When you think of the face of fashion, is this what comes to mind??
I thought not.
Last week, a man named Jim Keady came to speak at the university in my community and gave those of us who attended his presentation a lot of insight into sweatshop labor and his experience with one famous and über wealthy company: Nike. He talked about how for one month in 2000 both he and educatingforjustice.org co-founder Leslie Kretzu went to live in Indonesia on the income level of local factory workers for Nike and Adidas…”Starvation wages” as the website educatingforjustice.org refers to them. As of 2008 the average Nike worker makes only $2.43 per day.
What I find saddest of all is that there are so many companies out there employing their workers in this way and we don’t know it because savvy marketers and the companies big business execs cover it up through outright lying towards consumers.
I didn’t think that I actually owned anything from Nike. I wore my new sweatshirt from my aunt the day after the presentation and *shock* to my horror, my warm cozy sweatshirt had a little Nike swoosh embroidered in it!
Did you know that this past July there was a huge sweatshop bust in Queens NY for Macy’s, Gap, Express and Coldwater Creek manufacturers? Workers were cheated out of 5.5 million dollars in wages. “Workers kept two sets of time cards to disguise their hours, and managers coached employees to lie to investigators…” (according to The Associated Press, New Jersey Star Ledger).
The truth is, whether you like it or not, even if you never shop at Wal-mart or Target, I guarantee you that something you own has been made using illegal and inhumane labor practices. Its a sad, cold fact of life..but does it have to be this way??
As consumers, if we don’t know how the product is produced, its likely that we will keep on buying it or not take action against it, but if we are informed about this epidemic of corporate crime, we can make much better decisions about how we spend our dollar and why we spend it.
Before you forever boycott these companies, you should know that boycotting them permanently could actually jeopardize the workers more because the companies would make less overall revenue from consumers like you and me. With less overally revenue coming in, CEO’s would begin to cut corners on their costs of production even more, which would only perpetuate and enhance the existing vicious cycle of slave labor.
So what can you do?
- Consciously buy a few more pieces of apparel from companies which manufacture their products in the US or in your own country for you foreigners. : ) start using Etsy more, bloggies!
- Stores I found that make fair-trade buying easy: nosweatapparel.com and www.americanapparel.com. A couple of years ago I saw the guy who launched American Apparel on 60 Minutes and learned that everything American Apparel manufactures is made right in downtown LA. Workers are treated with full respect and wonderful care. For a list of positive press and awards AA has recieved, click here.
- Write to the “bustards” and demand that they give their workers proper wages enough of a salary so that families can afford to buy good food and send their children to school. $2.43 is not good enough. Hurt their conscience a bit too (i.e how can you go to sleep at night knowing that thousands of your workers are going to sleep hungry because you didn’t pay them enough to get more than a bag of peanuts?…etc.)
Above: Fair trade T sold at educatingforjustice.org
Products most commonly produced in sweatshops:
Many types of shoes are made in sweatshops. However, the biggest problem is found with sneakers and athletic shoes.
Most athletic shoes are made in sweatshops in Asian countries.
Child labor is also very common in the shoe industry.
If you are need to buy footwear, I would go with New Balance. It felt pretty good when I found out that New Balance produces 1/4 of its footwear products inside of the US today, because I have been exclusively wearing NB for the past four years of my being a runner. NB is known for having the best arch support, and I have very flat arches like a duck. : P
American Apparel Striped Fleece
Raglan Pullover (Bonus: fleece is made from plastic bottles…this is fair trade and eco-smart at the same time!)
Clothing is very often made in sweatshops and with the use of child labor.
In the U.S. the majority of garment workers are immigrant women that work 60-80 hours a week, usually without minimum wage or overtime pay. Overseas, garment workers routinely make less than a living wage, working under extremely oppressive conditions.
43% of cocoa beans come from the Ivory Coast where recent investigators have found child slavery. In addition, cocoa workers who are paid, receive wages that leave them at the edge of poverty and starvation.
Coffee is the second largest US import after oil.
Many small coffee farmers receive prices for their coffee that are less than the cost of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and debt.
Sorry folks, the glamor behind the sexy tall cup of Starbucks that you sip while reading in a B&N cafe just got a little spoiled. To date, only six percent of Starbucks Coffee is fair-trade. They do now make their cups out of 10 percent post-consumer recycled material though. A good start, but we want to see 100 percent fair-trade and 100 percent recycled. We want it now dammit!!Sources: “N.Y. says Queens factory for Gap, Macy’s was illegal sweatshop” -The Associated Press, New Jersey Star Ledger, July, 2008 Shoes, Clothing, Coffee, Chocolate bullets-source: Wanda Embar, veganpeace.com Protest Starbucks: http://www.organicconsumers.org/starbucks/index.cfm Images: Cocoa beans: http://www.counterpart.org/Default.aspx?tabid=340&metaid=EACS0149-606&skin=ec Protest Starbucks: http://www.organicconsumers.org/starbucks/index.cfm New Balance women’s trail running shoes: http://www.altrec.com