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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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118 Responses

  1. Jiggs
    Jiggs November 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm |

    Noooo, Aeropostale! How could you do this to me? I thought we were friends!

    Who knew I could actually feel good about shopping at H&M, though. I misjudged them as Forever 21 with better clothes.

    1. PeggyLuWho
      PeggyLuWho November 17, 2012 at 2:12 am |

      Everything I used to own in college came from Aeropostale.

      Now almost everything I own comes from Gap and H&M.

  2. WL
    WL November 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

    I bought most of my clothes from http://www.nosweatapparel.com/ until they went wholesale-only. I also made major purchases from http://www.justiceclothing.com/ . I tend to just buy a whole bunch of clothes when my old ones wear out, then not buy any for 5 years or so. I’m not sure exactly where I’ll shop the next time I need, say, a good winter jacket (the one from Justice that I bought in 2003 is still doing great though), if they don’t get back on their feet. I’ve bought a few things from http://www.rawganique.com/ in the past, but they’re usually way too expensive for me. Even for No Sweat I usually waited for big sales to buy.

    I try to support relatively good manufacturers even if I buy from a mainstream retailer like Amazon. Maggie’s Organics is great, of course. I also don’t mind buying brands like Ecoland and PACT’s organic cotton stuff.

    Sometimes the clothes in my holes are just too big and I need something soon, and we don’t have enough money that I feel comfortable spending much money on clothes. In that case, I’m guilty of buying cheap clothes off ebay that are probably made in sweatshops :( but it rarely happens.

  3. Drahill
    Drahill November 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm |

    I’ve started making a lot of my own clothes. I can so far only make what I wear around the house (since structured suits and stuff for work are a bit more complex in construction), but so far so good.

    It’s not full proof; obviously, the start-up costs, like the machine and sewing materials, can be prohibitive for a lot of people. And you’re not assured that the fabrics you’re buying weren’t imported under bad circumstances. You can minimize it by not buying fabrics from, say, Walmart (I’m lucky, I live in a city with a pretty bustling textile market, and most of them will direct me to fabrics made in America or union shops).

    It’s not foolproof by any means, but it’s the best way I’ve found of trying to not buy into sweatshops. It’s hard to figure out who’s safe to buy from – especially when even though a particular company might get a good score, corporate structure is so intertwined that you can inadvertenly support bad companies even then (with controlling shareholders, affiliates and all). Second hand stores are pretty good, too.

    I also still retain a terrible soft stop for American Apparel, because their stuff stretched so well when I was pregnant and helped me avoid the dreaded maternity clothes. But I’m weaning myself off of that place.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm |

      I’m confused. Why is taking jobs away from poor countries ever a good thing?

      1. samanthab.
        samanthab. November 17, 2012 at 5:28 am |

        It’s a good thing when those jobs are creating massive inequality on a global level. Your argument makes the paternalistic assumption that poor countries are poor countries because of some fundamental deficiency rather than because their citizens are ruthlessly exploited.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:42 am |

          It’s a good thing when those jobs are creating massive inequality on a global level.

          Wrong. Those jobs are not ‘creating’ inequality; that presumes that whatever there was before sweatshop jobs was somehow more equal. It wasn’t. The majority of sweatshop workers were previously employed in the agricultural sector, where wages- and standards of living- are lower. Study after study have shown that getting a job at a sweatshop represents huge increases in standard of living for the vast majority of people who do so; so large, in fact, that people are willing to pay large bribes, move long distances, and be separated from family members just to have a chance.

          The reality is that the countries with major sweatshop investment fifty years ago have built upon that light industry and become significantly more affluent. South Korea and Taiwan were both incredibly poor until very recent history; it was low-wage low-skill light manufacturing that provided the basis for the growth of their economies.

          Your argument makes the paternalistic assumption that poor countries are poor countries because of some fundamental deficiency rather than because their citizens are ruthlessly exploited.

          No, it really doesn’t. The US and Europe both had sweatshops at one point in their history, too. Low-skill light industry is the stepping stone to highly developed economies with high standards of living. Sweatshops ultimately represent capital outflows from the developed to the underdeveloped world. This is not exploitation.

          Genuine abuses exist, of course, and I’m against them as much as you are. But simply having low wages (by American standards) is not a form of abuse.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:53 am |

          It’s a good thing when those jobs are creating massive inequality on a global level.

          I’m sorry for the double post, but I just can’t comprehend how you’ve convinced yourself that if sweatshops packed up and left, everyone in Bangladesh would suddenly become software programmers and cardiac surgeons. Seriously, tell me this; once you get your way and sweatshops are shut down, what exactly are you going to replace them with (and please, for goodness’ sake, stick to the real world here).

          What actually has happened, when people like you have managed to convince legislators to vote your way, is a colossal increase in human suffering. Perhaps the most obvious case study is when there were mass protests against Nike and Rebok using Pakistani sweatshops to sew soccer balls together. Mean income in Pakistan fell by 20%. Or perhaps you’d prefer the Oxfam study which found that child prostitution rates tripled in Bangladesh, or how the boycott the Nepalese carpet manufacturers led to thousands of young girls being sold into the sex trade.

          On the one hand, we have a huge array of data and case studies and hey, basic economic reasoning. On the other we have people who love to get off on their own sense of self-righteous indignation without any real regard for the consequences. I know who I’m backing.

        3. EG
          EG November 17, 2012 at 11:33 am |

          The US and Europe both had sweatshops at one point in their history, too.

          What on earth makes you think that they no longer do?

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |

          What on earth makes you think that they no longer do?

          That was clumsily phrased. I should have said “both the US and Europe were largely sweatshop-dependent economies at one point).

      2. Drahill
        Drahill November 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm |

        I’m not if your argument works. By your logic, it seems like you’re arguing that any attempt to create economic change by directing one’s dollars to one source over another is unjust, because spending is largely, for most people, a zero-sum game: if you buy clothes from one source, another does not receive them. So would you also argue that refusing to shop at, say, Walmart, is a poor choice because by not shopping at Walmart, a poor worker in China is losing due to your refusal to shop there?

        You seem to be crafting an argument that sets up an idea that demands that the demand that created sweatshops needs be now be constant, since societies that have sweatshops have created such a dependency upon them. However, if almost everybody can agree that sweatshops are less than optimal and that people should get better working conditions, how does your argument leave any room for improvement? If we should not direct business away from the current sweatshop model and continue to pay into it, what incentive has been created to reform them? It would seem like there is none. Honestly, I’m not seeing how your argument works if reformation of the sweatshop system is ultimately the goal.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |

          I’m not if your argument works. By your logic, it seems like you’re arguing that any attempt to create economic change by directing one’s dollars to one source over another is unjust, because spending is largely, for most people, a zero-sum game: if you buy clothes from one source, another does not receive them.

          Not at all. You’re one consumer; your dollars couldn’t be less significant. But large-scale attempts to keep money from going to sweatshops are incredibly bad ideas.

          If we should not direct business away from the current sweatshop model and continue to pay into it, what incentive has been created to reform them?

          Sweatshops don’t need to be ‘reformed,’ they need to create capital and begin to build an urban working class, and represent capital flows towards poor countries. And not be actively abusive and violent and coercive, as well, but wages have nothing to do with that.

          You seem to be crafting an argument that sets up an idea that demands that the demand that created sweatshops needs be now be constant, since societies that have sweatshops have created such a dependency upon them.

          You have it backwards. Societies did not become dependent on sweatshops, they moved from other forms of economic activity that paid less and generated less capital to sweatshops. A couple posters have expressed this weird idea that if only sweatshops hadn’t existed, everyone would have instead gone to college and become a nuclear engineer; it’s just not representative of the real world in any way. People are typically leaving manual agricultural labor (which, contrary to pasturalist myths, is back-breaking, incredibly demanding labor which pays very, very little) for manufacturing, and in doing so seeing massive increases to their income and standard of living.

          Again, speaking empirically, the countries with lots of sweatshop investment forty or fifty are the countries which have successfully developed.

