We give up; we can’t keep up with the Kardashians anymore, nor do we want to. After drawing the ire of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for wearing fur, Kim and her reality TV clan are now under fire from a human-rights watchdog group for hawking products allegedly made with slave labor, according to Star. In order to bring their K-Dash by Kardashian, Kris Jenner Kollection, and ShoeDazzle labels to market, sweatshop workers in China’s Guangdong province—some as young as 16—were said to have labored for 84 hours over a seven-day work week to help Kim and kompany rake in $65 million in profits last year. The workers, in contrast, received a mere $1 an hour for their efforts, making as little as $15 a month after food and rent. Talk about economic inequality.
“People like the Kardashians are producing their products in China because they will get more profit, since the labor cost is so low compared to the United States and other countries,” Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, tells the tabloid magazine. Paltry earnings aside, the workers were described as living in “squalid factory-run dormitories” filled with the “stench of sewage.”
The workers were described as living in “squalid factory-run dormitories” filled with the “stench of sewage.”
The staff was also at the mercy of extreme rules and regulations: no talking, listening to music, standing up, or stretching. Even toilet breaks were allegedly on a by-permission basis, with a four-minute limit per trip.
“The Kardashians are in bed with some pretty bad people,” says Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, which is investigating the family. “Not only are celebrities like the Kardashians taking advantage of these workers, they are holding hands with a government that spits on democracy and women’s rights.”
We could, of course, give the Kardashians the benefit of the doubt, but what must it take for a brand to pay attention to the people who toil for their benefit?
“Kim has been very fortunate, but it’s time for her and her family to treat these workers with respect,” Kernaghan adds. “Kim, for example, could say, ‘It ain’t going to be all about me, me and me.’ She could do something and not leave behind a broken mess of women and children. If she took a stand and said, ‘I want to manufacture my products in Chicago or Los Angeles, where I can ensure people humane conditions,’ she would be taking the right stand.”
Ball’s in your kourt now, Kim.
UPDATE | 12/22/11
The Kardashians are denying the accusations, according to TMZ, and plan to sue Star for libel. Kernaghan also admitted to the gossip site on Wednesday that he didn’t actually visit the factories in question but was making an assumption based on years of research on the Chinese garment industry. He’s quick to add that 75 percent of the factories in the region have conditions similar to the ones he described to Star, however.
The family insists that they factories they use are “strictly policed” and there are no human rights violations, but the head of China Labor Watch says they’re lying. The plot sickens?