HIGHTOWER: The Sweatshop Cover-up

Someone should have told Julia Pleites the good news. Better yet, someone should tell her bosses at the El Salvadorian factory where she works, sewing Nike shirts that sell here for $70 each. She works six days a week, 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. She's forced to work overtime, but doesn't get paid for it. Indeed, Julia is paid only $4.79 a day.She lives in abject poverty in a 10-by-12 foot room with her mother and 3-year old daughter. No indoor plumbing. "I can only buy milk for my daughter maybe once every two weeks," she reports. "I give her lemonade instead."Julia Pleites wasn't invited to the big whoop-ti-do of a press conference announcing the industry's code of conduct. One reason is that their "code" delicately avoids the issue of exploitative wages paid to people like Julia -- which of course is the main issue for her.Instead, the code focuses on working conditions. But Julia could tell them about this, too. Her factory -- located in a free-trade zone supported by your and my tax dollars -- has no air conditioning and poor ventilation. Workers must sit on hard benches with no back support all day -- no cushions allowed. There's no breakroom -- hell, there's not even toilet paper in the bathrooms! And when you exit the factory, you're body-searched -- can't have anyone stealing a $70 shirt.Julia Pleites never heard of the industry's code of conduct. Big surprise, since, under it, 95 percent of their sweatshops are excluded from inspection, and the other five percent are inspected by monitors chosen and paid for by the companies.This is Jim Hightower saying ... This isn't sweatshop curtailment ... it's a sweatshop cover-up.

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