        2. tomek
          tomek November 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |

          ablelinglong, i have curious what happen when if all other country grow into developed country? then how will get sweatshop labour? indestry of clothes will have problem is it not so

        3. Drahill
          Drahill November 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

          Amblingalong: You seem to making two arguments. You responded to my initial comment by suggesting that encouraging people to opt out of sweatshop-made goods penalizes poor workers. However, if such an action is insignificant, why respond this way in the first place? And if as you suggest, such an action is insignificant, why not at best ignore it? You’re arguing that for the nations where they exist, sweatshops are an economic good – which then forms the basis of an argument that sets up an overall obligation of more developed nations to support their use. You’re not arguing that sweatshops should simply be allowed to be a consumer option; your creating a premise that opting out of the system, in large numbers is a largely immoral act. And that is the problem.

          I also think your arguing that sweatshops are evidence of an evolution in labor is somewhat lacking. Sweatshops generally represent a move towards industrialization, that is true. Same thing happened in the United States. However, you have not answered my question I posed initially. Most sweatshops today are largely defined by their poor conditions – and I’m not talking about an American frame of reference, I’m talking from the human-rights frame of reference. I mean involuntary wage garnishments for living expenses, physical abuse from superiors, food deprivation, that sort of thing (things that the United Nations define as human rights abuses in labor). If, as you suggest, it is wrongheaded to pull one’s dollars out of sweatshop system, then what incentive does any business have to improve these conditions? Seems like little to none. So you still really haven’t answered that.

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm |

          Thanks, that was a super thoughtful response.

          However, if such an action is insignificant, why respond this way in the first place? And if as you suggest, such an action is insignificant, why not at best ignore it?

          I see a distinction between an individual moving their dollars somewhere else and an organized movement to deny a specific industry dollars, period. Maybe I didn’t make that clear enough, in which case I’m sorry for the confusion.

          Most sweatshops today are largely defined by their poor conditions – and I’m not talking about an American frame of reference, I’m talking from the human-rights frame of reference. I mean involuntary wage garnishments for living expenses, physical abuse from superiors, food deprivation, that sort of thing (things that the United Nations define as human rights abuses in labor).

          I think the question of definition is probably where we’re differing, but in my OP, I referred specifically to protests against low wages; I posted my response to your comment second, but it was higher up on the page. Again, apologies for the lack of clarity.

      3. WL
        WL November 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm |

        South Korea and Taiwan were both incredibly poor until very recent history; it was low-wage low-skill light manufacturing that provided the basis for the growth of their economies.

        Are you serious? How did you get that idea about them?

        I don’t like how the argument is between “sweatshops” on the one hand and “even less wealth, child slaves, etc” on the other. Why can we not help people get meaningful work that lets them independently raise themselves up, or give them factory jobs with good medical benefits, clean and healthy working conditions, limited work hours and overtime pay, decent wages, etc?

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm |

          Why can we not help people get meaningful work that lets them independently raise themselves up, or give them factory jobs with good medical benefits, clean and healthy working conditions, limited work hours and overtime pay, decent wages, etc?

          Because the reason companies are going to developing countries for workers is exactly because of the lack of those things. All else being equal, it’s much cheaper to stay at home.

          Look, I don’t disagree at all with any of you about what a perfect world would look like. But I don’t think that’s a good way to make policy calls, because that’s not the world in which we live.

          Are you serious? How did you get that idea about them?

          You’re joking, right ? These is super common knowledge, though my degree in economics probably gave me a more detailed understanding of the history.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm |

          my degree in economics probably gave me a more detailed understanding of the history.

          Pity you didn’t major in history instead; it would have given you a more detailed understanding of reality.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

          Burn.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm |

          Total OTness!

          …you know, amblingalong, I like you, I really do. And most of the time I’m reading you and going YEAH WOOT SING IT. And I really really hate that somehow, when we wind up on opposite sides of debates, that we wind up being massive jerkasses at each other. (Yes, I admit it; I am a jerkass of epic proportions on occasion. It usually takes me like a day to get to admitting it. >.< )

          But why, why are there two of you? Awesome Thoughtful amblingalong and Randomly Weird Jerk amblingalong, can't you get along?! Or at least post under different handles! …as I plan to do, because I totally have days of being Randomly Weird Jerk mac.

          So, uh. This is my way of saying, in socially awkward penguin-speak, that I am going to try to be nice to you, and sorry I get shouty. I'm shouty a lot on the internet, but it isn't really where rage should go, and I'm sorry about it.

        5. WL
          WL November 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

          I am completely serious. Sorry but if you could link me stuff about South Korea’s economy mainly growing due to foreign corporations setting up sweatshops, I’d be grateful. Also curious what time period you’re talking about.

          I have very little knowledge on the subject, but I thought that over the decades, SK grew through development of technology, exports, aid (eg IMF), government investment in stuff like steel…

        6. samanthab.
          samanthab. November 19, 2012 at 6:33 am |

          No, South Korea , as I said, has for sometime had very low income inequality. It built its economy the same way we did, through WPA-style government investments. It just absurd to argue that the ruthless exploitation of an underclass is the key to a more vibrant economy. It’s been proven 10 000 times over that income inequality is the death knell to an economy. Countries don’t need to evolve towards treating workers with respect. That’s some racist shit right there, and your own examples prove how wrong it is

        7. matlun
          matlun November 19, 2012 at 8:20 am |

          No, South Korea , as I said, has for sometime had very low income inequality.

          Pretty low, anyway. About the same level as Europe (better than some countries, worse than some).

          It’s been proven 10 000 times over that income inequality is the death knell to an economy.

          That is just nonsense.

          As to the original question about “sweatshops”:
          The economy of South Korea was built on labor intensive production for the export market. Ie using a lot of low skilled, low paid workers. Whether you want to call the factories sweatshops (I wouldn’t) is a matter of definitions.

          I have no idea why this conflict sprung from amblingalongs fairly simple original argument that the “living wage” definition used by many evaluations is unreasonably high. That is a somewhat subjective question which might perhaps be interesting to discuss.

      4. Foxy
        Foxy November 17, 2012 at 10:15 pm |

        Free markets have lifted millions of people out of poverty.The ignorance of some people on this thread is amazing

        1. samanthab.
          samanthab. November 19, 2012 at 6:39 am |

          Yeah, it’s almost like we’ve read enough to know that there is no such thing as a free market. And if there were, it most certainly would not be in China.

      5. samanthab.
        samanthab. November 18, 2012 at 5:26 am |

        That is just totally dishonest. South Korea has made massive investments in education, makes incredible money off technology, has very low income inequality, and has not relied on Western exploitation to advance. You’re equating apples and oranges here, which is really reprehensible when we’re talking about intense human suffering. Also, you reAlly haven’t made it clear why agrarian lifestyles are inherently bad. Because they can’t afford to buy American products?
        There’s not much point in arguing with you because you clearly are on the side of exploitation and imperialism by another name, but I will just ask: if these jobs are so great, why aren’t you willing to work in such a fashion?

        1. WL
          WL November 18, 2012 at 9:55 am |

          Massive investments in abusive, counterproductive education, but I digress.

          Also, news to me that there’s low income inequality, but what do I know, I haven’t seen actual less-biased studies on it.

          I agree though, a Western market for SK-made products is not the same as Western corporations setting up sweatshops in SK.

        2. piny
          piny November 19, 2012 at 3:38 am |

          …I see. So you don’t want to work for poverty wages because you either wouldn’t be able to use your degree skills or wouldn’t be able to pay off your loans. Otherwise, bring on the piecework!

          This is such bullshit.

          And you know what’s also bullshit? The idea that poverty wages have nothing to do with abusive practices. You have a degree in economics and you don’t see the connection between paying people barely enough money to put food in their mouths and exploiting them? Really? I take it you’ve never heard of a lockout?

      6. Drahill
        Drahill November 19, 2012 at 9:44 am |

        I’m still trying to work my head around how one can get any change in the sweatshop sector if any attempt to do so can’t result in witholding business.

        Let’s say this: I want to see sweatshops reformed – not because of the low wages, which are a complex issue, but because I do not want to buy from places that commit serious physical and mental abuses against the workforce. Okay, sounds great. However, that leads to another question – how can people, on any larger scale, influence change in the sweatshop sector if we cannot use the threat of removing our business (and potentially costing them jobs)? Your initial response to me suggested that you see taking one’s business away from sweatshops as a moral wrong because once enough people take their business elsewhere, that can result in the loss of third world jobs. But that still leaves the remaining issue – if it wrong to threaten to leave (or actually leave), how is meaningful reform ever going to happen?

    2. scrumby
      scrumby November 17, 2012 at 11:26 am |

      Because there’s no slave labor in cotton fields?

