How The U.S. Employs Overseas Sweatshops To Produce Government Uniforms

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

The following article from the New York Times is extraordinarily important as it perfectly highlights the incredible hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it comes to overseas slave labor and human rights. While the Obama Administration (and the ones that came before it) publicly espouse self-important platitudes about our dedication to humanitarianism, when it comes down to practicing what we preach, our government fails miserably and is directly responsible for immense human suffering.

Let’s get down to some facts. The U.S. government is one of the largest buyers of clothing from overseas factories at over $1.5 billion per year. To start, considering our so-called “leaders” are supposedly so concerned about the state of the U.S. economy, why aren’t we spending the money here at home at U.S. factories? If we don’t have the capacity, why don’t we build the capacity? After all, if we need the uniforms anyway, and it is at the taxpayers expense, wouldn’t it make sense to at least ensure production at home and create some jobs? If a private business wants to produce overseas that’s fine, but you’d think the government would be a little more interested in boosting domestic industry.

However, the above is just a minor issue. Not only does the U.S. government spend most of its money for clothing at overseas factories, but it employs some of the most egregious human rights abusers in the process. Child labor, beatings, restrictions on bathroom brakes, padlocked exits and much more is routine practice at these factories. Even worse, in the few instances in which the government is required to actually use U.S. labor, they just contract with prisons for less than $2 per hour using domestic slave labor. Then, when questions start to get asked, government agencies actually go out of their way to keep the factory lists out of the public’s eye, even going so far as denying requests when pressed for information by members of Congress.

Sadly, as usual, at the end of the day this is all about profits and money. Money government officials will claim is being saved by the taxpayer, but in reality is just being funneled to well connected bureaucrats.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — One of the world’s biggest clothing buyers, the United States government spends more than $1.5 billion a year at factories overseas, acquiring everything from the royal blue shirts worn by airport security workers to the olive button-downs required for forest rangers and the camouflage pants sold to troops on military bases.


But even though the Obama administration has called on Western buyers to use their purchasing power to push for improved industry working conditions after several workplace disasters over the last 14 months, the American government has done little to adjust its own shopping habits.


Labor Department officials say that federal agencies have “zero tolerance” for using overseas plants that break local laws, but American government suppliers in countries including Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Pakistan and Vietnam show a pattern of legal violations and harsh working conditions, according to audits and interviews at factories. Among them: padlocked fire exits, buildings at risk of collapse, falsified wage records and repeated hand punctures from sewing needles when workers were pushed to hurry up.


In Bangladesh, shirts with Marine Corps logos sold in military stores were made at DK Knitwear, where child laborers made up a third of the work force, according to a 2010 audit that led some vendors to cut ties with the plant. Managers punched workers for missed production quotas, and the plant had no functioning alarm system despite previous fires, auditors said. Many of the problems remain, according to another audit this year and recent interviews with workers.


At Zongtex Garment Manufacturing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which makes clothes sold by the Army and Air Force, an audit conducted this year found nearly two dozen under-age workers, some as young as 15. Several of them described in interviews with The New York Times how they were instructed to hide from inspectors.


“Sometimes people soil themselves at their sewing machines,” one worker said, because of restrictions on bathroom breaks.

And there is no law prohibiting the federal government from buying clothes produced overseas under unsafe or abusive conditions.

Why am I not surprised…

“It doesn’t exist for the exact same reason that American consumers still buy from sweatshops,” said Daniel Gordon, a former top federal procurement official who now works at George Washington University Law School. “The government cares most about getting the best price.”


Labor and State Department officials have encouraged retailers to participate in strengthening rules on factory conditions in Bangladesh — home to one of the largest and most dangerous garment industries. But defense officials this month helped kill a legislative measure that would have required military stores, which last year made more than $485 million in profit, to comply with such rules because they said the $500,000 annual cost was too expensive.

As usual, it is all about the money. You think average Americans are seeing any of that massive profit? Believe me, someone is and it’s not you.

At Manta Apparels, for example, which makes uniforms for the General Services Administration, employees said beatings are common and fire exits are kept chained except when auditors visit. The local press has described Manta as one of the most repressive factories in the country. A top labor advocate, Aminul Islam, was organizing there in 2010 when he was first arrested by the police and tortured. In April 2012, he was found dead, a hole drilled below his right knee and his ankles crushed.


