Empathy From the Wallet

Asking for consumers to pay more is another very tricky part to the entire plan to end sweatshops. As a consumer I realize sometimes squeezing that extra money in could mean not being able afford the product at all. On that note I want to stress the fact that the reason I would be paying more is based on the empathy I have for the unfortunate workers. For example, according to Daily Finance as of March 2013, Wal-Mart is the second most used store in the US. The popular store goes by the slogan “Save money. Live better.” A sadly ironic slogan considering Wal-Mart was one of the companies that were using sweatshops in Bangladesh. One of their factories burned to the ground in 2005 and killed 74 people due to illegal fire exit blockage. When I read their slogan I can’t help but think “living better” does not include risking the lives of their workers to the point of tragic death. So if I can’t afford the more expensive product I would feel better about myself if I saved the money until I can afford the price that goes towards the workers paychecks or safety. Rather than going to the cheapest company that promotes the sweatshop cycle as it is today. Hopefully this more expensive consumer lifestyle and the ideas behind the actions is enough to inspire others.

Change From the Wallet

Not just pocket change, but change in the world is possible if people begin to open their wallets to help a suffering stranger. Specifically this change is for sweatshop workers and companies that use sweatshops. At this point the obvious illegal actions of sweatshops have been revealed. The workers are treated poor for many different reasons such as low wages, abusive and unhealthy environments, under aged employment, excessive hours, and the list could go on and on. Also the fact that these sweatshops are located in just about every part of the world, more exist in impoverished countries compared to steadier economic countries, but they continue to exist in third world countries as well as first. The answer doesn’t lie in shutting down companies that use sweatshops but in the consumers who buy from these companies. The consumers can make the biggest difference, but the answer in how to end sweatshops is followed by the question of whether consumers will be willing to pay more money for their products?

Companies use sweatshops so that they can make profit from their own business. The cheap labor is the best way to reach more consumers and still make profit. Sweatshops were built on the business principles of achieving maximum profit. Keeping their work industries up to legal standards is expensive. The only way to change the utilization of sweatshops is if consumers gather together and convince companies that they will pay for more expensive products for better work environments. Also make sure the consumers are paying this extra price to companies that will actually use that extra money to pay standard wages to their workers and maintenance the factories that their merchandise is made in.  Unfortunately many of the companies that use sweatshops are corrupt, by knowingly and concisely using sweatshops without care, and that is why they continue to use sweatshops. So the most important part is that the consumers take action in convincing the company to make the changes needed in the factories if the prices are raised. Raised prices are for the suffering workers not the companies.

Sweatshops Can’t Just End

It is easy for the United States to be so against sweatshops when there are little located here compared to other countries and when there are plenty of jobs. When the Untied States begins to think about regulating labor laws and exporting business, then the other end of the spectrum is being ignored. To explain what will happen if laws are regulated rather than prices of products being increased, watch this video.

Aid to Consumers


All the information that I have posted so far can leave the average consumer frazzled of how to shop with sweatshops in mind. I found an organization, Green America, and they have plenty of information for people to find where to shops and where not shop. Importantly this organization knows that boycotting companies does not better the situation. Instead this organization reaches out to large companies and questions their industry methods. If a company seems to not follow constituted labor laws, Green America will encourage the companies to make better decisions. When these companies agree to change their working conditions the company is benefitted by being added to the recommended shopping list from Green America. To show the work that they have done, Tell The Gap is a part the organization is working on. Green America took into account that Gap, a large clothing store, publicly signed on to a worker safety program. Green America was a part of publicly outing Gap for disobeying this program when 29 workers died in their Bangladeshi supplier in 2010. Green Peace does their part in awareing the public about companies and their good and bad means.

Hopeful for Change

Times are changing and there is hope that sweatshops will change as well. I came across Professor Ben Powell from Suffolk University and his explanation of the possible future of sweatshops. He pointed out the history of sweatshops and how they were primarily in the United States, Germany and Britain. Compared to now sweatshops are mostly located in third worlds. This is because of the process of development that has occurred over the years. For example the United States, Germany and Britain were mostly using sweatshops during the Industrial Revolution era and years before that, because faster and more efficient technology and methods were not yet available. Now that these resources are more affordable and accessible, and the economy has grown with these resources; sweatshops have decreased. This pattern will hopefully continue with third world countries that have many sweatshops. The best way to make this change is also correlated to the institutions to protect labor laws. Since the world has the resources, the next step is establishing institutions for economic freedom. Also since both of these are available and doable the process of development can move quicker in third world countries than it did in the United States, Germany, and Britain.

