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Anderson Stops Shipping Prison-Labor Produced Products to Canada
Anderson Hardwood Floors (Clinton, S.C.) has stopped shipping wood flooring produced using prison labor into Canada, according to a memorandum from Melmart Distributors Inc. addressed to dealers of Anderson's Appalachian, Virginia Vintage, Biltmore and eponymous brands.

Anderson has not indicated which flooring lines are affected by the stoppage; however, Melmart wrote in its memorandum that the following lines are not manufactured using prison labor and are, therefore, still available in Canada:
  • Brevard
  • Bryson/Smoky Mountain
  • Casitablanca
  • Coastal Range
  • Jack's Creek/Eagleton
  • Southern Vista
  • Urban Pioneer
Under Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) Memorandum D9-1-6, "Goods Manufactured or Produced Wholly or in Part by Prison Labour," the importation of goods manufactured or produced wholly or in part by prison labor is prohibited.

According to the Melmart memo, the matter came about when Anderson's parent company, Shaw Industries Inc. (Dalton, Ga.) discovered its subsidiary was violating Memorandum D9-1-6. "This was discovered by the Shaw Export Department and was immediately voluntarily disclosed to the CBSA. As a result, Shaw/Anderson immediately and voluntarily stopped all shipments of product with any [Anderson Hardwood Prison Industries Program] content into Canada," the memorandum reads. Shaw Industries Inc. is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

Don Finkell, CEO Shaw Hardwood, referred questions regarding this issue to Rick Hooper, Shaw's general counsel, who did not respond before publication time of this article.

Recently, the CBSA notified the National Floor Covering Association of Canada of Memorandum D9-1-6, "reminding" the group that goods produced using prison labor are not allowed in Canada, said Martin Burtt, manager of the Other Government Department Programs Unit within the CBSA's Commercial Border Programs Division.

"After 15 years of selling Anderson products in Canada, it only recently came to our attention that by bringing those products with prison inputs into Canada, Anderson was in contravention of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Memorandum D9-1-6," Melmart's memorandum reads.

Ron Chato, senior sales advisor with Brant, Ontario-based Girardi Carpets, an Anderson dealer, said, "It's a good program. The inmates get treated fairly when they're producing this stuff. They get a certain percentage and the rest goes to their family. The boys have done something wrong, but the people that suffer are their families. It also gives them a few bucks in their pocket so they're not destitute when they get out."

"We are disappointed that this law paints all prison industry programs worldwide with the same brush. However, we are, of course, making a full voluntary disclosure of our Anderson imports and we await the decision of the CBSA," the Melmart memorandum reads.

The issue of prison labor came up repeatedly during the ongoing investigation of engineered flooring imports from China. "The way it's characterized and the way I've seen it characterized in some of the media releases is that this is tantamount to slave labor. It's not. This is a federally statutory program. The workers are paid a prevailing wage," said Jeff Levin, counsel for the Coalition for American Hardwood Parity (CAHP), during an investigation hearing in October 2011. The CAHP petitioned the U.S. government to launch antidumping and countervailing duties investigations in October 2010, and Anderson is a founding member of the CAHP.

In December, Anderson announced it would drop its Appalachian and Biltmore brands in order to focus efforts on its Virginia Vintage and eponymous brands.
Sort of like Chinese subsidies, America can have them but our trading partners cannot. In fact, it is not even considered when American companies get the same subsidies as the Chinese factories. What's good for the goose, is good for the gander!
Comment By Bob At 1/11/2012 2:24 PM
What about those people who are law-a-biding, trying to pay their bills and raise their families. Paying inmates below minimum wages to increase corporate profits seems wrong in this economic climate.
Comment By Steve At 1/11/2012 2:26 PM
It must be embarrassing to violate Canadian law for fifteen years before 'discovering' the infraction. Prison labor may not be slave labor, but it certainly takes labor opportunities away from private sector employees, like ours. Unlike prisoners, our people rely on their wages to pay their rent, and buy groceries and school supplies.

Our company competes indirectly with prison labor (read 'Shaw' and 'Anderson' and others) in the flooring manufacturing business every day. It's tough enough to go against good quality companies like Anderson, without having the states and the Feds on their team too.
Comment By Jim Oliver, CEO At 1/11/2012 2:41 PM
The inmates are paid minimum wage or slightly above and they are productive. It is a privilege to get to work in the plant and is a big motivator for continued good behavior.
Comment By Brad At 1/11/2012 2:42 PM
The goverment should penalty or do some thing with the company that run business likes Anderson company. All that scum should remove from maket , clean up then our economy will be well . Also Gov. should supporting for all mills that makes product from USA.
Comment By Nhu Nguyen At 1/11/2012 3:49 PM
This is whats wrong with America. People always jumping to conclusions before they know the whole story. If you people did a little research as to how their program works you would have nothing to say.
Comment By Patrick At 1/11/2012 4:30 PM
I guess its time for the inmates to go back to making shivs and shanks.
Comment By Jake At 1/12/2012 7:14 AM
Unbelievable, we can bring in area rugs made by children etc. What a joke.
Comment By Ray At 1/12/2012 4:54 PM
The Federal Program that allows Anderson and more than a hundred other companies to 'partner' with prison industries and use inmate labor is the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP). It is overseen by the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) the special interest group representing prison industries and corporations partnered with them. The Fox/Hen house scenario.
Inmates are not paid prevailing wage as required by the program; they are paid min wage or less. The NCIA implemented policy that allows the inmates to be paid minimum wage and the DoJ approved it. Today 600,000 to 1 Million inmates are working in some form of industry according to Noah Zatz, Professor at UCLA.
Inmates do receive between 20 and 35% of what they earn...but the remainder is taken to pay room and board, victim restitution, taxes and most states no longer put aside any of the wages for release. Any money owed for medical callouts, treatment, banking fees or fines are taken out of the small percentage the inmates receive.
Visit for facts, documents and articles on the prison industries in the U.S.
Bob Sloan
Prison Industry Consultant and
Investigative Journalist
Comment By Bob Sloan At 1/12/2012 5:21 PM
I think it is a good thing to have the prisoners work to pay restitution to their victims. It makes them aware of how hard honest people have to work to make a living in the real world. I think it would also help to bring healing to the victim.
Comment By Dorothy At 1/16/2012 1:53 PM
Comment By Nike Lunar At 6/6/2012 7:43 PM
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