Sweatshop Report Paints Bleak Picture

Conditions in apparel factories "sub-par"

The University released a major report examining worldwide labor conditions in the apparel industry Friday, and the findings are bleak.

Harvard, along with four other universities, hired a team of consultants to visit seven countries to evaluate whether manufacturers of college apparel abide by local labor laws, comply with established industry codes of conduct and meet standards to ensure a fair and safe environment for workers.

"Sub-par working conditions exist in apparel factories in all of the countries visited," the report concluded.


The consultants found widespread health and safety violations, illegal labor practices, a lack of freedom of association and instances of workplace discrimination.

The report also stressed the difficulty of monitoring the factories themselves.

The team of consultants, including the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Education Fund, the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) and Dara O'Rourke, an expert in worldwide labor standards, gathered information by speaking with government officials, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, factory owners and other industry stakeholders in each country to identify problems in the workplace. They then conducted factory inspections, two per country, to test the reality of these problems.

"We got a general, perhaps theoretical picture of what the problems are [from interviewing stakeholders], and in many cases that information was corroborated by the factory visits," said Meg Voorhes, director of the social issues service at IRRC.

The consultants hired international business firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct the factory inspections, a decision that has sparked much controversy.

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