      1. Drahill
        Drahill November 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

        And because if you think cotton is the only textile available for use, you certainly haven’t been watching enough Project Runway?

  4. Sid
    Sid November 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

    Ummmmmm…. GAP? Adidas? New Balance? Something must be very seriously wrong with the methodology.

    1. Millicent
      Millicent November 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

      Thankyou. I was like SAY WHAT?

      1. Sid
        Sid November 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm |

        Barely two months after the largest factory fire since Triangle Shirtwaist in Pakistan in a factory that contracts for Adidas and GAP. A factory which habitually failed fire inspection standards. Obscenely disrespectful.

    2. prairielily
      prairielily November 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm |

      Doesn’t New Balance makes all their shoes in the USA?

      1. SamBarge
        SamBarge November 17, 2012 at 8:31 am |

        I thought that was Brooks?

      2. Mike
        Mike November 17, 2012 at 11:41 am |

        They make a substantial percentage in the US, way more than any other large-scale sneaker company, but they still outsource a lot. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as Amblingalong has been arguing upthread.

  5. Jadey
    Jadey November 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

    I buy my clothes where I can get them – I have a lot of trouble finding clothing that fits me and makes me feel good, so further limiting myself is a big problem, even for good reasons. (As it happens, I don’t actually buy from any of the stores on either list.) But I do try to shop only for what I need when I need it, because I can. I am fortunate to be able to splurge sometimes on more expensive but higher quality items that will last me a long time if I take care of them, and I don’t throw clothing out until it is literally no longer wearable. And even then I donate (if it’s reasonably wearable by someone else) or turn into rags for cleaning.

  6. Tim
    Tim November 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    Speaking of Wal-Mart, they have issues from the other end of the supply chain, too (I’m sure they’re not the only ones). This is rather exciting; I’m going to look in to what, besides not shopping there, I can do to support them.

  7. amblingalong
    amblingalong November 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm |

    I’m down with all of this except the absolutely absurd idea that we should be judging factories’ wages with an American frame of reference. In almost all cases, even ‘sweatshops’ are paying more than the next-best set of alternatives, which is why people are working there.

    Eliminating violence, coercion, and abuse is incredibly important. But hand-wringing over wages isn’t only economically ignorant, it’s counterproductive. Low-wage light industrial work is the transitional form of almost every economy moving from agrarian to manufacturing-based; it was in the US, in Europe, and in countries like South Korea and Taiwan which went from incredibly poor to incredibly affluent in less than a century. Trying to put a stop to such practices altogether may make you feel warm and fuzzy, but in reality, you’re just consigning entire nations to permanent underdevelopment. The fact of the matter is that the anti-sweatshop movement is an expression of simply a more benevolent, paternalistic form of racism. The fact you think you’re doing it so save the brown people doesn’t make it so.

    1. tomek
      tomek November 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm |

      ambingologo, u think it not would be possible for high profitg company to take a less little bit of profit and give to low wage producers to improve life conditions?

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong November 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm |

        u think it not would be possible for high profitg company to take a less little bit of profit and give to low wage producers to improve life conditions?

        Of course it would. So? Corporations are ultimately profit-oriented, and while it might be fun to imagine what would happen if they weren’t, it’s not particularly useful.
        You know what shutting down sweatshops actually accomplishes? It forces people to take the jobs they left for the sweatshop. There are dozens of documented examples of successful anti-sweatshop movements or legislation causing massive rises in child prostitution, for example.

        The US anti-sweatshop movement is driven primarily by

        a) unions that don’t want competition and
        b) well meaning but ultimately ignorant middle-class white college students

        1. samanthab.
          samanthab. November 17, 2012 at 5:51 am |

          That’s like saying that because a toxic waste dump leaves a mess, we should keep pouring toxic waste into it. And if your argument relies on attacking the messenger- unions and college students- rather than the message, it starts to look like your argument isn’t very strong.

        2. matlun
          matlun November 17, 2012 at 6:07 am |

          There is some truth in this, but it all depends on your definition of “sweatshop”. When deciding what is a decent wage in poor country X, you can obviously not put the limit at what would be a decent wage in the US.

          However, this does not mean that any wage should be seen as acceptable. The same argument applies to for example working conditions, child workers, etc.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:35 am |

          That’s like saying that because a toxic waste dump leaves a mess, we should keep pouring toxic waste into it.

          Uh… what? On the whole, sweatshops make people’s lives better. Empirically speaking.

          And if your argument relies on attacking the messenger- unions and college students- rather than the message, it starts to look like your argument isn’t very strong.

          Wow, you must read really selectively if that’s the only part of my argument you saw, huh?

        4. Beatrice
          Beatrice November 17, 2012 at 10:00 am |

          If people decide to boycott a company based solely in your country because of deplorable way they treat their workers, would you also defend the company, or is that reserved only for when it comes to those other people in poor countries who don’t know a better life anyway?

        5. EG
          EG November 17, 2012 at 11:35 am |

          On the whole, sweatshops make people’s lives better. Empirically speaking.

          Funny that sweatshop workers here in the US didn’t see it that way and risked their lives to form unions that would change those conditions, isn’t it?

        6. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm |

          Funny that sweatshop workers here in the US didn’t see it that way and risked their lives to form unions that would change those conditions, isn’t it?

          Sure, if you want to compress a century of history into a single moment, go ahead. Don’t expect to prove much, though.

          The union movement came about after a significant rise in income, due to industrialization, formed the beginnings of a middle class.

        7. EG
          EG November 17, 2012 at 7:05 pm |

          The union movement came about after a significant rise in income, due to industrialization, formed the beginnings of a middle class.

          Sure, if you have very little knowledge of labor history, and so think it began with industrial unionism at the end of the 19th century. Otherwise you might talk about the time it takes to develop transitional models, time that is no longer necessary, given that we have models of how to unionize a factory.

    2. robotile
      robotile November 17, 2012 at 7:14 am |

      Also, you can still rate companies relative to each other, even if you accept that wages will be lower in some countries. If Sketchers has factories with deplorable wages and unsafe working conditions and the conditions in an Adidas factory are a little more fair to workers, why not buy from the brand that’s doing a little better? If one company allows unions in their factories while another doesn’t, how is it problematic to support the former? Also, if there are huge protests from the workers, then that’s a sign the factory is doing badly even by the standards of the country it’s in.

      Most of the time people toss out the “it helps the poor countries” argument, it’s just an excuse to take companies completely off the hook for their behavior and to expect consumers to take no responsibility for their purchases. We expect people not to buy goods they suspect are stolen; why shouldn’t we also expect consumers to avoid brands that are particularly horrible to their workers?

      1. SamBarge
        SamBarge November 17, 2012 at 8:34 am |

        I have nothing to add but I wanted to thank your for your comment. Your measured and thoughtful response was so much more edifying that the hateful, curse-filled diatribe of a response that I was composing in my mind and you’ve both improved this discussion and stopped me from making the internet an even worse place than it already is.

        So, thanks!

      2. amblingalong
        amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 9:43 am |

        Most of the time people toss out the “it helps the poor countries” argument, it’s just an excuse to take companies completely off the hook for their behavior and to expect consumers to take no responsibility for their purchases.

        Most times people make the “but the poor brown people” argument, it’s because they’re economic ignoramuses who prioritize self-righteousness over people’s lives. See? We can both be dismissive of each others positions and successfully not engage at all!

        Also, you can still rate companies relative to each other, even if you accept that wages will be lower in some countries. If Sketchers has factories with deplorable wages and unsafe working conditions and the conditions in an Adidas factory are a little more fair to workers, why not buy from the brand that’s doing a little better? If one company allows unions in their factories while another doesn’t, how is it problematic to support the former?

        No disagreement from me. That’s not, however, the argument of the people who are arguing for buying American-made goods over sweatshop goods, or oppose sweatshop made goods in general.

        Your language, however, leaves much to be desired. Wages that are, on average, 350+% better than the next-best alternative are neither ‘deplorable’ nor ‘unfair.’

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm |

          Amblingalong, please take a step back and acknowledge that a) this situation is more complex than you’re making it out to be and b) you’re down to tone arguments at this point and that’s maybe not really a good thing.

