Grantee finds evidence that Wisconsin company is using prison labor in China to make workers’ gloves

Shi Minglei, the wife of an imprisoned Chinese human rights activist Cheng Yuan, fled to the United States in 2021 and now lives in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. She is calling for Brookfield-Wis.-based Milwaukee Tool to stop sourcing gloves made from forced prison labor in China. A Milwaukee Tool spokesperson says the company has “found no evidence to support” allegations about forced labor. Shi is shown in Minneapolis on Feb. 19, 2023. (Ariana Lindquist for Wisconsin Watch)

Zhen Wang, who is working at Wisconsin Watch on the Fund’s Diversity Fellowship, found that prisoners in China’s central Hunan Province were forced to make Milwaukee Tool-branded work gloves under grueling conditions at Chisan Prison, earning pennies each day. A supplier for Milwaukee Tool subcontracted work to the prison, two former prisoners said in separate interviews conducted in Mandarin. Regulatory filings in China confirm that the company was contracted to manufacture “Performance Gloves” for a subsidiary of Milwaukee Tool’s parent company. U.S. law bans the importation of goods made with forced labor. Wisconsin Watch began the investigation after Chinese exile Shi Minglei, who lives in Minnesota, launched a petition to pressure Milwaukee Tool to stop sourcing gloves made at the prison. Shi alleges her husband, imprisoned human rights activist Cheng Yuan, has been forced to produce goods at the prison.