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Olympics mascots made in ‘China sweatshops’: watchdog

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A labour watchdog on Wednesday slammed the London Olympics organisers over alleged human rights abuses at Chinese “sweatshops” producing Games merchandise.

The group said labourers at two Chinese factories producing merchandise including Olympics mascots Wenlock and Mandeville worked up to 120 hours of overtime a month, or nearly three times the legal limit.

The workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals without sufficient protective gear, leading to illnesses, and some had to buy their own face masks to guard against paint mist.

“We are disappointed as these practices are unacceptable,” Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) spokeswoman Debby Chan told AFP.

Sacom said it based its findings on interviews with 90 workers at two factories in southern Guangdong province between May and June.

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The factories were run by Hong Kong companies Key Pine and Zindart Manufacturing.

Some of the workers reported inhaling paint, being docked half a day’s wages if they were five minutes late, and being required to start shifts at 8:00 am after finishing at midnight the previous day.

Sacom said the conditions breached the London Organising Committee’s (Locog) ethical and sustainable procurement codes.

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“The rampant rights violations reveal that the Locog codes are really no more than lip service with no commitment to the enforcement of labour rights standards,” the group said in a report.

Sacom, which has previously highlighted conditions of workers producing Apple products in China, urged Logoc to investigate the Chinese factories.

It also demanded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) prevent such labour abuses in the future.

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Zindart told AFP it was investigating the claims, while a representative at Key Pine said the company was not aware of the report. Both declined further comment.

Foreign firms have increasingly turned to China for its cheap labour, but rights workers say labour abuses are widespread despite the government’s pledges to improve conditions.

New York-based China Labor Watch last month said an investigation of 10 suppliers to Apple in southern and eastern China uncovered violations of workers’ rights, including excessive overtime and dangerous conditions.

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In March the Fair Labor Association also reported forced overtime and other problems at three of Apple’s Chinese suppliers.


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Trump’s tax law threatened TurboTax’s profits — so the company started charging the disabled, the unemployed and students

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The 2017 tax overhaul vastly expanded the number of people who could file simplified tax returns, a boon to millions of Americans.

But the new law directly threatened the lucrative business of Intuit, the maker of TurboTax.

Although the company draws in customers with the promise of a “free” product, its fortunes depend on getting as many customers as possible to pay. It had been regularly charging $100 or more for returns that included itemized deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations. Under the new law, many wealthier taxpayers would no longer be filing that form, qualifying them to use the company’s free software.

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Trump’s packed Supreme Court backs ‘forced arbitration’ that bars workers from taking abusive bosses to court

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Corporations are rapidly rendering sexual harassment, race and gender discrimination, life-threatening workplaces and wage theft immune to employee legal action.

They achieve this by forcing the vast majority of non-union private-sector workers to sign away their rights to go to court or use class or collective arbitration. Instead many millions of workers are being forced to forgo these efficient legal ways to resolve issues and to file individual arbitration claims.

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy says that by 2024 more than 80% of non-union private-sector workers will find courthouse doors chained shut by forced arbitration clauses that ban lawsuits and collective actions. (EPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to press the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.)

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Corporations can legally put carcinogens in our food without warning labels — here’s why

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A recent study by the Environmental Working Group revealed something horrifying: Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup, was present in 17 of the 21 oat-based cereal and snack products at levels considered unsafe for children. That includes six different brands of Cheerios, one of the most popular American cereals.

I've written before about the limits of corporate free speech when it comes to public safety, but on that occasion I discussed this insofar as it involved corporate-sponsored climate change denialism. Yet here we have something more tangible, more direct: The safe glyphosate limit for children is 160 parts per billion (ppb), yet Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch has 833 parts per billion and regular Cheerios has 729 ppb. While the potential risks of glyphosate are fiercely debated, many scientists believe that it is linked to cancer.

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