          I did reply to your comment below with the central points stated, but it went into mod. I also got really ragey in it, and I apologise in advance; I regretted it pretty much after pressing the comment button. FWIW I wasn’t trying to be ragey at *you* even in it, just the arguments you’re making.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

          Amblingalong, please take a step back and acknowledge that a) this situation is more complex than you’re making it out to be and b) you’re down to tone arguments at this point and that’s maybe not really a good thing.

          a) Sure. I’m consciously making a big picture argument, and- incidentally- it’s one that nobody has actually responded to. There’s been a ton of “but the poor ignorant 3rd-worlders who have tons of better alternatives but stupidly choose to work in sweatshops anyways” but very little “the reams of empirical data which say sweatshops make countries better off in the long run is wrong because X.”

          b) Apologies, but I honestly don’t see where I’ve made a tone argument- is calling someone’s language inaccurate really tone trolling?

          As for your post- don’t worry, I’ve gotten more hate mail from anti-sweatshop people than on any other issue (except animal testing, I think; I’d have to compare). I have a thick skin :)

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

          a) -_- Well if the stupid mod machine would stop eating my posts for no reason whatsoever…

          I did engage all three of your points, with the tl;dr version being that sometimes the sweatshops are warping local economic structures to become the best option, that sweatshops only improve the economy in the way you suggest if they’re not part of a colonialist structure. Really, the tl;dr is “better than worst is still not good”.

          FWIW I don’t think that outsourcing or globalisation are inherently bad at all. I think that they can definitely improve the economy of both countries involved. However, I don’t think the structure has to be exploitative and inhuman to be profitable, and I also think that there’s literally no reason for a company to not downgrade from “obscenely profitable and inhumane” to “profitable and humane” other than “eh, who gives a fuck about those brown people anyway lol”.

          And I reject (as far as I’m able) the consequences of that idea (i.e. shopping indiscriminately) right alongside the idea itself.

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

          Ok, I actually mostly agree with you.

          I did engage all three of your points, with the tl;dr version being that sometimes the sweatshops are warping local economic structures to become the best option

          I’d actually be super (non-snarkily) interested to read the case studies (or models or whatever) you’re talking about. Regardless, in almost every case sweatshop workers are making way more than their non-sweatshop counterparts in the same places. I don’t know if you remember the whole Kathy Lee Gifford sweatshop ‘scandal,’ but the workers in her factories were making about 300% more than the national average income.

          However, I don’t think the structure has to be exploitative and inhuman to be profitable, and I also think that there’s literally no reason for a company to not downgrade from “obscenely profitable and inhumane” to “profitable and humane” other than “eh, who gives a fuck about those brown people anyway lol”.

          I agree 100%. If I was in charge of a company, that’s how I’d run it.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm |

          Amblingalong. Seriously. It’s not just what they’re being paid. Environmental conditions matter. Freedom matters. The right to unionise matters.

          It’s like saying, theoretically, that if you make $10 an hour at your job, and I know that sex work would earn you $80 an hour, and I arranged for Team Surprise Anal to turn up, and when you protested, I went “what are you complaining about? You’re being paid so much better!”

          Because seriously. Female workers are being raped at sweatshops. CHILDREN are being raped at sweatshops. They are denied the right to unionise. They are denied the right to protest. If they do, they are fired. If they do, they are impoverished. Do you seriously not grasp the concept of a hostage situation? You, a citizen of the US of everloving A and its healthcare situation?

        6. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm |

          It’s like saying, theoretically, that if you make $10 an hour at your job, and I know that sex work would earn you $80 an hour, and I arranged for Team Surprise Anal to turn up, and when you protested, I went “what are you complaining about? You’re being paid so much better!”

          No, the analogy would be if I looked at the $10 dollar job and the $80 dollar sex work job, and then chose to go join the latter on my own.

          Amblingalong. Seriously. It’s not just what they’re being paid. Environmental conditions matter. Freedom matters. The right to unionise matters.

          From my first post:

          Eliminating violence, coercion, and abuse is incredibly important. But hand-wringing over wages isn’t only economically ignorant, it’s counterproductive.

        7. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

          But hand-wringing over wages isn’t only economically ignorant, it’s counterproductive.

          Oh? Because violence and abuse are *real* problems, and pay gaps aren’t, so we’re just getting angry for no reason.

          …this argument sounds familiar. o.o Why? I mean, do Western people ever face this? I think there’s a marginalised population that hears this argument all the time, but I just…can’t…recall what it is… *feeling very puzzled*

        8. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm |

          You know that these two things have different contexts, yes?

          Here’s my last shot at it, and then I’m taking a break, at least for the night.

          Sweatshops suck. Multinational corporations care about exactly one thing, that being extracting as much profit as possible; they are not the ‘good guys’ of this story. I wouldn’t want to work in one of their factories; I don’t want anyone to have to work in one of their factories.

          The world, however, is set up in such a way that our alternatives are mostly bad. As strongly as I believe that everyone should be paid enough so that their children don’t have to work, and that those children should have an education, and that everyone should have health care and security, I also can recognize that a job which gives you none of those things but pays $3.00 a day is better than a job which gives you none of those things and pays 80 cents a day. The bright spot of hope here is that all those collective $3 paychecks eventually add up- just like they did in Taiwan, and China, and South Korea, and before that Europe and the US- and you actually do end up with a positive feedback loop of economic improvement.

          So do I get the outrage with incredibly profitable companies that choose to pay workers a tiny fraction of what they could afford to? Completely. But the people who are trying to shut them down are doing more harm than good.

          Hopefully that explains why I feel that way I do, even if you still think I’m hopelessly wrong.

        9. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm |

          Amblingalong, that makes sense, but you’re assuming that I’m saying that these companies need to be shut down, and as you yourself pointed out earlier, I’m really NOT. I have no objections, none, to MNCs setting up anywhere, as long as wages are fair and conditions ethical. I find the relativism I encounter in the BUT WAGES arguments a lot creepier than the ones that just go “oh well who cares”, to tell the truth. To reiterate, I want nothing shut down, I want everything reformed, and I really want people to stop making wage arguments at me, because they just. Don’t. Stand up. Ethical, fair-paying sweatshops aren’t sweatshops – they’re factories. So yeah, I want sweatshops turned into factories, which means, de facto, ending sweatshops. I hope that clarifies my position.

          Um, the child labour argument, though…we’ll just agree to disagree there, because yeah, I really do think you’re hopelessly wrong, from lived experience.

        10. samanthab.
          samanthab. November 18, 2012 at 5:31 am |

          Yeah, if people haven’t responded to your big picture arguments, it’s because they’re red herrings, and disingenuous red herrings at that. What you refer to as thick skin, I refer to as callousness.

    3. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 9:49 am |

      Definitely worth noting that out of all the responses so far, not one has addressed the central issues:

      a) sweatshop jobs are nearly always better than the next-best alternative, to the point where in many places people desperately compete for them
      b) ‘successful’ attempts to close sweatshops abroad have typically lead to massive suffering
      c) sweatshops have historically been the first step in the climb towards widespread economic development and improvement in national standards of living, and that countries with sweatshops have historically become prosperous (and, as a result, no longer needed sweatshops) much faster than those without them

      Instead, lots of “you’re a meanie meanface.”

      1. Beatrice
        Beatrice November 17, 2012 at 10:08 am |

        a) sweatshop jobs are nearly always better than the next-best alternative, to the point where in many places people desperately compete for them

        Living on half the minimum wage is twice as better than living on quarter of minimum wage, but it’s still pretty deplorable, wouldn’t you say?

        b) ‘successful’ attempts to close sweatshops abroad have typically lead to massive suffering

        Because a measure has failed, it means that whatever wrong it was righting should just be left as it is?

        c) sweatshops have historically been the first step in the climb towards widespread economic development and improvement in national standards of living, and that countries with sweatshops have historically become prosperous (and, as a result, no longer needed sweatshops) much faster than those without them

        And we want that next step! Which is kinda the topic. Companies that have sweatshops should take more responsibility and provide better conditions and pay for their workers. Customers are putting pressure on those companies the only way they can – by boycotting some and choosing to buy from others.

        1. Beatrice
          Beatrice November 17, 2012 at 10:14 am |

          twice as good, not twice as better.
          sorry

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |

          Living on half the minimum wage is twice as better than living on quarter of minimum wage, but it’s still pretty deplorable, wouldn’t you say?

          Who’s minimum wage? There are places where making half the US minimum wage represents a significant amount of wealth. And even if you believe that the person paying half ‘minimum wage’ is deplorable, your solution is to get rid of them… and everyone goes back to 1/4. Not so useful.

