The federal government’s rhetoric decrying substandard working conditions in developing countries throughout the world has been well-documented. Reports show the U.S. Labor Department has a “zero tolerance” policy dictating federal governmental agencies may not contract with foreign countries in violation of their home country’s laws.
Though the American government rightly decries such unscrupulous businesses, a recent report shows bureaucratic actions do not square with the associated lip service. The New York Times reported that clothing used in a litany of official capacities had origins of questionable repute.
Among the most egregious use of products likely manufactured in sweatshop conditions involves shirts sold in military stores throughout the U.S. According to the report, large selection of U.S. Marine Corps-branded clothing came from the Bangladeshi company DK Knitware Ltd.
In recent years, the company faced an audit showing about one in three of its workers were children.
Other military branches – including the Army and Air Force – reportedly also use potentially illegal overseas workers to produce clothing. The article concludes the Cambodian sweatshop used in these cases was found to have numerous underage workers who said they were told to hide from auditors during inspections.
Further evidence included in the article shows the Smithsonian Institution sold a collection of clothing made by workers at Thailand’s Georgie & Lou Co. That company has also been found to be in violation of local laws. Not only have workers at the sweatshop reportedly worked for just $10 per day, they face steep penalties for producing any subpar merchandise.
While the government is not technically breaking any laws by using victimized workers in third-world nations to produce these products, the report raises serious questions regarding D.C.’s ability to police itself. The government has long been a bastion of waste and inefficiency; however, the report shows more than $1.5 billion is spent on these unsavory purchases each year.
Office of Management and Budget spokesperson Frank Benanati claimed the “administration is committed to ensuring that our government is doing business only with contractors who place a premium on integrity and good business ethics.”
The contractors themselves, however, are basically free to pick whichever manufacturer they see fit.
While leftist politicians clamor for unsustainable pay hikes for unskilled laborers in America, genuinely oppressed workers around the world endure daily danger to provide the government with cheap goods.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo Credit: The U.S. National Archives (Creative Commons)