Child Labor Press Conference : Introduction

Brian Fenster's initial statement at the Cambridge Press Conference

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press:
Thank you for coming. We have a series of statements for you. We hope you will listen carefully. Afterwards we will field questions. Then we have some refreshments for you and a tour of our property.
First and foremost, let me say, on behalf of the Communities of the Twelve Tribes, that our children ARE NOT OPPRESSED BY CHILD LABOR. We deny such allegations, as false, unfounded, and slanderous. We have never been found in violation of child labor laws in any of our industries.
I will detail the events that preceded the New York Post article last Sunday, claiming “Scandal!” Several weeks ago, there was a gossip column noting a relationship between Common Sense, one of our industries, and Origins, a branch of Estee Lauder. The column cited Estee Lauder claiming that “a routine inspection turned up a question about the age of a couple of workers… We found their answers insufficient, and with record speed we were out of there.”
As mentioned in a recent press account, prior to that visit, an Estee Lauder spokeswoman noted more than 20 other announced and unannounced inspections in this facility. They never found a problem.
However, on the day of this inspection, there were a couple of boys working in the shop with their fathers beyond what is our normal practice and policy. This is what happened on that day. It was an isolated incident and Estee Lauder realizes that. Ordinarily, the boys would have been in the classroom on a Thursday morning, but on this Thursday, big preparations were underway for a three-day Bar Mitzvah in a neighboring community. The boys’ rabbi, their teacher, was out of town. Also many were down in bed with a bad bout of the flu bug. A production deadline was pressing in. On Fridays we routinely only work a few hours to leave time to prepare for the Sabbath. Several fathers in the shop judged that their sons were worthy to help in the crunch. The fathers knew that with the support of their sons for few hours, they could “get the job done.” With the rabbi absent anyway, the boys were available and willing. With their sons by their side, the work got done by the deadline! Those products ended up being destroyed because of the conscientiousness of Estee Lauder after we had an honest conversation with them. They had an honest conversation with us and we came to agreement to terminate the contract. That is the real story.
But by last Sunday, the front page of the New York Post proclaimed “SCANDAL” and “BIZARRE CULT.” The Post described our communities as racist, anti-Semitic, and isolationist. They shouted “CHILD LABOR!” and wrongfully implicated Robert Redford in heinous wrongdoing that left him with no alternative but to respond to media pressure and protect his Sundance Catalog regardless of the facts. Despite the tabloid’s bold condemning headlines, there has not been one allegation from the labor department, nor any factual complaints of violations. This article — false and slanderous — directly caused the termination of one of our industry contracts, Sundance, ON NO OBJECTIVE GROUNDS.
We, at Common Sense and at Commonwealth Woodworks have always been very up front with our practices, even to the extent of putting this image right on our logo. It appears on every piece of furniture shipped. The father and son work together in a safe, healthy, educational environment. It is NOT “child labor” and never has been.
In closing, I would like to read from our most recent statement, which is also included in your press packets. “Like any family owned business, the children help their parents. We believe in this and make no apology. We believe it is the best environment for the children to be occupied with their parents, not wasting their free time on empty amusements and dissipation, which leads only to bad behavior. Being together bonds them to their parents and keeps them from the defilement of a life of adolescent waywardness and the perilous effects of peer pressure.”

The Twelve Tribes is a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, composed of self-governing communities. We are disciples of the Son of God whose name in Hebrew is Yahshua. We follow the pattern of the early church in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, truly believing everything that is written in the Old and New Covenants of the Bible, and sharing all things in common.

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