          Because a measure has failed, it means that whatever wrong it was righting should just be left as it is?

          You have it backwards. The measures succeeded. The sweatshops closed. People starved, children became prostitutes, etc. Don’t take my word for it, check the case studies. Oxfam has done a lot of work on this.

          And we want that next step!

          Unless you have a magic infrastructure generation machine, you’ll just have to wait a couple decades, because economies don’t get built by fiat.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm |

          Unless you have a magic infrastructure generation machine

          We do. It’s called “actually being paid like human beings by you colonising fucknuts”.

          . The sweatshops closed. People starved, children became prostitutes, etc.

          No, sweetie. Honey. Darling. Baby-boo. It went like this:

          Colonialism-> economic warping of colonised country -> deliberate dismantling of structures to accommodate fair social policy and economic practices -> resistance to unfair economic practices -> ceasing unfair economic practices -> not having any structure to accommodate fair economic practices and social policy because of YOU FUCKERS -> economic collapse and oppression.

          Don’t cherry-pick the stages you like and then claim they’re the only ones that exist.

        4. Beatrice
          Beatrice November 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

          A living wage enough for them to feed their children so that they don’t have to work too.

          When did I say my solution is to get rid of those workplaces?! Don’t make shit up. I want those sweatshops turned into places where people aren’t treated like slaves and where they can actually earn a living.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

        Fine, you want me to tell you about why sweatshop labour isn’t sunshine and puppies, and take down your OMG INARGUABLE points?

        a) sweatshop jobs are nearly always better than the next-best alternative, to the point where in many places people desperately compete for them

        When Coke set up in India, they promptly leached drinking water from several districts around their factory, leaving agricultural workers (even decently-off ones!) with no choice but to work in their factory. On account of their fields were parched, their homes didn’t have water, and they didn’t feel like lol-uprooting to Mumbai, which, as the nearest major urban centre, was over 400kms (I think; don’t quote me on the distance) away. Damn right they were competing – for colonisers’ favours as opposed to starvation enforced by that same colonisers.

        b) ‘successful’ attempts to close sweatshops abroad have typically lead to massive suffering

        And this says that the sweatshops themselves weren’t causing suffering, how? I mean, if I stabbed you and then pulled the knife out, I can argue that I’m now causing you MORE bleeding, so clearly I should shove it back in. Seriously, this argument makes about this much sense.

        c) sweatshops have historically been the first step in the climb towards widespread economic development and improvement in national standards of living, and that countries with sweatshops have historically become prosperous (and, as a result, no longer needed sweatshops) much faster than those without them

        Whose development? Whose standards of living?

        Because let me remind you, you clueless fuck.
        India had a third of the world’s wealth in 1600.
        India was one of the richest regions of the world for two thousand years before that.
        And the Brits took our wealth, and mined us, and forced us to grow cash crops while we starved to death among fertile fields.
        And they took all the wealth they siphoned from us and they shoved it into their own economy and that’s what funded their sweatshops. That’s what let them increase worker wages.
        Again.
        You clueless fuck.

        So when you tell me that standards of living rise with sweatshop labour, from your bloody American-centric educational background and your bloody Americanised view of life, reality and the universe, then you are assuming that this “climb towards widespread economic development” is occurring, that these profits are being distributed in the place where the workshop is. Because in reality, where I live, in reality which isn’t painted the happy bubblegum pink that white colonial history has painted everything: when the US had workshops in Detroit, the US took the profits, and now the US has workshops in India and the US still takes the fucking profits.

        And so you’ll parcel out back to India, in coercively, humiliatingly tiny increments, the wealth that we fucking lost to you – that funded British emigration to the US, and grew British wealth in the US, and British infrastructure in the US until its independence – and we’re expected to not whine about wanting decent working conditions.

        Because, you know, asking you fucking colonisers to pay 20 cents more for your fifteenth pair of blue jeans so that people can have a decent fucking wage – because Those Third Worlders don’t have to get paid by real people American standards, jeez, what grabby fucks, amirite? – because that’s apparently something that makes you wibble?

        Fucking hell, amblingalong. For someone who isn’t white, you’re doing a great job being a White Coloniser(TM).

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:43 pm |

          And so you’ll parcel out back to India, in coercively, humiliatingly tiny increments, the wealth that we fucking lost to you

          Sorry, this just made me laugh. I’ll bet my ancestors were super, super grateful for the all the wealth their owners were passing along to them.

          And this says that the sweatshops themselves weren’t causing suffering, how? I mean, if I stabbed you and then pulled the knife out, I can argue that I’m now causing you MORE bleeding, so clearly I should shove it back in. Seriously, this argument makes about this much sense.

          I mean, you can argue against the numbers until your throat is hoarse, but the reality is that in most cases- and yes, I recognize the exceptions exist- wages are higher in sweatshops than the alternatives. It’s not all that surprising that when the sweatshops go away, people go back to the alternatives, which is worse.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

          . I’ll bet my ancestors were super, super grateful for the all the wealth their owners were passing along to them.

          Honey, I’m not talking about your ancestors, I’m talking about *you* and your neocolonial, presumably-some-shade-of-brown ass. Okie? Everyone in the US benefits from economic colonialism. Everyone. Yes, including you. No, seriously, including you.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm |

          Honey, I’m not talking about your ancestors, I’m talking about *you* and your neocolonial, presumably-some-shade-of-brown ass. Okie? Everyone in the US benefits from economic colonialism. Everyone. Yes, including you. No, seriously, including you.

          Fair enough, I misread.

      3. Kristen J.
        Kristen J. November 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

        Okay, here is your response.

        Sweatshops are created by demand for goods at a price that includes the reduction in costs that are gained from using sweatshop labor. So what people are demanding is a T shirt produced under horrible worker conditions.

        The fair trade/anti-sweatshop movement (which aren’t completely coextensive, but close enough in this context) is about driving demand for T shirts produced on not horrible worker conditions at a living wage for the area.

        Demand driven economic change probably isn’t going to have much of impact, there are still enough people who either don’t care or peope who because of their own economic situations face price inelasticity.

        But for the people group of people who can afford to pay a few dollars extra for a shirt or a pair of slacks, demand for products produced ony under not horrible conditions and at a living wage for the region will create better jobs and, potentialy, transform the market for labor.

        When this demand driven movement is combined with other intiatives on the supply side, like micro-financing and coop support you create alternatives for people so that sweatshops do not have to be the best employment alternative.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm |

          The fair trade/anti-sweatshop movement (which aren’t completely coextensive, but close enough in this context) is about driving demand for T shirts produced on not horrible worker conditions at a living wage for the area.

          The fair trade movement- which I wholeheartedly support- is. The anti-sweatshop movement also includes trying to legislate against sweatshops or boycott sweatshop products. That’s fundamentally different than what you describe.

          When this demand driven movement is combined with other intiatives on the supply side, like micro-financing and coop support you create alternatives for people so that sweatshops do not have to be the best employment alternative.

          I don’t disagree.

        2. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. November 18, 2012 at 6:13 am |

          I don’t see it as fundamentally different. Its simply another lever. In so far as the anti-sweat shop movement reflects the voices of those workers in the effected region, it can be another way in which investors and consumers can exert pressure on both the demand and supply side to improve work conditions. And these minimal cost increases are not going to drive industry out of developing countries. The wage differential is too high.

      4. victoria
        victoria November 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |

        I think there’s a huge difference between being opposed to sweatshop conditions (lack of a living wage, use of child and/or slave labor, inability to organize unions, toxic working conditions, etc) and being unilaterally opposed to large scale factories (which can potentially have sweatshop conditions). Just because we want to support workers doesn’t automatically mean we want to close down the factories where they work.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |

          I think there’s a huge difference between being opposed to sweatshop conditions (lack of a living wage, use of child and/or slave labor, inability to organize unions, toxic working conditions, etc) and being unilaterally opposed to large scale factories (which can potentially have sweatshop conditions). Just because we want to support workers doesn’t automatically mean we want to close down the factories where they work.

