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2000-05-24
Beijing, China. Welcome to China Mart!

Would it change your shopping habits if the name of the company was "China Mart" instead of "Wal-Mart"? Or "Import Mart"? Would it help you if all items made in foreign countries were marked with a bright, day-glo lable with true country of origin printed on it? Would you even care? According to the New York Times of 5/21/00, Wal-Mart "already gets 53% of its clothing imports from China" based on US Customs documents, and the company admits to sourcing its products from "several thousand factories" in China. Wal-Mart is America's largest importer of Chinese goods. The replacement of domestic products with imported goods has had an indelible effect on our economy. As a nation, we now import 6.5 times as much from China as we export, and companies like Wal-Mart are in the forefront of this imbalance. We imported nearly $12 billion in toys, games and sporting goods from China in 1999, and $8.4 billion in shoes and sneakers alone. Another $7.3 billion was spent on clothing. Over the past two and a half decades, we have succeeded in decimating the clothing manufacturing capacity of this country. Since 1973, America has lost 1,300,000 apparel jobs, a loss of 52% of our clothing manufacturing base. Wal-Mart, which now has 6 stores in China, sees that nation as a "tremendous" opportunity to open more boxes and leverage sales: "an amazing 1.2 billion residents" Wal-Mart says. Just as Congress considers liberalizing trade with China, new reports indicate that many of the factories American companies contract with in China are paying their workers wages as low as 3 an hour, working their employees 98 hour workweeks, requiring compulsory unpaid overtime, and banning talking during work hours. Wal-Mart ia always prominently named as a company that sources its goods from such sweatshops. So the world's largest importer of Chinese goods is hoping that we won't see that the sign on the building really ought to read "China Mart", and its founder reverentially referred to as Chairman Sam.

What you can do: The New York Times article made it clear that we export high tech merchandise to China, and import cheap consumer goods. We send China airplanes, industrial machinery and telecommunications equipment, and we import shoes, toys and clothing. Until Americans decide to personally "check the label" to avoid Chinese goods, we will be directly funding the work of "China Mart" in lowering the value of labor in America, and encouraging sweatshops in foreign countries. We have also done a number on our domestic manufacturing jobs. Our purchases of these products are a direct investment in their perpetuation. Before you take it off the rack -- look at the label. Better yet, don't give your hard-earned money to China Mart. If you don't shop there, it sends a message that you don't support the economic exploitation that brings these "shirts of misery" to our shores.










 
 
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