Milwaukee Tool Work Gloves Allegedly Tied to Forced Labor

By Staff
3 Min Read

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last month issued a Withhold Release Order for products made by Shanghai Select Safety Products Company Limited and two of its Chinese subsidiaries, Select Safety Products and Select Protective Technology Limited. CBP officers were instructed to detain any work gloves made by the companies and deny them entry into the country.

The order came after CBP received information implicating the companies in the use of convict labor, a violation of U.S. law that prohibits the import of products made with forced labor.

According to a report from nonprofit publication Wisconsin Watch, the gloves in question include Milwaukee Tool-branded gloves. 

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The labor abuse allegations came to light in November 2022, when a Chinese exile, Shi Minglei, started a petition to get Milwaukee Tool to stop using slave labor. According to her campaign, Shi’s husband was detained, tortured and secretly sentenced to prison for his human rights work. 

Last June, Walmart pulled the gloves from shelves following a Wisconsin Watch investigation that found prisoners working 13-hour days, seven days a week for about 48 cents per day. 

Gloves from Shanghai Select will continue to be denied entry until the importer can prove the goods were produced in compliance with regulations. CBP did not specifically link Milwaukee Tool or any other American brands to the Chinese suppliers.

Milwaukee Tool said in a December 2022 statement that it does not tolerate forced labor. The company says it has strict policies and procedures in place to make sure that no authorized Milwaukee Tool products are manufactured using forced labor.

The company added that it regularly conducts thorough reviews of its global operations and supply chain. Officials said they “found no evidence to support the claims being made.”

However, in 2023, a Shanghai Select salesperson told Wisconsin Watch the company made most of Milwaukee Tool’s work gloves. Wisconsin Watch also found regulatory filings that showed Shanghai Select was contracted by Techtronic Industries, a Hong Kong-based company that bought Milwaukee Tool for $626.6 million in 2005.

In March 2024, Techtronic said Milwaukee Tool had uncovered counterfeit Milwaukee Tool branded gloves in China on multiple online marketplaces and in police raids of counterfeit resellers. However, Shanghai Select was not named as a counterfeiter. 

According to the International Labor Organization, nearly 28 million workers suffer under forced labor conditions worldwide. Withhold Release Orders are used to show foreign companies that worker exploitation will not be tolerated in U.S. supply chains. Officials say those bad actors also harm American workers and law-abiding businesses that cannot compete with forced labor goods sold below market value.

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