Sears, Roebuck & Co.
• Sears, Roebuck & Co., which recently merged with Kmart, is an American icon.
• Sears' public image is stained by discrimination lawsuits and corporate abuses, but the most ubiquitous charges against the company still pertain to sweatshop labor use.
• Sears has not yet pledged to phasing out the chemical polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from its products, despite shareholder action.
• Visit Go Green to find socially responsible ways to shop.
-- Profile Updated 03/28/2011
About Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. operates a chain of over 1,100 locations nationwide, in addition to its 860 US mall-based stores, over 800 independently owned Sears dealer stores, 110 Sears Hardware stores, and 85 Orchard Supply Hardware stores. On March 24, 2005 Kmart completed a $12.3 billion merger with Sears Roebuck, creating the third largest retail company in the United States. The newly formed Sears Holdings Corporation is now the parent of both Kmart and Sears. Clothing company Lands' End is a subsidiary of Sears. In 2006, Sears employed 247,000 people and reported $30.03 billion in revenue.
The Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Products
The Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Products seeks to raise the public's awareness about polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a potentially harmful chemical found in everything from siding to shower curtains. The Campaign also identifies and contacts companies that manufacture or sell products containing PVCs and urges them to use safe materials.
No Dirty Gold
The No Dirty Gold campaign sponsored by Oxfam America and Earthworks focuses on changing the destructive practices of the gold mining industry by using consumer pressure. Gold mining often destroys clean environments, harms workers, contaminates drinking water and displaces communities simply to supply the developed world's demand for jewelry. No Dirty Gold calls on consumers to sign its campaign pledge and to demand that jewelers source their gold responsibly. Sears/Kmart, JCPenney, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer Jewelers have been identified as "laggard" retailers that fail to make a commitment to purchasing more responsibly produced gold. Click on the URL below to take action.
Lands' End Direct Merchants UK Ltd. - Rutland, United Kingdom
- Lands' End GmbH - Mettlach, Germany
- Lands' End Japan, K.K. - Yokohama, Japan
Lands' End Japan, K.K. - Yokohama, Japan
- Lands' End, Inc. (Subsidiary) - Dodgeville, WI
- Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corp. - San Jose, CA
- Sears Canada Inc. (Branch) - Toronto, Canada
- Sears Carpet & Upholstery Care, Inc. - Lewis Center, OH
- Sears de Mexico - Mexico, Mexico
- Sears Home Improvement Products, Inc. - Monroeville, PA
- Sears Logistics Services, Inc. - Hoffman Estates, IL
- Sears Roebuck Acceptance Corp. - Wilmington, DE
- Sears, Roebuck & Co. - Hoffman Estates, IL
- SLH Transport Inc. - Kingston, Canada
- Standards of Excellence - Rohnert Park, CA
- The Great Indoors - Hoffman Estates, IL
Contact Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179 USA
Compare Sears, Roebuck & Co. to other companies in these industries
Sears pays $6.2 million in discrimination case against disabled employees. Sears was accused of firing employees who were disabled and not accommodating them.
-- Chicago Business, 02/05/2010
Source URL: www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=37012
In 2002, Sears shareholders voted on a resolution requesting that the Board of Directors improve company purchasing standards and work to thoroughly implement those policies. The resolution called for Sears to develop vendor and purchasing standards comparable to those outlined by the International Labor Organization, and to solidify those standards by developing an independent process by which to ensure compliance. Additionally, the resolution requested that an independent report be produced annually to determine the success, or lack thereof, of strict standard implementation.
-- Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, 07/16/2007
The Ethical Trading Action Group (ETAG), in association with Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) and AccountAbility, released a report entitled "Transparency Report Card 2006," evaluating and comparing 31 apparel retailers and brands in their efforts to address worker rights in their global supply chain. Retailers were rated in areas such as compliance with International Labor Organization standards (ILO), methods of monitoring code compliance, steps taken to communicate thoroughly, effectively, and transparently to the public. Sears earned a score of 8 out of 100. In 2005, Sears' score was 5 out of 100.
-- Maquila Solidarity Network, 12/01/2006
Source URL: en.maquilasolidarity.org/node/230
The National Labor Committee’s May 2006 report titled “US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement: Descends into Human Trafficking & Involuntary Servitude,” documents violations of workers’ rights in numerous Jordanian factories. Factories included Al Shahaed Apparel & Textile and Honorway Jordan Ltd. Both of these factories sew for Kmart’s discount brand names, a division of Sears Holding. The lack of respect for workers’ basic human rights included the following:
- Human trafficking and involuntary servitude of guest workers
- Confiscation of workers’ passports and denial of legally required identification cards
- Routine work shifts of 15 to 16 hours. More commonly, workers were forced to work through 38, 48, and even 72 hour shifts at Al Shahaed Apparel & Textile
- No sick days, paid vacations, or government holidays allowed
- Wages below the legal minimum
- Sporadic pay
- Inadequate and unsanitary working conditions
- Reports of sexual abuse and rape
- Workers subject to pay reductions, humiliation, violence, and threats if production goals not met
Khokon Shaikh, who was forcibly returned to Bangladesh after working for Honorway Jordan Ltd, stated, “If you want to work here you have to accept [current working conditions], otherwise go back to Bangladesh.”
