Flouting Labor Law: Western Companies Accused of Operating Sweatshops

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Sweatshop means conditions of work which are unacceptably difficult or dangerous. Sweatshop workers are made to work for long hours, often with very poor pay packets. Most of the time all statutory laws regarding overtime pay or minimum wages are studiou


Sweatshop is a term which describes conditions of work which are considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous. Sweatshop workers are made to work for long hours, often with very poor pay packets. Most of the time all statutory laws regarding overtime pay or minimum wages are studiously ignored. Child labor laws are also violated with impunity. Sweatshops may have hazardous materials and the work environment may not be conducive to good health. Employees may also be abused by the employer and a worker has no easy way out.

Unfortunately most of the companies that operate these sweat shops are from the west. We can identify these companies from the product they manufacture. We can start with the Clothing manufacturers. The companies that have been singled out by the International Labor Forum are American Apparel, Abercombe and Fitch, LL Bean, Gymboree, Hanes and Burberry. These companies have failed to respond to the fair labor standards or improve the working conditions of their employees.

Child Labor

L.L. Bean, Gymboree and Hanes are accused of employing child labor in their cotton production plants in Uzbekistan. Employees working for these clothing manufacturers are denied the right to unionise. The International Labor Forum has s indicated that there are many more companies that employ sweatshop labourers.

Next in line are the sportswear manufacturers. The names of Nike and Adidas are in the forefront. These companies rely on labor in Indonesia. A report by Common Dreams a citizen’s organization has revealed that the Indonesian workers live in extreme poverty and face an uncertain future. They are also subjected to physical assault by the employers. Nike is the world's largest sports shoe company, and owns 11 factories in Indonesia that produce 55 million shoes each year.

 We can now have a look at Furniture and discount stores. The International Labor Rights Forum lists Ikea, Walmart and Kohl's as furniture and discount stores with a history of unfair labor practices.


Walmart is one of the world’s largest retailers. It has over 60,000 suppliers. Walmart has had a long history of labor rights violations in countries like Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Swaziland. Walmart has failed in areas that cover wages, overtime pay, maternity leave, forced labor and the right to form unions.

The Fourth group of Industries is the Agro Industrial companies.  The famous brands accused in running sweat shops are Monsanto, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. According to the International Labor Rights Forum, these companies employ child labor and coerce workers into forced labor.

One of their classical methods of exploitation is to require small-scale farmers in different parts of the world to purchase seeds from them and sell back their products at higher prices. These companies have a significant presence all over the world. At the same time they violate worker's rights in areas including wages, work hours, freedom of association and exposure to harmful or toxic chemicals.

Last word

It can be seen that almost all companies which violate labor laws and exploit workers are from the west. These companies operate sweat shops and it looks like the world is unable to do anything about them


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Madan G Singh
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