Liu Feeling the Heat of Sweatshop Claim

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Will Liu roo the day he said he worked in a sweatshop?

    City Councilman John Liu is having trouble finding someone to confirm his memories of working in sweatshops as a recent immigrant to New York City. Not even his parents can help.

    As part of his campaign for the job of comptroller, Liu has been running ads telling voters about how "by [age] seven [he] had to work in a sweatshop to make ends meet."

    Sounds awful. Unfortunately -- or maybe fortunately -- for Liu, his mother doesn't remember her 10-year career in the garment industry in the same way.

    "I never go to the factory," Liu's mother, Jamy Liu, 69, told the New York Daily News in an interview set up by her son. "I just go there and pick up some material and bring home because I had to take care of my kids."

    Well, surely dad remembers?

    "She give the kids allowance [for spinning balls of yarn for her] to encourage them," Joseph Liu told the News.

    Maybe Mrs. Liu's old boss, Kwei Ching Liao, can offer some help?

    Mrs. Liu worked  "in home," Liao told the News. "Take home the piece work."  

    After dragging News reporters across Queens in search of someone to verify his story, Liu was clearly frustrated. He suspects his mother tells a different story out of shame over having exposed her child to such hardship.
    "I'm just trying to prove that 10 years of my life were not my imagination," he said.

    In a statement to NBCNewYork, Liu defended his recollection of the past.

    "We all know that sweatshops exist – even in our modern ethical society – but no one talks openly about it, especially not people who have worked in factories. And many people, including journalists, simply do not understand how these illegal industries operate." 

    He said after the interview, the Daily News' reporter asked for a pay stub to prove Liu worked int he factory, but "that's not how sweatshops actually work."

    "For my parents and so many Asian parents, having worked in a sweatshop is a shameful past and people choose to bury those memories. It’s time we brought them out in the open and let people tell their stories without being subjected to cynical attacks," said Liu.

    "Thirty-five years ago, I worked with my mom -- inside a sweatshop and at home. For me, it’s not a shameful past. I make no apology for the work ethic I gained from toiling away many hours in a factory, and I remain as committed as ever to exposing and ending the sweatshop system," he added.