Olympic Brands Accused of Labor Abuse Scandal
Bangladesh sweatshops producing sportswear for Olympic sponsors Adidas, Nike and Puma repeatedly abuse their workers, an investigation by a British charity has uncovered.
A report released Monday by War on Want claims that workers for all three companies have been physically abused. Two thirds of the workers interviewed, mostly young women, had been beaten, slapped, pushed or had their hair pulled by their managers, War on Want claimed.
The women workers for all Adidas and Nike factories reported sexual harassment. The workers for all three companies had to work illegally long hours, up to 80 hours a week, for less than the minimum wage.
Adidas is the official outfitter of the London 2012 Olympics, supplying British team uniforms designed by Stella McCartney and the uniforms for the 70,000 volunteers who will be helping to run the Games. Adidas also sponsors many of the high-profile athletes expected to compete at the Games, including David Beckham and Jessica Ennis.
An investigator with the London-based charity and researchers in Bangladesh found that many workers had been beaten, kicked or pushed, and publicly humiliated.
Greg Muttitt, the campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Companies such as Adidas, Nike and Puma make huge profits from this abuse, while soiling the Olympic flag in which they wrap themselves."
Workers for all three firms said they faced cruel punishment if they tried to stand up for their legal rights. Aside from the beatings, they said they were swore at, pushed, forced to undress, and humiliated by being made to stand on a table, locked in the toilet or refused permission to use the toilets.
Factories supplying all three companies broke the law on overtime. A Nike spokeswoman told The Guardian newspaper that "Nike takes working conditions in our contract factories very seriously. All Nike suppliers must adhere to our code of conduct. We are investigating the allegations you have presented and will be back to you as soon someone in our sustainable manufacturing team has made an assessment."
Adidas said that all their suppliers in Bangladesh are subject to regular audits, including monitoring visits by a women's non-governmental organization, which interviews workers and examines workplace conditions regularly.
London 2012 Olympics chair Lord Coe has called the Games "a powerful lever of change, improving lives across the world." Yet War on Want's research appears to reveal appalling abuses committed by a company the Games have endorsed.
In Bangladesh, 3.5 million workers in 4,825 garment factories produce goods for export to the global market, principally Europe and North America. The Bangladeshi garment industry generates 80 percent of the country's total export revenue. However, the wealth generated by this sector has led to few improvements in the lives of garment workers, 85 percent of whom are women.
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