For the last two years, Verité has been meeting with migrant workers in the electronics sector in Malaysia to understand their experiences. Our findings shocked us – one in three of the hundreds of thousands of migrants working in Malaysian electronics manufacturing is in a condition of forced labor. These Burmese, Nepalis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese, Thais, Indonesians and Filipinos work in modern factories. But because they are foreigners they are often employed by third-party labor agents rather than the factories themselves.
Inspectors came and went from a Walmart-certified factory in Guangdong Province in China, approving its production of more than $2 million in specialty items that would land on Walmart’s shelves in time for Christmas. But unknown to the inspectors, none of the playful items, including reindeer suits and Mrs. Claus dresses for dogs, that were supplied to Walmart had been manufactured at the factory. Instead, Chinese workers sewed the goods — which had been ordered by the Quaker Pet Group, a company based in New Jersey — at a rogue factory that had not gone through the certification process set by Walmart for labor, worker safety or quality, according to documents and interviews with officials involved.
The building collapse in Bangladesh has renewed the discussion about working conditions around the world. Verite’s CEO Dan Viederman told NEPR’s Susan Kaplan that many things contribute to the country’s problems, including corruption, not enough inspectors and a poor populace.