-- National Labor Committee, 05/01/2006
Source URL: www.nlcnet.org/article.php?id=10
Gelmart Industries facilities in the Philippines are reported to operate under conditions that violate ILO standards and Philippine labor laws. Gelmart assembles intimate apparel for companies such as Kmart/Sears and Wal-Mart. Workers are paid less than the national minimum wage and are forced to work as many as 22 hours during peak production seasons. Conditions in the factories have reportedly endangered employee health.
-- BehindTheLabel.org, 02/23/2005
Source URL: www.behindthelabel.org/infocus.php?infocus_id=86
According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions report "Behind the Brand Names: Working Conditions and Labour Rights in Export Processing Zones", Sears and JC Penney source baby clothes from AAA Inc. in the Philippines, which fails to provide adequate sanitary facilities for workers and enforces tight restrictions on their use.
-- International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, 12/01/2004
Source URL: www.icftu.org/www/PDF/EPZreportE.pdf
According to Oxfam's report "Trading Away Our Rights: Working Women in Global Supply Chains", Target, Sears and Tommy Hilfiger brands source from a factory in Guandong, China where management routinely hides evidence of poor labor conditions in order to pass screens. Regular violations include the following:
- Workers take on between 80 and 180 hours of uncompensated overtime each month when the legal limit is 36 hours.
- 40% of workers are not receiving minimum wage according to the number of hours they work.
- Two or three times monthly workers are required to work through the night but are not paid overtime hourly wages. They are instead compensated according to piece-rate pay.
- Between two to three women each week suffer head injuries after fainting from exhaustion.
- Management maintains the appearance of compliance through false records of hours and wages, prepared answers for employees to give inspectors and threats against workers should they expose the truth.
-- Oxfam, 02/08/2004
In April 2003, a federal court on the Pacific island of Saipan approved a $20 million settlement on a class action lawsuit filed against Sears and 25 other U.S. retailers. The lawsuit charged that the companies contracted sweatshop labor on Saipan, a U.S. Commonwealth and should be held accountable for worker treatment and conditions in foreign-owned factories operating on U.S. soil. According to the complaint, the more than 13,000 garment workers in Saipan regularly worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, often times "off the clock" without receiving any pay or overtime. The lawsuit also accused Levi Strauss and the other companies of operating a "racketeering conspiracy" through which workers, who are mostly young women, sign contracts waiving their basic human rights and pay recruitment fees of up to $10,000 to secure sweatshop jobs. By agreeing to the settlement, the companies admitted no wrongdoing.
-- Clean Clothes Campaign, 01/08/2004
Source URL: www.cleanclothes.org/legal/04-01-08.htm
In China, Sears buyers are moving their orders from state-owned factories in the north to foreign, privately owned plants in the south where wages can be half of those paid in the north. Factories in the south keep costs down by cutting benefits such as sick pay, pension insurance, and maternity leave, which are paid in the state-owned factories in the north. They also force their employees to work even longer hours and make far more use of subcontracting than those in the north.
-- San Francisco Chronicle, 01/04/2004
Source URL: none available
A July 2003 investigation by the Philippine Daily Inquirer uncovered sweatshop abuses by Anvil Ensembles, a producer of baby clothes. The Inquirer exposed instances of management giving workers amphetamines to keep them awake for 48- and 72-hour shifts, failing to pay minimum wages, and providing substandard latrines. JC Penney and Sears both subcontracted with Anvil as of July 2003.
-- Philippine Daily Inquirer, 07/03/2003
The National Labor Committee published a report in March of 2001 implicating several major U.S. clothing retailers for their relationships with a notorious sweatshop on U.S. territory. The paper, "Made in the U.S.A.? Nightmare at the Daewoosa Factory in American Samoa" exposed the nightmarish conditions under which workers were forced to perform their daily duties. Employees were, for all intents and purposes, indentured servants as the condition on which they were brought to the U.S. and allowed to remain. Abuses against over 230 employees included physical assault, starvation, sexual harassment, and withholding pay. Workers were under constant threat of deportation. Among the list of retailers patronizing the Daewoosa garment factory were Wal-Mart (Beach Cabana label), Target (Pro Spirit label), Sears (David Taylor), David Peyser Sportswear (MV Sport) and JC Penney (Arizona).
-- National Labor Committee, 02/24/2003
Source URL: www.nlcnet.org/article.php?id=257
As of March 2001 Sears was selling clothing produced at the Leader Garment factory in El Salvador. The Leader facility has been cited by the National Labor Committee as a facility that enforces mandatory pregnancy tests--women who test positive are immediately fired, obligatory overtime of 6 working days a week 13 hour shifts, and workers are paid 60 cents an hour - less than one-third of the cost of living.
