WRC Code of Conduct Assessment at Shang Zibo Maolong Ceramics (China)

To:Primary Contacts, WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova
Date:May 25, 2007
Re:WRC Code of Conduct Assessment at Shang Zibo Maolong Ceramics (China)

The WRC is currently investigating alleged code of conduct violations at a factory known as Shandong Zibo Maolong Ceramics (hereafter referred to as “Maolong”). The factory is a producer of ceramic mugs for Mugworld, a collegiate licensee. Mugworld purchases these mugs through a third-party importer called PhotoUSA . Maolong is located in Zibo City , Shandong province, 230 miles south of Beijing . Zibo is a major area of ceramics production in China .

The allegation is that mugs sold by Maolong are made with prison labor. The use of prison labor violates the provision against forced labor in all university codes of conduct. It is also illegal to import prison-made goods into the U.S.

The WRC has been investigating the situation at Maolong since receiving a complaint in late March. We have gathered substantial evidence – through detailed review of relevant documents, NGO reports, and local research in Zibo City .

While the evidence gathered to date is significant, we have not yet reached definitive conclusions as to the veracity of the allegations. It has been necessary to proceed with caution, both because of the complexities (logistical and political) involved in researching such issues in China and because the same allegations have been made as part of a lawsuit against Photo USA , brought by a competitor. It is this competitor that is the author of the complaint we received. The fact that a complaint is originated by a company with a financial interest in the outcome is not a reason to forego an inquiry; however, it is necessary to treat the evidence provided by that company with healthy skepticism and it requires that information be gathered from other sources before any conclusion is drawn. It is also important to bear in mind that the appropriate remedy in the event that prison labor is being used by Maolong is likely to be the termination of Mugworld’s relationship with the factory. For this reason as well, great caution is warranted.

As part of the final phase of our inquiry, we have asked Mugworld to require Maolong management to allow the WRC access to the production facility in Zibo City . Mugworld has agreed to communicate with their direct supplier, Photo USA , and request that Photo USA contact the factory regarding access for a WRC assessment. Once the site visit is completed, we are confident that it will be possible to report a definitive conclusion to you as to whether or not prison labor is involved in the production of university logo mugs by Maolong.

We know that the FLA has also received a compliant about Maolong. We have communicated with the FLAabout our investigation and will continue to communicate with them as our work proceeds.

Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions or thoughts about this matter.

Scott Nova
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292
[email protected]