The alleged abuses have plagued Hazaribagh, the hub of Bangladesh’s leather industry with more than 150 tanneries. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
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Hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries, with workers as young as 14, supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands, a nonprofit group that investigates supply chains says. The report by New York-based Transparentem, released Friday to the Associated Press, didn't say the leather ends up in American and European companies' products, only that the manufacturers of some of those goods receive it.Some companies say leather in their products was made outside Bangladesh, and manufacturers concur. The alleged abuses have plagued Hazaribagh, the hub of Bangladesh's leather industry with more than 150 tanneries. Transparentem's confidential Hazaribagh report and accompanying video, shared with about a dozen companies, showed workers at five different tanneries bent double under the weight of soaking wet cow hides, shuffling past heavy machinery.There's 2016 footage of two workers agreeing there are 15-year-olds onsite.The nonprofit said its Hazaribagh team tracked leather first-hand and with corporate reports from Apex Tannery Ltd. and Bay Tannery Ltd., to Bangladesh shoemakers Apex Footwear and Bay Footwear.Global brands are drawn to manufacturing in Bangladesh by low wages, and leather products are top exports. But the factories depend on domestic tanneries for their leather, and 90 percent of those tanneries are in Hazaribagh.AP journalists were not allowed inside Apex and Bay's Hazaribagh tanneries, but workers walking out said there weren't children inside.
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