Conditions like those are possible partly because American government agencies usually do not know which factories supply their goods or are reluctant to reveal them. Soon after a fire killed at least 112 people at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh in November 2012, several members of Congress asked various agencies for factory addresses. Of the seven agencies her office contacted, Representative Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, said only the Department of the Interior turned over its list.


Federal officials still have to navigate a tangle of rules. Defense officials, for instance, who spend roughly $2 billion annually on military uniforms, are required by a World War II-era rule called the Berry Amendment to have most of them made in the United States. In recent years, Congress has pressured defense officials to cut costs on uniforms. Increasingly, the department has turned to federal prisons, where wages are under $2 per hour. Federal inmates this year stitched more than $100 million worth of military uniforms.


The Marine Corps and Navy still do not require audits of these factories. The Air Force and Army exchanges do, but the audits can come from retailers, and defense officials fail to do routine spot checks to confirm their accuracy.


The Marine Corps and Navy still do not require audits of these factories. The Air Force and Army exchanges do, but the audits can come from retailers, and defense officials fail to do routine spot checks to confirm their accuracy.


For now, Bangladesh’s garment sector continues to grow, as do purchases from one of its bulk buyers. In the year since Tazreen burned down, American military stores have shipped even more clothes from Bangladesh.

This is the human equivalent of factory farming and every decent American citizen should be appalled that this is happening on multiple levels. Please share this post to raise awareness.

Full article here.

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InjectTheVenom's picture

>>>>> Just another(phony)scandal, yawn

>>>>> I'm shocked !!

prains's picture

please describe "phony"?


Is that like Martha "I don't use sweat shops"Stewart phony or Flance "I don't use sports enhancing drugs" Fartstrong phony?

InjectTheVenom's picture

no, it's like '...just another phony scandal' as per BHO/Carney

prains's picture

not sure how or why watching .Gov outsource your entire economy in a giant Corporate sponsored wage arbitrage so that your entire economy is hollowed out to benefit ONLY the Plutocracy is "phony"

if by phony you mean none of this story is real then no need to double up on the ludes, if you mean phony as a manufactured scandal I'm not sure what part is manufactured as this skill has long since left your building

satoshi101's picture

You need to simplify the problem,

Yesterday we brought in millions of immigrants to do those shitting jobs on our soil, and before that we brought in slaves.


Factory's only exist where the product is consumed,

You all are missing the boat, is that the USA as a fucking consumer if FINISHED, gone, NADA

The USA 'person' is up to debt to their nose, and has all the shit that any human could ever possibly want,


Lastly, those garmint jobs were never always slave labor shit jobs even when  they were on USA soil.


N2OJoe's picture

"not sure how or why watching .Gov..."

Exactly, he's saying it's phony like Bengazi, F&F, etc.

Sarcasm doesn't translate well on teh interwebz.

One And Only's picture

As much as I agree with this article....

I can't be positive, but I'm quite sure, Mike Krieger owns property (whether it be a smart phone/cpu/router/etc) that was produced under the same conditions he wrote about in this article. I'm pretty sure all of us have. So doesn't that make us all complicit?

suteibu's picture

Perhaps, but he did not buy them with taxpayer money.  That makes a little difference, don't you think?

XitSam's picture

Mike spending his own money, or someone else spending his money.  Isn't he more responsible for the money he spends?

Jack Burton's picture

Our tax money is being spent to enrich a few and leave Americans behind in the dust. We pay taxes and our government will not even spend it in a fashion to employee Americans. Why does this happen? Simple. Corporate influence in Washington. The owners produce overseas for maximum profits and government gives them the contracts. The President and Congress serve the 1%, I do not know why some people defend this system while others don't care. We are getting what we deserve. It will continue until debt slavery and poverty are the lot of over 50% of the population. 4 job seekers on average for every job that opens. Yet we let some tell us Americans are too lazy to work. Hmmm. If they can sell that to you and you believe it, then they are pretty fucking slick salesmen.

