In the News

Olympic race: Tales of workers' woes

BBC News

Sportswear firms have been accused of exploiting workers in a bid to get products onto shop shelves in time for the Athens Olympics in August.

Oxfam and UK trade unions said the companies were overriding labour standards and treating workers badly.

The accusations are based on interviews with workers and management in China, Bulgaria, Turkey, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Here are some of the comments made by those interviewed.

Phan, 22, migrant worker in a Thai garment factory

Flower Workers Day makes progress

Colombia Week


Valentine's Day has become practically synonymous with red roses, yet few consumers have any idea where the flowers come from. The roses purchased last week in the typical U.S. supermarket came from women working 60-hour weeks for less than $1 an hour in pesticide-filled greenhouses and freezing warehouses near the Colombian capital.

Poison Posies? :Floral Industry's Use of Pesticides Has Some Consumers Wary

By Marc Lallanilla

Nothing can express affection on Valentine's Day better than a bouquet of fresh flowers. But those floral beauties come at a high cost — for the health of the workers that harvest them. That's because most flowers are grown free from many pesticide regulations, leaving low-wage floral industry workers vulnerable to toxic exposures.

Chinese Workers Pay for Wal-Mart's Low Prices

The Washington Post

By Peter S. Goodman and Philip P. Pan

Page A01

SHENZHEN, China -- Inside the factory, amid clattering machinery and clouds of sawdust, men without earplugs or protective goggles feed wood into screaming electric saws, making cabinets for stereo speakers. Women hunch over worktables, many hands bandaged and few covered by gloves, pressing transistors into circuit boards.

Capitalism in the raw

The Economist

Labour rights and free trade with the United States

Every weekday, Dora Amelia Ramos, a single mother, leaves her breeze-block home in a village south of San Salvador at 6am to go to her job at a maquila factory making clothes for export from imported cloth. Earning the minimum wage of just over $5 a day, she is perched on one of the lower rungs of the world economy. But she counts herself lucky to have a job at all. That is because she is a trade unionist.

Brazil Pays Parents to Help Poor Be Pupils, Not Wage Earners

New York Times

By Celia Dugger

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Vandelson Andrade, 13, often used to skip school to work 12-hour days on the small, graceful fishing boats that sail from the picturesque harbor here. His meager earnings helped pay for rice and beans for his desperately poor family.

But this year he qualified for a small monthly cash payment from the government that his mother receives on the condition that he shows up in the classroom.