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Wal-Mart Exec’s Comments Slap in the Face for U.S. Workers

In a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers whose living depends on their jobs in America’s textile industry, an executive at Wal-Mart, which imported some $12 billion in merchandise from China in 2002, says Chinese imports are not jeopardizing American textile jobs—they’ve already gone overseas.

“The only apparel that’s left in the U.S. is sweatshops in Chinatown,” Wal-Mart’s procurement chief, Andrew Tsuei, said during an interview last year with the Los Angeles Times. Tsuei heads global procurement for Wal-Mart, which imports nearly 10 percent of all Chinese goods sold in the United States. China is Wal-Mart’s biggest trading partner.

Thousands of U.S. textile workers have lost their jobs in recent years: The number of domestic garment and textile jobs has dropped from some 850,000 in 2000 to 593,000 last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wal-Mart is the single largest importer of foreign-produced goods in the United States, according to World Trade Magazine and the majority of its private-label clothing is manufactured in at least 48 countries around the world—almost none in the United States.

The company says its inventory of products made in China was expected to hit $18 billion last year, the second consecutive year the inventory grew by more than 20 percent. More than 70 percent of the products sold at Wal-Mart are made in China, according to the China Business Weekly.

“Wal-Mart is as ignorant as it is evil,” says Bruce Raynor, general president of UNITE HERE, which represents textile workers. “Mr. Tsuei’s statement is an insult to the thousands of our members who make everything from military uniforms to men’s tailored clothing to women’s apparel. There are, unfortunately, sweatshops in the U.S. and the main reason is the Wal-Mart business model that is driving down wages and living standards.”

Last year, the United States ran a record $162 billion trade deficit with China, the largest-ever with any country, eclipsing the record $124 billion deficit with China in 2003. Such a huge trade deficit
undercuts domestic manufacturing and destroys good U.S. jobs because the nation is importing, on a large scale, products that had been produced domestically.

More than 80 percent of the 6,000 factories in Wal-Mart’s worldwide database of suppliers are in China. If Wal-Mart was a separate nation, it would rank as China’s fifth-largest export market, ahead of Germany and Britain.

Source: AFL-CIO


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