-- National Labor Committee, 04/01/2001
Ethics and Governance
Sears received an "F" grade on the 2006 NAACP Economic Reciprocity Initiative report. The grade reflects a measurement of corporate America's commitment to the African American citizenry and other people of color. Companies were surveyed for their activity in employment, vendor development and contracting, advertising and marketing, dealerships and philanthropy.
-- NAACP, 07/18/2006
In May 2004 Sears agreed to settle class-action litigation in California that alleged Sears wrongly shared customer information with affiliates and third parties. The lawsuit alleged the third-party vendors marketed products to some 2.3 million California cardholders. Plaintiffs claimed Sears, which receives up to 20% of the price of each service or program vendors sold, failed to inform cardholders of the disclosure. As part of the settlement, Sears agreed to give discount coupons of $10 to $15 dollars to as many as 2.3 million cardholders.
-- Class Action Law Monitor, 08/31/2005
Source URL: none available
In 2004 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Sears for discriminating against workers who spend more than one year on extended disability leave. The suit was filed on behalf of an employee who allegedly was injured at a Sears store in Illinois and was fired after a year on disability. The lawsuit contends that the company refused to find tasks he could perform while injured and fired him because he could not return to his old job.
-- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 08/02/2005
Source URL: www.eeoc.gov/press/8-2-05.html
Sears, Roebuck & Co, as the top client of the OB-C Group LLC, spent $1,800,000 from 1998-2004 on lobbying fees. Sears spent over $3,200,000 on lobbying overall during this period, with $700,000 coming in 2004 alone. Its annual expenditures have risen dramatically, doubling since the early 2000s.
-- Center for Public Integrity, 06/20/2005
The state of Tennessee sued Sears, Roebuck & Co. for violating the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977. According to Tennessee’s Attorney General, Sears failed to file "reaffirmation agreements" for individuals who had filed for bankruptcy, and unlawfully pressured such persons to continue payments on their Sears credit lines.
-- State of Tennessee, 01/24/2005
In 2004, Sears was accused of contributing campaign funds to the political action committee associated with Tom DeLay, Texans for a Republican Majority, which is a violation of campaign finance laws in Texas. Charges against the company were dropped following an agreement by Sears to cooperate in the state’s investigation of other corporations suspected to have breached strict campaign finance regulations. Sears executives maintain that no illegal activity transpired.
-- Associated Press, 12/30/2004
In 2004 the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Sears, claiming that the company illegally fired Edward Broadard, a former store manager, because he was black. Sears has denied the allegations saying Broadard allowed workers who were not certified technicians to perform mechanical repairs and did not follow procedures for providing free mechanical service to customers. The EEOC said Sears did not terminate similarly ranked white employees who engaged in similar or identical conduct.
-- New York Times, 09/03/2004
Source URL: none available
In 2003 Sears reached a $125,000 court settlement in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that claimed the company hired a blind man as a credit collections specialist but failed to provide him with the proper equipment to allow him to do his job thereby violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC is sought back pay and compensatory and punitive damages against Sears Roebuck.
-- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 01/09/2003
Source URL: www.eeoc.gov/press/1-9-03.html
In 2002 Sears Logistics, which provides distribution, home delivery and transportation services for Sears Roebuck, agreed to pay $93,000 to four former employees in a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over a sexual harassment lawsuit. The workers alleged they were harassed by their manager at a Texas warehouse. The EEOC said one was unlawfully terminated from her employment in retaliation for her opposition to the harassment. The employees said they complained to supervisors and managers but none of them took any corrective action.
-- Dallas Business Journal, 11/05/2002
Source URL: none available
In March 2002, a judge approved a settlement in which Sears would pay $28 million to 56,000 retirees of the company whose life insurance benefits were cut in 1997. The settlement will only restore a fraction of their life insurance benefits. A lawsuit was filed in 1997 after Sears' decision to unilaterally cut $60 million of costs by reducing company-paid life insurance benefits for more than 80,000 former employees who retired between 1978 and 1997. The number of retirees shrunk as many died over the years. One hundred dollar Sears gift certificates were awarded to the estates of those retirees who died during the course of the lawsuit.
-- Chicago Sun-Times, 03/06/2002
Source URL: none available
-- Forest Ethics, 12/09/2009
Sears offers $99 dollar house audits for earth day in 2009. These audits are usually $550 and can make your house more energy efficient, save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
-- Tree Hugger, 04/09/2009
Health and Safety
In 2006-2007, shareholders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America introduced a resolution regarding the sustainability of using of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in Sears' products. See related campaign item regarding PVC.
-- Investor Environmental Health Network, 04/04/2007
Source URL: www.iehn.org/?q=node/41
Rainforest Relief won a major battle in its efforts to protect endangered rainforests by securing an agreement with Kmart to end its sale of Martha Stewart outdoor furniture made of Nyatoh tropical hardwood. Sears, which is now owned by Kmart Corporation, has made no such commitment, which has sparked some concern. Rainforest Relief’s Tim Keating explained that the organization may decide to take action against Sears if it continues to sell outdoor furniture produced with wood products, such as Nyatoh, originating from endangered forest areas.
-- Rainforest Relief, 09/14/2005