          I actually agree with your broad point, but I have a couple issues with your examples, specifically that if we’re defining ‘child’ in US terms (under 18) that’s not particularly helpful. A lot of poor countries have very young populations, and if majority of women give birth before age 17 (as is the case in Palestine) or 18 (Bangladesh) than saying they/their partners can’t work for several years is not just foolish, it’s destructive. Even if that’s not the case, in a lot of these places, kids are not going to school; they’re bringing in as much wealth, and in turn food, as possible. Again, blanket bans on ‘child’ labor using US definitions have caused a ton of harm; a lot of kids end up on the street, or in the sex trade, as a result.

          Ultimately this argument is the result looking at the world the way it is and trying to make the best realistic call. Yes, every kid should have a chance at an education, and people should be working hard to make that a reality, but in the meantime, trying to just jump to the end of the process results in a ton of human suffering.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm |

          I actually agree with your broad point, but I have a couple issues with your examples, specifically that if we’re defining ‘child’ in US terms (under 18) that’s not particularly helpful.

          Except that a whole lot of countries do independently define adults as 18+. And saying that someone can’t work in a factory until they’re 18, well… I don’t see what’s wrong with that, tbh.

          Again, blanket bans on ‘child’ labor using US definitions have caused a ton of harm; a lot of kids end up on the street, or in the sex trade, as a result.

          Children who weren’t already on the street or in the sex trade wound up there because sweatshops? I’m honestly a bit baffled by this argument, because it runs counter to, well, pretty much everything I’ve seen, read or heard of in India.

          Ultimately this argument is the result looking at the world the way it is and trying to make the best realistic call.

          …by supporting child labour, even in countries where it’s illegal? Like India and China? Where there’s tons of sweatshops and where child labour is illegal (until 18 and 16 respectively)? Again, I seriously do not understand your arguments.

          Yes, every kid should have a chance at an education, and people should be working hard to make that a reality, but in the meantime, trying to just jump to the end of the process results in a ton of human suffering.

          Or, you know, you could listen to people at the ground level, who are saying consistently that until you outlaw child labour, people wanting progress are pretty much hamstrung before they even start. A whole lot more kids started going to school in India once child labour was outlawed; I imagine it’s not different in other countries.

          Seriously, Indians aren’t even asking for sweatshops/factories to have extra sooper speshul nice laws for kids; they’re asking them to respect the laws of the country they’re in, instead of chucking dollars at inspectors and human rights commissions until they go away. Is that such a horrible thing to expect?

        3. Beatrice
          Beatrice November 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm |

          Are you actually advocating for child labor!?

          You know, if companies were forced to pay adults a living wage, at least those children who have someone adult in their lives wouldn’t have to work.

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm |

          Seriously, Indians aren’t even asking for sweatshops/factories to have extra sooper speshul nice laws for kids; they’re asking them to respect the laws of the country they’re in, instead of chucking dollars at inspectors and human rights commissions until they go away. Is that such a horrible thing to expect?

          I really specifically said I was only talking about attempts to impose US standards of child labor on other countries. So no, we’re not disagreeing (about this).

          Children who weren’t already on the street or in the sex trade wound up there because sweatshops?

          You didn’t read carefully. Kids who weren’t on the street because they had sweatshop jobs, lost those jobs after successful anti-sweatshop movements. In Bangladesh, after clothing manufacturers pulled out due to the threat of US legislation, about 80,000 teens lost their jobs, roughly a quarter of whom ended up in the sex trade. These aren’t arguments, they’re facts.

        5. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm |

          You know, if companies were forced to pay adults a living wage, at least those children who have someone adult in their lives wouldn’t have to work.

          Paul Krugman put it better than I could:

          First of all, even if we could assure the workers in Third World export industries of higher wages and better working conditions, this would do nothing for the peasants, day laborers, scavengers, and so on who make up the bulk of these countries’ populations. At best, forcing developing countries to adhere to our labor standards would create a privileged labor aristocracy, leaving the poor majority no better off.
          And it might not even do that. The advantages of established First World industries are still formidable. The only reason developing countries have been able to compete with those industries is their ability to offer employers cheap labor. Deny them that ability, and you might well deny them the prospect of continuing industrial growth, even reverse the growth that has been achieved. And since export-oriented growth, for all its injustice, has been a huge boon for the workers in those nations, anything that curtails that growth is very much against their interests. A policy of good jobs in principle, but no jobs in practice, might assuage our consciences, but it is no favor to its alleged beneficiaries.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

          In Bangladesh, after clothing manufacturers pulled out due to the threat of US legislation, about 80,000 teens lost their jobs, roughly a quarter of whom ended up in the sex trade.

          What were they doing before the sweatshops turned up? My question, rephrased: did kids who were in school and studying wind up mysteriously in the sex trade when sweatshops went away, or were these kids already headed to the sex trade, with a minor detour into sweatshop labour? Which, by the way, pays less by the hour/day, leaves you about as vulnerable to (a different group of) diseases, and about as likely to be sexually abused by your superiors.

          Also, are you for serious advocating child labour rather than raising sweatshop wages so one adult or two can support a family? In response to my stated position that factories need improved conditions, not to leave entirely?

          I mean, no, seriously, amblingalong, did somebody hack your Feministe ID? Because a person with black and native ancestry making this argument is just… wowza otherwise. I’m kind of, like, in awe of your cognitive dissonance. It’s almost like you’ve got no conception of what child labour looks like, or anything. Well, um, I grew up in a society where a whole whack of kids – and I’m not talking theoretical kiddies, I’m talking my friends and their friends – were working full-time while going to school, at ages of, like, 8 and 10. Please, please, for the love of God(dess)(e)(s), pay attention to reality.

          Because your current argument looks like this in both content and complexity: “Why pay one adult a sixth of the US minimum wage when you could just pay three kids a sixtieth, amirite? Kids should work! Sweatshops, woohoo! Capitalism made the world better yey!”

        7. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

          First of all, even if we could assure the workers in Third World export industries of higher wages and better working conditions, this would do nothing for the peasants, day laborers, scavengers, and so on who make up the bulk of these countries’ populations.

          OMFG OMFG OMFG.

          So, because SOME people are poor, other people shouldn’t be paid better. Even when the poor “peasants” (oh by the way fuck you for quoting someone who calls them “peasants”) are being paid by a farmer who earns $200 a year, and the sweatshop workers are being paid by some white fucknut who earns $2 billion a year. Right. Got it.

          Amblingalong, no, seriously, what is your actual brain damage in this area? Because, you know, I hate to pull the “minorities should know better” card, but my brain keeps reminding me that you’re not white, and then it’s like my thought process runs into a wall comprised entirely of WAIT BUT BUT WHAT WAIT WAIT BUT WHAT.

        8. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm |

          what is your actual brain damage in this area

          I hate to derail but I kinda wish you’d picked a different metaphor.

          My question, rephrased: did kids who were in school and studying wind up mysteriously in the sex trade when sweatshops went away, or were these kids already headed to the sex trade, with a minor detour into sweatshop labour? Which, by the way, pays less by the hour/day, leaves you about as vulnerable to (a different group of) diseases, and about as likely to be sexually abused by your superiors.

          You’re joking, right? You think working in a sweatshop makes you roughly as likely to be sexually abused as being a child prostitute? OK, then.

          Also, are you for serious advocating child labour rather than raising sweatshop wages so one adult or two can support a family? In response to my stated position that factories need improved conditions, not to leave entirely?

          No. I’m advocating for not trying to solve problems by simply banning or boycotting sweatshop goods, even those made by people under 18.

          Because your current argument looks like this in both content and complexity: “Why pay one adult a sixth of the US minimum wage when you could just pay three kids a sixtieth, amirite? Kids should work! Sweatshops, woohoo! Capitalism made the world better yey!”

          If I ran Nike, I’d structure things differently. I don’t and I never will.

          So, because SOME people are poor, other people shouldn’t be paid better. Even when the poor “peasants” (oh by the way fuck you for quoting someone who calls them “peasants”) are being paid by a farmer who earns $200 a year, and the sweatshop workers are being paid by some white fucknut who earns $2 billion a year. Right. Got it.

          Are we even having the same conversation? Of course people should be paid better, and everyone should have access to education and medical care and enough food for their families. Of course sweatshops could afford to and ethically should pay more than they do. But I don’t get to make that call. The call I do get to make is to help influence some small aspects of US trade policy, and so I have to look for least-bad choices.

        9. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

          Hey Jill/a moderator- if there’s any way you could not let the comment I just posted above this out of mod, that’d be great. The last line, in combination with the demographics I’ve made public, could identify me, which I would be really uncomfortable with.

