Milwaukee Tool Probed on Alleged Forced Labor in China - Modern Distribution Management

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Milwaukee Tool Probed on Alleged Forced Labor in China

Two lawmakers express concerns after an investigative report alleges Chinese prisoners manufacture Milwaukee Tool gloves.
Exterior shot of Milwaukee Tool's Global Headquarters in Brookfield, Wis.

Months following an investigative report alleging Chinese prisoners are being forced to manufacture Milwaukee Tool-branded gloves, two lawmakers have raised concerns to the company owned by Hong Kong-based Techtronic Industries.

On July 10, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) sent a letter to Brookfield, Wisconsin-based Milwaukee Tool Group President Steve Richman on behalf of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), which monitors human rights in China.

In the letter — available below and on the CECC’s Twitter page — the lawmakers asked for information about and a reaction to the allegations of forced labor. They asked the company to share findings of any assessments of the company’s supply chain, including contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and sub-suppliers.  

A Milwaukee Tool spokesperson told Wisconsin Watch in May that the company has found no evidence to support the claims made about its link to forced labor and that Milwaukee Tool “conducts a complete and throughout review” of global operations and supply chain.

Background: Forced Labor Allegations

Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit investigative news outlet, which ran a story in May detailing one man’s account of being forced to work in manufacturing spaces while in prison in China. He told the news outlet he was tasked with cutting polyester fabric and sewing it together to make work gloves destined for the United States. Importing products made with forced labor is a violation of U.S. law.

“He later learned about the company whose brand was on the gloves, stamped with a thunderbolt and the word ‘Milwaukee.’ Shown photos of Milwaukee Tool gloves for sale at two Madison, Wis. Home Depot stores, Lee verified four types of gloves he was forced to make — Free-Flex, Demolition, Performance and Winter Performance,” Wisconsin Watch reported. 

A The Home Depot spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that the company investigated Milwaukee Tool after learning of the allegations and did not find any evidence of forced labor.

Wisconsin Watch also reported that two former prisoners said in separate interviews that a supplier for Milwaukee Tool subcontracted work to the prison. 

During a July 11 CECC hearing on corporate complicity in human rights violations, the wife of another prisoner gave a testimony detailing her husband’s forced labor sewing gloves. 

“Although he has not specifically said that he has been working on gloves bearing the Milwaukee Tool logo, the mere chance that he might be should be intolerable to Americans,” she wrote in the testimony

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