A Chinese factory that produces souvenir medallions with the University’s logo allegedly violated Chinese labor laws with the treatment of its workers, according to a report issued last month by a national labor-monitoring group.
The report, released by the New York-based National Labor Committee, implicates the University by citing a factory production order for 100 medallions with the University’s block ‘M’ logo from the Junxingye Metal and Plastic Factory in Dongguan, China.
The NLC obtained the production order for University merchandise after it was smuggled out of the factory by a worker.
Multiple other universities, including Brigham Young University, Auburn University and Rutgers University, were mentioned in the report as having merchandise produced at the Junxingye factory.
Charles Kernaghan, director of the NLC, said the University of Michigan’s production order included in the report represented a small amount of the total university merchandise produced at the factory.
“That’s just a snapshot of what’s being made there,” Kernaghan said. The NLC report stated that workers earned less than half of the 55-cent minimum wage required by law in the southern province of Guangdong, where the factory is located.
Workers were being forced to work up to 15.5 hours a day for seven days a week, which exceeded the Chinese labor law mandating an eight-hour workday for five days a week, the report stated.
The report also found that workers were forced to work an average of 51 hours of overtime, which exceeds China’s legal limit by 514 percent.
School of Social Work Prof. Larry Root, chair of University President Mary Sue Coleman’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights, said the committee would discuss the findings of the NLC report at its meeting Tuesday.
The committee oversees the University’s licensees and reviews their labor standards.
The NLC’s report marks the second time in less than a month that a factory producing University of Michigan merchandise was the target of allegations of labor violations.
Last month, the Worker Rights Consortium released a report alleging that a Mobile, Ala., factory owned by University licensee New Era racially discriminated against black workers in pay, hiring and promotion decisions.
Adidas, the University’s new athletic apparel supplier, has also been embroiled in labor disputes, most recently in El Salvador, where a factory subcontracted to produce Adidas apparel has yet to compensate workers for unpaid wages and severance pay after closing in 2005.
Ian Robinson, a researcher for the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, said the disconnected nature of the global market for apparel and merchandise production, often involving suppliers, contractors and subcontractors scattered throughout the world, makes it nearly impossible to monitor and enforce labor standards in factories.
“The system is set up to minimize labor costs and accountability for companies,” Robinson said.
Although the production order contains the University’s logo, the University itself is not directly connected with the factory under investigation.
The report states that Full Start Ltd., a Hong Kong-based company, submitted the production order for the University medallions. It is unclear which University licensee ordered the medallions through Full Start Ltd.
Kernaghan said there was no documentation that the factory existed until workers secretly contacted the NLC.
“Every single labor law was violated, every overtime law violated,” Kernaghan said. “There was absolutely nothing about this factory that is legal.”