During his exclusive interview with The Ed Show’s Ed Schultz, the man behind the game-changing “47% tape” paused to acknowledge someone who he said has been standing up for workers across the world for the past 20 years.
“He’s been doing this work and hasn’t gotten the credit that he deserves,” said Scott Prouty, the bartender who taped Mitt Romney’s remarks at a private 2012 fundraiser. “And I–like I said before, I’m happy that I can just bring–just shine a little bit of light on the work he does. And it’s an honor to have met him. And it’s an honor to be associated with him in any way.”
The man Prouty was referring to is Charles Kernaghan, an international labor rights activist and the director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. Prouty said that he stumbled on Kernaghan’s work while researching Romney’s business ventures in China—specifically a Chinese factory which Romney told fundraising attendees he had visited during his time at Bain Capital.
In the 47% tape, Romney had claimed that Chinese workers desperately coveted jobs at the Global-Tech factory in Dongguan. According to Romney’s account at the fundraiser, he had been told by Global-Tech representatives that “people want so badly to come work in this factory that we have to keep them out. Or they will just come in here and start working and, and try and get compensated.” This anecdote, perhaps even more than the infamous “47%” remark, attracted Prouty’s ire during the speech.
“It’s wrong on so many different levels,” he told The Ed Show. “You know, essentially what he’s talking about is almost a prison camp in Communist China.”
However, shortly after Prouty released the 47% footage, he dug up a report from Kernaghan’s organization which aimed to refute Romney’s claims about the factory.
“Does Mr. Romney seriously believe that young men and women in China are racing to climb over fortress-like walls topped with barbed wire, just to get a poorly paid job at Global-Tech?” Kernaghan asks in the report’s preface. “Or is it possible that the barbed wire and armed guards are meant to lock the Chinese workers in and strip them of their legal rights?”
After Prouty saw his video being quoted in the Institute’s report, he called up its headquarters to express his gratitude for the work they do exposing sweatshop labor conditions worldwide. He wound up talking directly to Kernaghan, who later described Prouty as a “hero” to The Ed Show.
But Prouty says Kernaghan and his associates are the real heroes. ”He has people going into these factories to work,” he said. “Sometimes these people stay for months and months and months so they can blend in. They put their lives at risk to help him document the conditions in these factories. That takes guts.”
Kernaghan is perhaps best known for his investigation of Honduran sweatshop work in the mid-90’s. At a congressional hearing in 1996, he revealed that Honduran factories relied on child labor to produce Walmart’s Kathie Lee Gifford clothing line. As a result of that famous incident, the Washington Post titled a 2005 profile of Kernaghan, “The Man Who Made Kathie Lee Cry.”
Another profile, from a 2003 issue of Mother Jones, says that Kernaghan “is everywhere, accompanied by donated film crews,” and has investigated working conditions in “China, American Samoa, Central America, [and] Bangladesh.” Since the article came out, he has also exposed sweatshop conditions in Jordan.
Of the Global Tech factory which Romney referenced in the 47% tape, Kernaghan told The Ed Show, “The workers were getting just a dollar an hour. The workers had no health care. They had nothing.” Prouty, he said, “deserves credit from every single serious person in the United States who wants to know the truth about these campaigns.”