      5. piny
        piny November 19, 2012 at 4:43 am |

        Yes, but so what? So what if these sweatshop jobs pay better than agricultural jobs? (And for fuck’s sake, don’t pretend that agricultural labor conditions got that way by accident.) Better is not the same as good. You are assuming that the choice is between sweatshop jobs and worse jobs. You have no reason to assume any such thing. Commenters above have gotten you to admit that companies have economic incentives beyond slashing wages, and other solutions besides shutting down. You’re the one making the poor brown people argument here, saying that the developing world has to sacrifice a few generations to torture, sickness and death because they have no alternative besides exploitation. That’s not true. The history of this country proves it. And if these poor brown people really have no choice but to take these terrible jobs, why are they also demanding improvements in wages and conditions? Labor activism hasn’t been imposed on the developing world by the developed world.

  8. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 16, 2012 at 11:04 pm |

    Has anyone found a fair trade source for business casual wear? I’ve been looking for years and haven’t been able to really find anything. Thanks!

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:57 am |

      There’s a German company called Gardeur that ships to the US and is fair trade.

  9. Dane
    Dane November 17, 2012 at 2:04 am |

    I’ve made a rule for myself lately to only buy used clothing or make it myself to avoid contributing money to unethical companies. (part of that decision is also that I’m broke and can only afford very very cheap clothing-used is usually better quality for the money). It’s nice to know I can continue buying my favourite boxers though!

    1. SamBarge
      SamBarge November 17, 2012 at 8:41 am |

      I do the same. Recently, over a 2 yr period, I lost 100 lbs. During that time, I had to replace my wardrobe often and used clothing stores made more financial sense than buying brand new every 3 months.

      The happy discovery I made is that a lot of people donate clothes that are practically (or actually) brand new. I’ve bought clothes at our local, charity-run used clothes store that still had the original tags on them. Many of them were good enough to re-donate when I lost more weight or to pass along to friends. Now, I only buy new if I can’t find what I’m looking for at used stores (I frequent the charity-run ones, so it’s a double-whammy of goodness) or when I’m getting under-garments.

  10. Jellyfish
    Jellyfish November 17, 2012 at 5:15 am |

    If anyone in the UK is looking for a recommendation I’ve bought workwear and casual wear from Komodo and People Tree- both established retailers who work with fairtrade clothing manufactures. I’ve found their clothing affordable, especially when you consider that the items are high quality, distinctive and usually handmade from organic or recycled materials. Their sale items (under ‘archive’ on the People Tree website) are worth checking out. People Tree also have these really cool goody bags you can buy where you pay £35 and get a random pick of £150 worth of clothes and accessories left over from their previous collections. The downside is that if you don’t like an item you can’t return it and get a refund unless you return the whole bag. Both deliver outside of the UK but the shipping costs for non-UK addresses are pricey.

    1. Partial Human
      Partial Human November 18, 2012 at 9:04 am |

      I’m clearly on the wrong side in the class war.

      Twenty quid for fingerless gloves, forty for a t-shirt, 150 for a cardi? The range of sizes is limited too.

      I probably spend £80-100 a year on clothes. I share a lot off stuff with my partner, even though we’re different sizes. My current coat was bought in 2001, it looks that way too. I just can’t justify a replacement, given that I mostly stay at home.

      My partner hand-knits winter accessories that we need, so two balls of wool will do a hat, gauntlets, and a scarf.

      Shoes are the only thing I buy that’s branded though. TK Maxx usually has last season’s styles for 20% of the original price, so we can pick up solid, dependable footwear for under £30.

      1. Shay'a'chern
        Shay'a'chern November 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

        Whoa, I can’t make my balls of wool go that far. Good show for your partner!

        And now I’m thinking I should really start looking into where my yarn comes from.

  11. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated November 17, 2012 at 9:10 am |

    Dane and SamBarge, I’m on your team. The local garage sales and secondhand stores are my source; if I must have new, eBay works for me. I have some issues with the Salvation Army, but they are keeping our unemployed community afloat, and my lesbian former tenants had no trouble with them when they needed rent assistance.
    A huge problem with WalMart, if true, is their practice of purchasing from third-world companies, replacing their tags with “Made in USA” tags, and trucking the fraudulent merchandise out of the store if inspectors are about to call (apparently they have informants). This is anecdotage from a former WM employee so don’t ask for documentation, but the source was always honest with me AFAIK.
    My “slave index” was unacceptable due to electronics and undies, so I have purchased elastic to repair the frilly panties and I will keep the five-year-old laptop as close to forever as I can.

  12. 10G
    10G November 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    Most times people make the “but the poor brown people” argument, it’s because they’re economic ignoramuses who prioritize self-righteousness over people’s lives. See? We can both be dismissive of each others positions and successfully not engage at all!

    Self-righteous–you mean like YOU’RE being?
    Please cite your sources that sweatshops are actually GOOD for poorer countries, as you keep reminding us.

    The whole point of the article was to enlighten the reader to the use of SLAVE and CHILD labor in the apparel realm. We DON’T WANT THIS for humanity. As had been pointed out earlier, the Triangle shirtwaist fire is but one example of how sweatshops are NOT the answer, not even poor countries, due to the abuse of workers and the low wages paid. And is the utilization of “low-wage light-skill” (which, btw, if I hear again, I’m going to SCREAM) sweatshop work REALLY the way to lift those in poor countries out of poverty? I’m thinking there’s got to be a better way….especially in light of your odious comment that while management COULD extend more dollars to workers, why would they because Capitalism (essentially GREED), blahblahblah excusecakes. Are you sure you know which team you’re batting for? ‘Cause I’m left wondering……

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm |

      So here’s my question. Why do you have so much indignation about a soccer ball manufacturer in Pakistan paying 75 cents an hour, but not a Pakistani farmer making the equivalent of 12 cents an hour?

      I’m thinking there’s got to be a better way….especially in light of your odious comment that while management COULD extend more dollars to workers, why would they because Capitalism (essentially GREED), blahblahblah excusecakes.

      Not an excuse, reality. I don’t have to like it to recognize its true. Feel free to spend your life shouting “but why can’t multinational corporations just be nicer to people!” but it’s not going to achieve much.

      1. WL
        WL November 17, 2012 at 6:34 pm |

        Personally, I have a major problem with farmers making 12 cents an hour. People who import their crops should be pressured to pay waaaaaaaaaaay more than 75 cents an hour, just like for factory workers. They’re not, because we (“we” as in consumers in developed areas, not you and me specifically) generally don’t care–you’re absolutely right about that.

        Farmers of agricultural crops are also affected by a lot of variables, such as Western tastes for the corpses of animals. Rather than feeding their own people and helping to build businesses that serve locals, land owners are given higher incentives to feed corn, wheat, oats, soy, etc to livestock for export. (I’m refraining from going into the ethical issues and environmental destruction at this point, just pointing out that there are a lot of factors affecting farmers.)

        Also, all that shouting will achieve something if it gets people to vote with their dollars.

        1. AnonForThis
          AnonForThis November 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

          Farmers of agricultural crops are also affected by a lot of variables, such as Western tastes for the corpses of animals.

          Look at that, I just stopped paying attention to your argument because you insulted me. I’m not a fan of slave labor, I avoid it when I can, but when you decide to push the discussion from labor rights to “be a vegetarian or you’re not part of the struggle” people are going to just walk the fuck away. You care so much? Don’t be a dick. Otherwise you’re just venting at the expense of the people you claim to care about.

        2. Beatrice
          Beatrice November 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

          AnonForThis

          If you abandon a goal you claim to support because another supporter insulted you, that’s seriously shitty and would make me question your actual desire to do anything good about the goal in question.

          Don’t hold your support of human rights hostage because someone is being an asshole, that makes you an asshole too.

        3. AnonForThis
          AnonForThis November 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

          Don’t hold your support of human rights hostage because someone is being an asshole,

          I’m not holding support of human rights hostage. What I’m doing is choosing not to interact with people who actively insult me. This happens a lot in the advocacy community. Someone always wants to tell someone else that they aren’t being sufficiently enlightened. The person throwing around demands and making litmus tests tends to be a person of significant relative privilege who feels that they have the right to judge the behaviors of others. WL came in throwing elbows and stretching the conversation to more closely suit zir (largely unrelated) interest. That kind of choice is often going to come at the expense of allies because, you know, I just don’t feel anyone has the right to shit on me. That isn’t holding rights hostage, its not putting up with people being douchebags.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune November 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

        Why do you have so much indignation about a soccer ball manufacturer in Pakistan paying 75 cents an hour, but not a Pakistani farmer making the equivalent of 12 cents an hour?

