Crosses Sold in US Made in Chinese Sweatshops
Ed Brayton printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Nov 28, 2007 at 12:50:59 AM EST
The National Labor Committee (NLC) has released a shocking report showing that Christian crosses marketed in the United States by the Association for Christian Retail (ACR, founded as the Christian Booksellers Association) are being made in a Chinese sweatshop with working conditions that are appalling even by Chinese legal standards. The report is titled, Today Workers Bear the Cross: Crucifixes Made Under Horrific Sweatshop Conditions in China.

The ACR supplies nearly all of the nation's Christian specialty stores with a wide range of items including Bibles, Christian books, curriculum, apparel, music, videos, gifts, greeting cards. Perhaps their largest client is Family Christian Stores, a Grand Rapids based compeny that is the largest Christian retailer in the nation with over 300 stores. ACR did $4.63 billion in business in 2006, at least a portion of it apparently profiting from the suffering of workers at the Junxingye factory in Dongguan, China. The facts in this report are stunning even by Chinese standards:

Crucifixes are being made at the Junxingye Factory in Dongguan, China, by mostly young women-- several just 15 and 16 years old--forced to work routine 14 to 15 ½-hour shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., seven days a week. There are also frequent 17 to 18 hour shifts ending at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and even monthly all-night 22 ½ to 25-hour shifts before shipments must leave for the U.S. All overtime is mandatory, and anyone missing even a single overtime shift will be docked a full day's wages. It is common for the workers to be at the factory at least 100 hours a week. Workers are paid just 26 ½ cents an hour, which is half of China's legal minimum wage (already set at a below-subsistence level) of 55 cents an hour. After fees deducted for room and board, the workers take-home wage can drop to just nine cents an hour. Workers are housed in primitive dorm rooms sleeping on narrow double-level metal bunk beds that line the walls. There is no other furniture, and the rooms reek of perspiration. The walls are filthy, smudged with black, while spider webs cling to the ceiling. The bathrooms are so damp and dirty that moss grows on the floor...Anyone missing a day due to sickness will, as punishment, be docked two-and-a-half day's wages. Workers fear that they may be handling toxic chemicals, but they are not told the names of the chemicals and paints, let alone their potential health hazards.

The National Labor Council held a press conference outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York last week to publicize the report. Prior to that point, St. Patrick's sold the crucifixes on site, but they have since pulled them from shelves. Trinity Church in New York City did the same. The ACR, on the other hand, has only issued this brief statement:

While we occasionally hear this issue raised, and believe there are factories in China where human rights are violated, we believe claims that products sold through CBA member stores are made in these shops are irresponsible and unfounded."

The ACR's media relations person sent me a generic statement that said there were "inaccuracies" in the NLC report, but she refused to give specifics when I asked. The statement only said that their supplier had gotten "assurances" from the owners of the factory in China that the allegations were false. The media relations person at Family Christian Stores in Grand Rapids was unaware of the report and said they would return the call with any statement they wished to make. They never called back.

Christian merchandising is a lucrative and growing segment of the retail market, a multi-billion dollar a year industry that markets everything from Bibles to keychains to the ubiquitous What Would Jesus Do stickers. It seems unlikely that the Jesus who told his followers "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me also" would countenance the use of virtual slave labor to produce the symbols of his life.

Is what it boils down to for present day American christianity. Look at the huge churches, the huge houses the mega-pastors live in, their Lear jets, cars, just basic lavish life styles.

Then look at the shameless way they distrtt history and science, and have sold off their spiritual legacy to the extent that Rick Scarborough's current "evenagelical" crusade is completely political in nature.

The "War on Christmas" rakes in hundreds of millions every year, they certainly won't let that go despite their hypocritical position on the subject.

Our dollar bill is the god that christians now trust, and it even says so. It's the most logical way to explain their horrific, unchristian, anti-Jesus like behavior.

by Leckey on Wed Nov 28, 2007 at 08:37:57 AM EST

Christians started the "War On Christmas".

Specifically, the Puritans.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Nov 28, 2007 at 01:05:58 PM EST

Thank you for the reminder.

by nogodsnomasters on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 10:58:06 AM EST

Ed Brayton ends his post with this (unintentional, I presume) irony: "It seems unlikely that the Jesus who told his followers "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me also" would countenance the use of virtual slave labor to produce the symbols of his life." Except that a CRUCIFIX is symbolic of Christ's horrifically agonizing, tortured, prolonged DEATH upon the cross. A story, by the way, very much suspect in fact. Christianity, in general, is a death-worship religion. Yuch.

by Forrest Prince on Wed Nov 28, 2007 at 12:13:08 PM EST
refrain from violationg TTA's guidelines.  The people who run this site are Christians.  Please avoid needlessly offending them.

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 05:35:19 PM EST
One point of clarification, however. I have never stated anything about my religious views, nor do I intend to.

On this site, we welcome believers and nonbelievers; Christians and non-Christians. We have always had considerable diversity in the featured writers, and will continue to do so.  We expect everyone who participates to treat one another with respect. We also think in the interests of that respect, as well as intellectual competance, it is wise to avoid making vast generalizations about whole classes of people. When we criticize prominent Southern Baptists for example (and boy have we!) we do not make vast generalizations about Southern Baptists, let alone all Baptists.

As for those who willfully violate the site policies and exhibit themselves to be trolls, we do not hesitate to delete comments and ban the perps. We don't usually make a show of it. But anyone who does not take these words seriously is very mistaken.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 07:40:14 PM EST

my bad.  Sorry.

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 09:13:22 PM EST

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