Organic Consumers Association

Wal-Mart Wins Sweatshop of the Year Award

January 16, 2003

Today the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) announced the winner of the Sweatshop Retailer "People's Choice Award," for the company most connected with sweatshop abuses in 2002. Close to 2,000 people in Canada and other countries voted on-line in the annual Sweatshop Retailer Award poll.

This year the "People's Choice Award" went to Wal-Mart, the overwhelming favourite with 56% of the popular vote. Disney came in second, garnering 22% of the vote. Other nominees this year included the Hudson's Bay Company, Nike and Gap.

Wal-Mart was cited for its bad treatment of its North American employees, as well as its contribution to the global sweatshop problem. Wal-Mart employees charge that the company required them to work unpaid overtime hours. The company has even stooped to profiting from employee deaths - by taking out life insurance policies on its employees, payable to the company.

"When it comes to poor labour practices, both in retail stores and supply factories overseas, Wal-Mart is sweatshop king," says MSN spokesperson Bob Jeffcott.

Among Canadian voters, Disney and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) virtually tied for second place, showing how tarnished the reputation of Canada's oldest retailer has become over the past twelve months. In 2002, HBC was caught red-handed having clothes made for its Zellers stores in three sweatshops in Lesotho, Africa. When informed of serious labour rights violations in these supply factories, the company unfortunately cut and run from the factories, terminating orders and thereby abandoning the workers.

"The Hudson's Bay Company is behaving more and more like Wal-Mart," says Jeffcott. "It's no secret either, judging from this year's vote."

In December 2002, MSN declared the Hudson's Bay Company and Wal-Mart as its choice for joint winners of the "Sweatshop Retailer of the Year" title for 2002. This is the third year that MSN has presented the Sweatshop Retailer Awards, and the second year that the public has been invited to vote for the "People's Choice Award."

For more information, contact: Bob Jeffcott
Maquila Solidarity Network
Tel: 416-532-8584

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