Spanky's picture

The owners produce overseas for maximum profits and government gives them the contracts. -- Jack Burton

The owners lobbied mightily (and successfully) to move their garment factories overseas in the first place. They called this globalization, but it was only labor arbitrage...

layman_please's picture

"It will continue until debt slavery and poverty are the lot of over 50% of the population."

this has been prevailing trend for decades but somehow the docility has been increasing instead. this gradual slow boil will have no impact if there won't be a new revolution which, unfortunately, i see nowhere. so only way there can be a positive outcome is if we have a systematic collapse, as for now everybody (we the people) has been effectively nailed to the passenger seat in this mad world by our dear leaders who we have so kindly elected. there's really not much left to do, we can just unplug from the system and be prepared. if this gains momentum, we will be few steps closer to the collapse though probably the day will be 'saved' by another major war.

Spanky's picture


For... pessimism. for now everybody (we the people) has been effectively nailed to the passenger seat in this mad world by our dear leaders who we have so kindly elected. -- layman-please

As for me; the twin-party does not own my vote. But I do vote, for anyone other than twin party candidates. Perhaps, if we were real smart, we'd realize that voting is actually our consent to be governed, and use it to revoke that consent if honest and electable candidates cannot be found...

layman_please's picture

I agree with you on everything you said but let me explain my pessimism. The system has been implemented on our societies for thousands of years and recent trend of democracy and all that has just perfected it by giving people illusion of control. Even if honest politician gets in charge of the country, there's no way to change the system. I don't need to point out examples here, I'm sure. Every honest politician will just bring false sense of hope and only postpone the collapse, while giving time for the establishment to reorganize and restructure. To believe that a politician or a party can change anything would be to buy their lies. I can't recall who said that elections would be illegal if they would change anything, but it pretty much sums it up.
So in my mind, the collapse would be the best thing to happen but we would be fools to think that it would have much to do with our effort. Collapse has been heading our way because of the insatiable greed for money and power of the elites, who obviously are loosing control over the machine-work they have created. So they are prepearing for another war or if this fails they will have means ready to come out as saviours to gain (global) control after the reset.

Btw, didn't down vote you.

satoshi101's picture

For 40 years the CIA has blasted "THE USA has too much fucking DEMOCRACY"

USA ain't fucking CAPITALIST, MY ASS the USA has been 100% fascism since the 1950's

The USA ain't a fucking DEMOCRACY, mob-rule is an illusion, the only mob in the USA run's exempt from the 'law' is the US-MIL, aka NSA/CIA.

Much of what is the USA is an illusion, all the political party non-sense is an illusion, that's why the outcome is always the same.

The 'secret government' has now been running over 100 years, hell you could call Jekyll ISland the beginning, but actually its goe back to LINCOLN and the civil war.


All the circle jerking in the world on ZH, will never change what is, from what is.


layman_please's picture

Well it's not only usa. It's same everywhere, or at least almost everywhere. Elites fingerprints are all over the globe.
I prefer to think that US was a temporary deviation from the plan and due to it's success when elites finally conquered it, they had the economic power of previously free market and society at their full disposal. Of course the line is blurry when exactly the takeover took place but this doesn't change the fact.

Spanky's picture

Well it's not only usa. It's same everywhere, or at least almost everywhere. Elites fingerprints are all over the globe. -- layman_please

It's a coordinated effort, if I'm not mistaken. I've been pimping Dr. Carroll Quigley (Tragedy and Hope) and Dr. Tom Dye (Who Is Running America) because they not only discuss the organizational and institutional aspects, but name names.

And understanding whom the "elite" are is important. 

Any honest politician is isolated politically in the legislature, but if the twin party stranglehold could be broken electorally, our best opportunity will occur immediately after the next crash while voting is still seen as the means of legitimating our governance...

Although voting seems not to be a popular subject here, it is still a widely held public belief. And we ought use that belief for the greater good. How? There is already widespread discontent and outrage over our governance and its obvious corruption. People are unhappy and understand their lot in life is worsening, quickly. Another crash and its resulting social dislocation will send them searching for viable alternatives. 

And if there are no credible independent candidates to oppose the twin party, I propose we use the ballot to expressly and publicly reject all the candidates standing for election.

