for the U.S. military fall squarely within the legal definition of sweatshops: wages that don''t meet workers'' basic needs, uncomfortable and dangerous working conditions, and intimidation when workers try to unionize (Lion denies all these charges).
But you won''t hear the Pentagon complaining. The Defense Department has never signed onto the Clinton administration''s Workplace Code of Conduct. In fact, it aggressively works to keep costs as low as possible, and workers pay the price.
Note: Lion Apparel challenged Mother Jones and demanded a retraction of this story. Mother Jones refused, but it did make two changes in its report.
Mark Boal, "An American Sweatshop," Mother Jones, May/June 1999. For more information, go to www.nlcnet.org, www.sweatshopwatch.org, or www.uniteunion.org.