Did Vox Just Prove That Walmart’s Been Using Chinese Prison Labor?

So here’s the setup: a woman buys a purse at Walmart and finds a note inside. The note claims that Chinese prisoners made the purse and that those prisoners were treated horribly. The story then went viral and caught the eye of an intrepid Vox reporter, who set out to see if the stated claims were true.

“The Walmart note followed a tradition of hidden messages found by shoppers,” author Rossalyn Warren wrote, but unfortunately, most past messages “have come under public scrutiny, as they’re often suspected of being written and planted by activists… [and the] handwriting, the language, and even the paper used for notes have pointed to activist work.”

This one was different though. For starters, Warren said, the note was handwritten in Mandarin, and included the phrase “Horse, cow, goat, pig, dog,” which is apparently a common lament of Chinese factory workers. It also included detailed allegations, claiming that prisoners were beaten, denied food, and forced to work 14-hour days.

Perhaps most importantly, however, was that it provided a specific location — “China’s Yingshan Prison” — for Warren to follow-up on. So she flew all the way to mf China and [SPOILER ALERT] found the mf prison.

“Yingshan prison, described in a note found in a Walmart handbag thousands of miles away in the US, does exist,” she wrote. “And we are standing in front of it.”

And while she couldn’t corroborate the claims in their entirety, she did find residents nearby who confirmed that clothing and accessories were made in the prison, which only strengthened the It’s Real argument.

She also found Chinese message boards that basically advertise prison labor, touting low prices, “centralized and stable” personnel, and other bonuses.

What might be the most convincing evidence, however, is that following all of this, Walmart — who refused to confirm that they used Chinese prison labor — released a statement saying that “the factory that made the purse didn’t adhere to Walmart’s standards, which stress the need for ‘labor to be voluntary’ and state that ‘slave, child, underage, forced, bonded, or indentured labor will not be tolerated.’” The statement also said that they had “cut ties” with the factory.

A real 2+2=TheyUsedStateSponsoredPrisonLabor situation, it would seem.

You can read about it at Vox.

[image via]

  • Didn’t need to go to china to figure that out. The shit is also done in the states.

    • Josh Lee

      Cool if you could just go to where that’s happening and write about it for Vox then we’d have something.

      • S.O. Crane

        Google is something we’ve had for years.

        • Josh Lee

          The Vox article led to Walmart killing ties with the prison/factory under scrutiny. That’s the impact of credible, high profile journalism. If you can find a way to make a comparable impact just by Googling something, by all means, do it.

          • S.O. Crane

            The Vox article led to a pr statement from Walmart’s PR firm. In the article the author wasn’t able to confirm that ties were actually dropped. This isn’t the first, second, third, or fourth time Walmart has been caught in this situation and similar ones. That is also mentioned in the article and has been covered on this very website in previous posts. I’m not giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they truly have dropped that 1 company good on them. Better is better.

            My point is this article doesn’t tread new ground, also noted by the author of article. Chances are they’ve encountered many of these types of stories. I feel that telling them about alternatives that they can do business with is my role in this. I send them to websites like this that showcase brands that are reasonable to their employees and surrounding communities. That’s where I focus my attention and efforts.

            I get where you’re coming from, my first comment was snark.