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:
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.
- Bryson/Smoky Mountain
- Coastal Range
- Jack's Creek/Eagleton
- Southern Vista
- Urban Pioneer
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.