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Groups: Kohl’s, Sweatshops Contract

August 22, 2000

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Human rights, religious and labor groups are accusing Wisconsin-based Kohl’s Department Stores of contracting with two sweatshops in Nicaragua.

The National Labor Committee and other groups introduced two workers at a news conference Monday to tell of conditions at the factories _ Tawainese-owned Chentex and American-owned Mil Colores. The workers were said to have been among hundreds fired for trying to form a union.

Kohl’s spokeswoman Susan Henderson said the company sent independent auditors to Mil Colores this spring, and they did not find sweatshop conditions.

The company, based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., will be conducting another third-party audit of the factories, she said.

Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee of New York, a nonprofit group that focuses on workers’ rights worldwide, said workers have been verbally and physically abused, live on ``starvation″ wages and work more than 90-hour weeks.

Nicaraguan workers sewing jeans for Kohl’s are paid $65 a month and live in ``utter misery,″ Kernaghan said. He said many work as many as 50 hours overtime, added to the 47.5 hours week.

Chentex produces Sonoma jeans for Kohl’s, and Mil Colores produced High Sierra, a label owned by the Target Corp.

Kernaghan said about 33 percent of the Chentex shipments that came out of the factory went to Kohl’s stores.

Kernaghan said he was not seeking any boycotts and did not want production moved out of Nicaragua, but he wants Kohl’s to ``have respect for human rights.″

Patty Morris, spokeswoman for Target Stores, said Target Corp. does business with Mil Colores and has done four audits on the factory in the last year, with the most recent in April.

``We found no evidence of abusive working conditions or overtime issues,″ Morris said.

Kmart spokeswoman Michele Jasukaitis said that chain also does business with Mil Colores and sent inspectors to the factory on a ``very regular basis.″

The company will look into the new allegations, she said.

A protester was arrested Monday evening at a Kohl’s store on Milwaukee’s south side, police confirmed. Kernaghan said the man had been chanting in the store.

___

On the Net:

Kohl’s Department Store: http://www.kohls.com

National Labor Committee: http://www.nlcnet.org

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