Simply ask people one question: Do you consent to what the government is doing?

layman_please's picture

tragedy and hope i would also highly recommend even though i'm only at the first quarter of it. have to check out dr tom dye. thanks for pimping.

my main concern about voting is that people cannot form an independent thought so they will be easily manipulated. until media is not doing its job and majority still can't engage in critical thinking, MSM can put whatever spin on anything. of course it all begins with the education but i wouldn't go there, it's another quagmire.

outofideas's picture

So what are you doing about it?

suteibu's picture

To be sure, the owners of those overseas factories are all Obama bundlers.  That's all that really matters.

prains's picture

are you absolutely sure?...... there could be a few halcion days Bushian fumblers mixed in there as well....... fact check aisle 9 please!!

outofideas's picture

Is there a difference?

suteibu's picture

Okay...whichever nitwit is currently in charge.  I would say the same if Reagan was still in office.  Does that make you feel better?

That said, I leave you with this...

Obama Donor to Head IRS Tea Party Targeting Investigation

yogibear's picture

No problem, Eric Holder, head of the Deprtment of Just-Us will investigate and make sure the whole matter disappears.


williambanzai7's picture

I am sure the guy who is supposed to audit this was too busy watching what kind of rare wood goes into Gibsons.

starfcker's picture

banzaii, the feds wanted gibson to do finish work overseas. they refused to 'globalize' production, and so they got fucked. the feds attitude is since you are going to benefit from the expanded customer base globalization will offer you, so you need to get with the program. globalization is US policy, and we are all in, like it or not. our futures are all in, our families are all in, our civilization is all in. and it won't work. destroying the goose that laid the golden egg happened way too fast. doesn't matter to the globalists what is left standing. countries-expendable(see europe) the supreme court-a joke (roberts), look at the repugs. they could sweep the midterms, only way to fuck that up is to open the border. goodbye repug party

disabledvet's picture

I was just thinking in my usual crazy way today "how many things do i get made in Britain"? I mean this country was founded on filching from the English...they made everything. Here's an oldie but a goodie: "the next thing I new we were speaking Japanese." I hear the Triumph Tiger is a solid ride. Obviously they win hands down here well, apparently not. or ..."apparently" yes too.

vegas's picture

As everyone should know by now, results don't mean shit for liberals; they simply care more than anybody else and therefore are morally superior. To solve this problem. therefore, we need a ribbon liberals can wear to show their support for those overseas making $1 a day. See how easy it is to solve this?

prains's picture

much the same if not identical to the conservative motto to "support the troops".....whateverthefuck that team blue team blah blah blah 

Quantum Nucleonics's picture

Anyone and everyone that says liberals and conservatives (red/blue) are the same is a naive fool.  Sure, if conservatives were in charge (no, W wasn't a conservative) we'd still have the NSA and a (smaller) deficit, but at least we wouldn't have Obamacare or Janet "the Dove" Yellen.

prains's picture

no you're right you'd have McObomney but who wants to slice that pie so thin. Love the part about naive and fool, good flourish to the solarplexus but what you have in speed lacks in power

PT's picture

You're right.  They're different.  Obama's role was to be voted President.  Romney's role was to scare people into voting for Obama.  And if he had've got in then instead of driving the country into the ground while telling everyone, "This will help you", he would have driven the country into the ground while telling everyone, "You voted for this."

prains's picture

you know the only real difference i can see between the thrity two is that if Hairy FuckMcWeasal had of prevailed instead of OMcBitch'nWeasel there would have been enough drool zombies around to actually start a defacto war against Iran thru Syria.

Mc.NSA/CIA is working around the clock to perfect the reasoning to perform McWoar 2.0 because there's nothing like WOAR to stimulate an Oligarch

satoshi101's picture

In 1928 HL MENCKEN said the "Difference between a rePUGlican and a DEMocrat"

"IS the difference between a fox (dem) and a wolf (pug)

A fox will outwit you and then eat you, a wolf will just fucking eat you."

The outcome is always the fucking same.


booboo's picture

I am officially changing the "Red Team/Blue Team meme, it is now to be known as Shirts vs Skins. They are the SAME FUCKING TEAM, one side take off their shirts to scrimmage for the peeps but they all shower in the same locker room.

As to the article, I thought that is why we need moar immigration, so these unfortunates can get a "living wage" in "Amarca" and experience the dream (or nightmare)

RideTheWalrus's picture

Australia got their Navy uniforms made in Hong Kong - and they spelled 'Australia' wrong on the patches:

prains's picture

the extra "L" stands for LargeLoveableLoogins

Musashi Miyamoto's picture

Obama, July 13 2011

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me... Let me tell you something - there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there... If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that... ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together... how we created the middle class... Slave Labor BitcheZ!