        Because, since apparently you need Equality 101 today, the labourers work for someone making $200 a year, and the sweatshop workers are being paid by some white fucknut who earns $2 billion a year.

        If that doesn’t sway you sufficiently, allow me to tell you some other issues with sweatshop labour (that wouldn’t arise with hygienic, ethical conditions!) that this farmer doesn’t have to put up with for that extra 53 cents an hour.

        All the money that farmer makes is being funnelled back into his own economy. He has independence, his wife isn’t literally being raped into compliance at work, his kids are working three days a year to help with the harvest/planting instead of thirteen hours a day, he can unionise, he can change his work conditions, he can grow whatever the fuck he pleases, he can take a fucking day off if he gets sick without worrying that his family will fall into bankruptcy, he doesn’t have to dread his water supply and clean environment being lost because of a neverending flood of industrial waste, he’s not busy developing exotic cancers from working in unsafe conditions (personally, I would give up two-thirds of my income just to avoid the last two – or the first two).

        Oh, oh, and! All the fruit of this guy and his family’s labour doesn’t go to a foreign country where it’s sold at staggeringly high profit so some fucking rich-ass executive can fart through silk shorts.

        Okie? Does that make sense?

        Or shall I attempt to translate this into English?

        “You are being a silly person.”

        There, I gave it my best shot. Hope it works.

      3. piny
        piny November 19, 2012 at 4:46 am |

        That’s a ridiculous argument. It’s like saying that I can’t vote for increased minimum wage laws in the service sector and for better working conditions in the agricultural sector.

    2. WL
      WL November 17, 2012 at 6:27 pm |

      I have to agree. Never once has there been any explanation about, say, how USA-owned sweatshops–that USA consumers gave profit to–was the reason for South Korea’s economic development.

      It’s a good point that these corporations are corporations to make money. In fact, they have a legal OBLIGATIONS to do whatever they can to make the most money. People don’t seem to understand that in most cases, businesses are NOT free to give higher wages just to be nice, and in a corporate capitalist system, this is how it ends up. There really needs to be some basic education for most people about economics, logic, sex, prejudice, etc which is largely missing in most/all major cultures.

      However, saying “a sweatshop job is better than starving to death” isn’t a good argument for sweatshops (which are usually defined as having little regard for workers’ rights, unhealthy working conditions, unpaid overtime, lower than decent living wages, etc, NOT as paying less than US minimum wage, so arguing about the latter is a straw man). There ARE a few businesses, not publicly traded, that are free to offer health insurance, maternity leave, supplemental food, overtime pay for extra working hours, higher-than-average wages for the area, etc even if it means less profit.

      I just find it sad that they’re apparently not run by the brightest business minds and/or have very little public support, and stay small or die. These projects need to be sustainable–having a nice job for a few years isn’t nearly as nice as having a job nice that helps provide for your family for the rest of your life.

      If the most profitable way possible to run a large corporation was to give security, dignity, and fairness to workers, then these corporate giants would be legally obligated to go that route. But that’s currently not the most profitable model. It’s somewhat simplistic, but there’s one major reason WHY it’s not the most profitable: consumer choices. Blame the buyers at least as much as the corporations that run the sweatshops.

  13. Beatrice
    Beatrice November 17, 2012 at 8:01 pm |

    This thread is bizarre. Advocating for child labor?!
    Fuck that. I can’t believe I’m reading this here.

    1. WL
      WL November 17, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

      Well it’s bizarre, but given the choice of

      A) starving to death within a few weeks
      B) having a chance to learn to read and write, study other languages, read books, etc
      C) working part of the day helping out parents in a decent factory
      D) slave labor or wage slavery, in a workplace where I’m raped, beaten, forced to work 20 hour days, etc before I’m discarded
      and
      E) working long hours in a sweatshop with risks for chronic health problems

      I’m pretty sure I’d rank them as something like B, C, E, A, and D. And C isn’t nearly as bad if it’s a 17 year old (or 20 year old, which is still a “child” in some countries) doing relatively light work, vs a 5 year old likely to get repetitive strain injuries or something.

    2. Tim
      Tim November 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

      Yeah, Beatrice, totally this. It started out early on with “living wages for people of color = racism” and then got even weirder. Some of these commenters sound like they’re cribbing from The Complete Works of Ayn Rand.

  14. Foxy
    Foxy November 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm |

    Free trade is the solution to the problem.Agricultural subsidies in rich countries should be eliminated

  15. 10G
    10G November 18, 2012 at 4:20 am |

    Not an excuse, reality. I don’t have to like it to recognize its true. Feel free to spend your life shouting “but why can’t multinational corporations just be nicer to people!” but it’s not going to achieve much.

    Amblingalong, I DO for one, have issue with the Pakistani soccer ball manufacturer and the farmer being poorly paid. And you’re getting awfully defensive……can we be MATURE here, please? “Shouting, but why can’t multinational, blahblah, ad nauseum”–that’s irrational and you KNOW it. It’s not about corporations being NICE, for heaven’s sake, it’s about them being FAIR and HUMANE. And don’t give me the “life ain’t fair” argument…that’s nothing more than an excuse to behave badly.

    And I do recall asking you to cite your sources, which you’ve not done. Please do so, and I will consider that your arguments have some credence. If you despise the treatment of slave wage workers, WHY are you arguing so much in favor of slave labor? Besides the technical reasons, to clarify. There’s playing Devil’s Advocate, and then there’s just being odious. This website seeks to promote positive change globally and locally. Not much that you’ve posted on this thread seems to support what Feministe strives to accomplish. Again–which team are you batting for?

  16. Stella
    Stella November 18, 2012 at 7:44 am |

    Puma has pretty nice stuff. Do they carry Puma in America?

  17. Meera
    Meera November 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

    I’m kind of surprised that, on this blog, no one has yet pointed out the enormous degree of thin privilege involved in being able to shop at such ‘preferred’ clothing companies. I’m not familiar with all of the (US-based) stores on that list, but I’d be surprised if more than a couple offer anything in plus sizes, and *any* offer anything in high-plus / super sizes. A considerable portion of the population has few-to-no options to avoid sweatshop-made clothing.

    1. SamBarge
      SamBarge November 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm |

      I think someone did mention this upthread, didn’t they? In any case, this article simply provides shoppers with information and encourages an awareness of your shopping habits.

      As a former plus-size shopper, I never found a lot of apparel at Abercrombie and Fitch, Aeropostale or Forever 21 in sizes 18+ anyway. Have you?

      1. Meera
        Meera November 19, 2012 at 4:10 am |

        I think it was sort of alluded to, in passing, once above.

        I don’t know if we have those stores in my country, actually. I think I read something about Forever 21 carrying small plus sizes, but I could be getting it confused with someplace else. To me, they’re all just names of places that I’m pretty sure don’t sell anything in my size.

    2. Stella
      Stella November 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

      What country are you talking about? I dont see too many plus sized people where I live.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl November 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |

        What country are you talking about? I dont see too many plus sized people where I live.

        This is a joke, right?

        Please, someone, tell me she’s not actually being serious…

  18. Au Contraire
    Au Contraire November 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

    For anyone who might be interested and doesn’t already know…the Clean Clothes Campaign is an organization that works to improve working conditions globally for workers in the garment industry. Their website is here.

    Note that the CCC does not support boycotts.

  19. Friday Links, 11/23/12 « Tutus And Tiny Hats

    […] that Land’s End made some nice plus size clothing, including this lovely sequined skirt? -The real cost of your clothing. -Smart internet shopping for style lovers. -This plus size Australian clothing swap sounds like so […]

  20. Stella
    Stella November 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

    You cant blaim the companies. The change needs to happen in the countries of production. If Adidas does not produce cheaply in China or India, somebody else will. The same developments that happened primarily in Europe and to some extend in America when they were not shut down as evil communism, need to happen in India and China as well, such as raising wages, Unions etc. .

    1. EG
      EG November 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |

      You cant blaim the companies.

      Yes, actually, I can. The people who make decisions for companies are perfectly capable of considering the impact of those decisions on the people who work for them. They simply choose not to.

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