Charles Kernaghan

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Charles Kernaghan
Born(1948-04-02)April 2, 1948
DiedJune 1, 2022(2022-06-01) (aged 74)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Executive Director, Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights
Known forAnti-sweatshop movement

Charles Patrick Kernaghan (April 2, 1948 – June 1, 2022) was the executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, formerly known as the National Labor Committee in Support of Human and Worker Rights,[1] currently headquartered in Pittsburgh. He is known for speaking out against sweatshops, corporate greed and the living and working conditions of impoverished workers around the world.

Early life and education[edit]

Kernaghan was born one of three children in Brooklyn to Roman Catholic immigrant parents.[2] His mother, Mary (Znojemsky), was a Czech-born volunteer social worker, and his father, Andrew Kernaghan, was Scottish, and installed acoustic tiles.[3] In 1970, Kernaghan received a BA in psychology from Loyola University in Chicago and in 1975 a MA in psychology from the New School for Social Research.[2][4]


In 1996, Kernaghan publicly accused Kathie Lee Gifford of being responsible for sweatshop conditions in the manufacturing of her Wal-Mart clothing line. Gifford responded on the air by explaining that she was a celebrity endorser and not involved with hands-on project management in manufacturing plants.[5] Kernaghan alleged during congressional testimony that child laborers in Honduras and New York City were making clothing lines under the names of Gifford and other celebrities.[6] Gifford engaged the White House as well and worked with President Bill Clinton to address the situation.[7]

The coverage of the investigations was so widespread that the media began to refer to it as "the summer of the sweatshop." The investigation affected many companies not targeted in the case, and the president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association has said of the controversy, "We remember that every day and that's a lesson to us, the fact that we don't want that to happen again. As a result of that, you had an industry begin to mobilize itself to make certain that, over time, they produce their products in the most responsible manner to make certain that employees are treated with dignity and respect."[8]

Since then he has given testimonies to the U.S. Congress as well as the United Nations. Kernaghan has travelled to Central America, China, Bangladesh, India, Jordan and other developing countries and has spoken with thousands of workers, from hundreds of workplaces. He has targeted the likes of some of the largest multinationals in the world, including Walmart,[2] Nike,[2] Disney,[2] GAP,[2] Alcoa,[9] Victoria's Secret,[10] JCPenney,[10] the NBA,[8] NFL,[8] Reebok,[8] Target Corporation,[1] Kmart,[11] and many others. Some of the work he has done over the years has caused him some trouble.[2]

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said Kernaghan, "Because of Charlie's crusades ... we're beginning to learn the awful truth about workers around the world who are slaving away their lives in sweatshops, who are denied the right to join or form a union in order to fight back a provide a better life for their families."[12]

Noam Chomsky said of Kernaghan in The Nation that the anti-sweatshop movement is in some ways, he said, "like the antiapartheid movement, except that in this case it's striking at the core of the relations of exploitation. It's another example of how different constituencies are working together. Much of this was initiated by Charlie Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee in New York and other groups within the labor movement."[13]

In May 2006, Kernaghan's organization exposed the plight of thousands of victims of human trafficking in Jordan, working in sweatshops in free trade zones making clothing for export to the United States. The New York Times quoted him as saying, "These are the worst conditions I've ever seen."[14]

Kernaghan has been a frequent guest on Democracy Now!,[15] and his investigations have been published and broadcast by the mainstream media.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Kernaghan died in Manhattan, New York City, on June 1, 2022.[16]


  1. ^ a b c "A look at the life of Charles Kernaghan, who crusaded against sweatshops". Washington Post via MSN. June 9, 2022. Retrieved June 19, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Risen, Clay (June 14, 2022). "Charles Kernaghan, Scourge of Sweatshops, Is Dead at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2022.
  3. ^ "Keeper of the Fire", Mother Jones, op. cit
  4. ^ "Charles Patrick Kernaghan Obituary (2022)".
  5. ^ Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line and its connection to sweatshop work Archived 2006-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Keeper of the Fire", Mother Jones, July/August 2003
  7. ^ "Companies agree to meet on 'sweatshops'. The Washington Post, John F. Harris, Peter McKay. August 3, 1996, Page A10. "Pres Clinton stood side-by-side at the White House Aug 2, 1996 with talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford and a delegation of leading executives from the apparel industry to announce ..."
  8. ^ a b c d Lynne Duke (July 31, 2005). "The Man Who Made Kathie Lee Cry". Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2022.
  9. ^ "Making people miserable with aluminum". Workers World. September 2, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Noor Ibrahim (August 29, 2022). "Sexual assault, forced labor, wage theft: garment workers in Jordan suffer for US brands". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2022.
  11. ^ Steven Greenhouse (June 18, 1996). "A Crusader Makes Celebrities Tremble". New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2022.
  12. ^ 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Conference, Hunter College, New York City, December 4, 1998.
  13. ^ "Talking 'Anarchy' With Chomsky", The Nation, April 5, 2000
  14. ^ "An Ugly Side Of Free Trade: Sweatshops in Jordan," The New York Times, May 3, 2006
  16. ^ Risen, Clay (14 June 2022). "Charles Kernaghan, Scourge of Sweatshops, is Dead at 74". The New York Times.

External links[edit]