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article imageWhose Burden is the Cross You Wear?

By KJ Mullins     Nov 22, 2007 in Business
Crucifixes signify that a person is Christian. They adorn the neck of the religious. Some of those crosses though come from the sweat of Chinese slaving away in factories. Those crosses have more than the blood of Jesus on them.
“Jesus, take pity on me! I’m going to die of exhaustion.”
According to a press release from the National Labor Committee, crucifixes are being made under "horrific sweatshop conditions" In China.
Factory workers at the Junxingye factory in China are forced to work seven days a week for 14 hours a day to manufacture crosses that will be shipped to the United States.
Before shipments leave for the US, labourers are often forced to work shifts lasting up to 25 hours. Workers routinely work more than 100 hours a week, 51 of those hours are overtime. The legal limit of China's work hour rules are exceeded by 514 per cent. The majority of the workers at this factory are young women (some as young as 15) who can go months before they see a day off.
Workers who make the cross necklaces are paid a measly 26.5 cents an hour, less than half of the legal minimum wage. Workers are paid $10.61 a week but deductions take large portions to pay for their company dorm room and food. When the final tally is made, workers see about $3.70 a week. Those working a 91-hour week get a bit more at $30.61. That's only 43 per cent of the $70.71 they legally should be getting.
Does that crucifix feel a little tighter now? Don't worry there's more to this story.
The dorms in which employees reside are filthy. Maybe it's better to be in the sweatshop slaving away than laying on a narrow double bunk bed with only a draped sheet hanging for privacy. There are no dressers for clothes, and in moss grows in the bathroom.
The food that takes money out of their paycheck is not gourmet, either: Workers get soup with a few veggie leaves and drops of oil. Their meat dish has pieces of meat so small they can't be lifted with chopsticks.
There's no stories of Jesus swooping in with bread and fish to feed the masses a bountiful meal.
Even worse, workers bodies have rashes from chemicals they are forced to use. The names of the toxic ingredients are not known to the workers, though; management refuses to tell them what they are using.
They have no employment contract which strips away their legal rights that other full-time Chinese employees are given. If they miss a day because they are too sick to work, they are docked 2.5 days wages. Every single labour law in China is being violated at the Junxingye factory, according to the National Labor Committee.
Is that cross starting to choke you yet?
There's money to be made by the cross, however. The $4.63-billion Association for Christian Retail has followed the golden brick road to China. The association reportedly doesn't monitor what they ask to have manufactured. Ironically, they don't even care that the people who slave away for their products have no freedom when it comes to religion.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church and the Association for Christian Retail have 2,035 member stores and suppliers. They do not have a fair-trade rule for their merchandise.
When it comes down to the ethics of that pretty little cross around your neck, it seems that if one doesn't know the price of the blood that made it then close your eyes and it's just fine.
So in the scheme of things I leave you with one question: What would Jesus do?
More about Crucifix, Sweatshops, China