Lists of Brands That Use Sweatshops

by Selam Nuri ; Updated September 26, 2017

The International Labor Rights Forum notes that numerous companies with leading brands rely on sweatshop labor. A 2008 "New York Times" article by David Barboza disclosed how Chinese factories that employ workers to produce goods for Western nations were exploited. In addition to being paid minimal wages, the workers were exposed to dangerous machines and harmful chemicals. Leading brands that rely on sweatshops include Nike, Burberry and Walmart.

Clothing Manufacturers

American Apparel, Abercombe & Fitch, L.L. Bean, Gymboree, Hanes and Burberry are some of the top brand name companies that use sweatshop labor to manufacture their textiles and apparel. According to the International Labor Forum, these companies have failed to respond to fair labor standards or improve the working conditions of their employees. L.L. Bean, Gymborree, Hanes use forced child labor in their Uzbekistan cotton production plants. Employees working for these clothing manufacturers are denied any collective bargaining rights or unionization. The International Labor Forum indicates that this is an inconclusive list as there are numerous other brand-name clothing manufacturers that employ sweatshop laborers.

Sportswear Manufacturers

Sportswear manufacturers like Nike and Adidas rely on the labor of workers in Indonesia to produce their shoes. A report by Common Dreams, a non-partisan citizen’s organization, indicates that Indonesian workers live in extreme poverty and face prosecution and physical assault by their employers. Nike is the world’s largest sports shoe company, and owns 11 factories in Indonesia that produce 55 million shoes each year. A significant portion of the shoes is exported to the United States; only 1 pair in 50 is sold to Indonesian consumers.

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 and lacking in “corporate social responsibility.” Four factory workers in Turkey who were employed by these companies lost their lives as a result of unsafe working conditions. As one of the world’s largest retailers, Walmart has over 60,000 suppliers. Walmart has had a long history of “high-profile” labor rights violations in countries like Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Swaziland. Walmart has failed in areas including fare wages, overtime pay, maternity leave, bathroom breaks, forced labor and the right to unionize.

Agro-Industrial Companies

Agro-industrial brands like Monsanto, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland engage in unfair labor practices. According to the International Labor Rights Forum, these companies “sit atop a complex supply chain” that subjects workers to child labor, forced labor and debt bondage. Small-scale farmers in different parts of the world are required to purchase their seeds from these agro-industrial giants and sell back their products at “unsustainable” prices. Workers who work on farms that export products like pineapples, rubber, cotton, cocoa, tea and flowers supply major food processing brands like Kraft, Nestle and Dole. These companies own a significant portion of the world’s food brands and violate worker’s rights in areas including wages, work hours, freedom of association and exposure to harmful or toxic chemicals.

About the Author

Selam Nuri has been writing academic articles and working across the curriculum since 2001. She has been published online at various websites and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2006 from the City University of New York.

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