Sexist Sweatshops

Up until now this blog can explain the good, and bad behind this awful situation that occurs daily. Although since there are some pros behind sweatshops, such as providing employment. The situation needs to change everywhere because the employment is vicious. By now most people know that sweatshops can include awful pay unsafe and insanitary working conditions and much, much more. This post is going to reveal more inhumane crimes the sweatshops includes and that the women must endure. A sweatshop awareness organization Do Something.org estimated that 85% of sweatshop workers are girls between the ages of 15 and 25. With the idea of pregnancy in mind sweatshops often force these girls to dose up on birth control. This is to ensure the sweatshops that they will not have to pay for maternity leave. If the girls refuse the birth control and become pregnant it is with out question that they will be fired. This is considered illegal for breaking the Family and Medical Leave Act under the Department of Labor in the United States. This act entitles workers to at least 12 workweeks of job-protected leave. So this is another violation that sweatshops often commit along side with the hours and wages that are unjust.

Why Shoulders are Turned

Human rights organizations across the world do attempt their best to stop violations of human rights but the unfortunate fact is that these organizations are not fully successful. In 1998 the International Labour Organization (a tripartite human rights agency) began the Declaration of Fundamental Principals. This declaration covered four primal laws.

  1. Freedom of Association
  2. Eliminating forced labor
  3. Abolition of child labor
  4. Eliminating discrimination in the workplace

These principals are currently held to standard in the United Nations. This is only one of many organizations that stands behind these and many other regulations for employment. Yet the problem continues and there are many reasons behind this. One major reason would be due to globalization. Many companies find that; profit is more important than their employee’s salary or profit can only be made if their employee salaries are small. These companies will then establish their factories and work places in areas in the world that do not regulate these labor laws then export to developed countries for business. Companies continue to find these loop holes to maximize profit and human rights organizations have difficulties keeping up with these companies.

Turning a Shoulder

The topic of sweatshops is like playing with a double-edged sword that many will step back and stop playing with.  Julie Keith, an average consumer found herself ad merged into the topic of sweatshops but found difficulties when looking for someone to turn to for help. This all began several days before Halloween of this year when she was unpacking some of her Kmart Halloween decorations from last year. This year she found a letter in the box that she had missed from the year before. The letter was from a Chinese laborer who had made the products that she was unpacking. The letter was disturbing with the details that the laborer explained about his working conditions; abusive, 15 hour days without weekends or holidays breaks with a pay of about 10 yaun a month ($1.60 in US currency). Julie Keith quickly posted her letter to the internet asking for help on what she should do. A response gave her contact information to Amnesty International, a human rights organization. Keith was left with no response and quickly realized this would be the same response from many human rights organizations. This ordeal specifically became more of a public scandal and many organizations began to question the authenticity of the letter before questioning the labor camp (sweatshops) in China. Although human rights does deal with many cases of ensuring labor laws are monitored this case has yet to have a happy ending.

Sweatshop letter


Morals vs. Revenue Continued

Now is time to realize that this is not to say that sweatshops need to continue as they are, but that by understanding that there are pros to sweatshops, the continuous act of breaking laws can end. One example of the negative on goings that occur due to sweatshops might be child labor. Child sweatshops are often located in areas where children must work to provide for the family. In fact 16% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in sweatshops in undeveloped countries (“Child”). The outraged reactions to facts such as these are expected but often make matters worse. Many people take to protesting companies that utilize sweatshops and occasionally these protest are successful, or so the protesters think. Those workers for that shut down company are now unemployed. So the leading conclusion from these facts is that global poverty is the main problem behind sweatshops. The most common illegal act behind sweatshops is the under waged income the workers receive, but since these factories are mainly located in underdeveloped countries the pay is simply a result of the location. The factories then are helping these underdeveloped countries create urbanization and industrialization. So once these countries develop and the laws of factories are regulated sweatshops can become healthy working environments.

Morals vs. Revenue

            Sweatshops often include dreadfully long hours doing tedious and intensive work, while enduring abusive actions all for an illegitimate pay, and the workers choose this job. Sweatshops include very illegal conduct and for that all sweatshops are deemed with a negative connotation. Rarely do people stand behind their thoughts about sweatshops, and more often than that people who are against sweatshops do not take a moment to look on the other side of the factories. It seems to be morally wrong to support unethical labor organizations but without that support the workers are unemployed. Understanding that there are two sides to sweatshops is important to solving the harsh working conditions. So think of it this way supporting the business owners who allow the illegal treatment to continue is black and white morally wrong. But by supporting the business and buying the products is supporting the income of the workers.