PT's picture

He couldn't even copy someone else's speech properly.  Here is the Elizabeth Warren version:

(Oh yeah, and someone else said it before her.)

Now you got me talking about EW, I'm drifting off topic - can't leave out my favourite EW speech (first 6 minutes = introductions, skip if you wish) ... "the number one indicator of potential to go bankrupt is double income family with kids ... someone loses a job or quits their job to take care of a sick family member ..."

Pay attention.  Well worth the hour. 

migra's picture

 All tax dollars spent on anything should be with U.S. businesses who only employ U.S. citizens only.

RKDS's picture

Hard to do while Republicans cry about every cent that's spent.  Oh, they can howl now about $5 Chinese uniforms, but it's nothing compared to the howling over $9 American uniforms.

ManWithaPlan's picture

So...when did we start caring about the welfare of the third world?

satoshi101's picture

It wasn't so many years ago that NERDS on  a blog such as this wouldn't have given a fuck about SHITTY GARMINT jobs in the USA,

Now its slave labor when somebody else does it, .. excuuuuuuuuse me but garmint jobs has been shitty work forever ....


How many people here ever been an employer owner? How many people understand that before we exported the factory's we used to hire immigrants,

Domestic workers were always a lazy lot, and then UNIONIZED, and then that was their own death.

FACTORY's go where the customers are, USA is is a DEBTOR nation of deadbeats with no money.


PT's picture

Re:  "Domestic workers were always a lazy lot", yeah - on behalf of myself and others that I know who have worked even harder than me:  FUCK YOU!!!  Speak for yourself.

And if you aren't afraid of hard work then YOU HAVE NEVER DONE ANY!    Oh sure, you may have broken out a sweat now and then or whatever, but there's a shitload more than that out there.  Real hard will injure you and will kill you ... and will not necessarily deliver a better product - I've seen the results of someone else working 17 hour days for months on end ( I was only working twelves at the time - my product passed in the quality department, theirs' - not so much).  "Hard work never killed anyone" is a cute phrase and has its place in society, but the reality is it was always a joke, not a truth.

Mongoose's picture

Would you mind telling us what you were making, building, or what ever?

Back to killin' snakes

PT's picture

## Two hundred black pies
Ooohh what a surprise
Only for letting them bake for too long
Twooo hundred black pies ##

Actually, I was making cakes.  The other guys were making the pies.  And they did a hell of a lot more than two hundred.  My work was hard and fast, but it was fun - plus I didn't need to go to the gym.  Still, I was totally knackered after 8 hours, let alone 12.  The only real problem was that the pay was crap.  The other guys also had to work hard and fast and their job was not as pleasant as mine - if they didn't get their mix exactly right then they had problems.  
I never understood how they kept up the pace.  They told me, "Lots of coffee", but I always imagine something stronger must have been involved.  I also never understood how they could do so many hours - I thought we had labour laws that moderated that kind of thing.  Apparently they had some kind of deal with management.  I never found out the details.

But that is not the hardest job I have done.  I spent 3 days sorting angle iron at a salvage yard (luckily for me, the job only lasted three days).  You couldn't go fast, you had to pace yourself - totally knackered after 8 hours, made the bakery job seem easy.  The full timers were faster than me, one guy in particular looked very wiry but he was stronger and faster than the rest of us.  Did I say, "fast"?  He plodded along, paced himself nicely, but still made the rest of us look slow.  You try and do that kind of work fast and you're going to crush your fingers, break your back, and be totally useless within a couple of hours.  On the last day we loaded roof tiles onto a truck by hand.  This job was actually fun, fast and very easy because the tiles were so much lighter than the rest of the stuff that we sorted on the previous days.

itstippy's picture

"Factory's go where the customers are"?

Beyond dumb.

RKDS's picture

I'm an owner and I'd love to be an employer someday but it'll be on my terms.  Fuck you and every other entitled clown who takes the shortcut of foreign slavery.

Quantum Nucleonics's picture

We use Chinese magnets in our new jet fighter, so, why not sweatshops for uniforms.  It's probably in the budget under, "Foreign Aid".

prains's picture

no it's in the budget under, "Benny Bucks We Can't Afford to Fly Nomore", there's a dude driving around in a golf cart with the magnetic polar opposite and his job is to stay under the jet to keep it aloft. Sucks on air craft carriers.