According to The Guardian, an anonymous senior employee from a high-end retailer claimed that shoppers would rather pay less than acknowledge the working conditions of those employed to create the merchandise. Which—let’s be honest—doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch from the truth. Most of us jump at a sale—especially when it is for something that we deem to be of high quality. The problem is that the cheaper something seems to be, the more likely it is that it came from questionable sources—and sometimes, even the more expensive items making their way to the west from China can have a horror story behind them.
Let’s be realistic with ourselves for a minute and really think about the process. Even if we boycotted buying “made in a place where workers are treated horribly” clothing, you still have to think about the whole process. The tragedy at Rana Plaza in 2013 made many of us sit up and take notice of the people making our clothing—but what about before the clothing is made? Who cleans the cotton—who picks it? Who spins it into yarn? Who dyes the material before it ever reaches the factory where it is sewn together? Which begs the question—how can we, as shoppers, change if we don’t have access to all of the information? How can we assure that our clothing is made ethically? One thing that we can start doing is boycotting what we do know about, which is a start, and start buying locally. And if you aren’t sure how you feel about shelling out a little more for clothing, consider the following cases:
10 Child labour in Uzbekistan
9 Nike employees mistreated
8 Foxconn’s employees committing suicide
7 Protesters held captive
6 Plea for help from Chinese labor camp worker
5 The handwritten message
4 A cry for help
3 Hidden message from a factory worker
2 Five workers signed a letter to Steve Jobs
1 Clothing factory collapses
Workers took to the streets of Dhaka in Bangladesh to protest the loss of over 1,100 people when the Rana Plaza, an 8-storey clothing factory, collapsed, killing hundreds of people and injuring countless others. The garment factory, which creates clothing for companies like Primark, Benetton, H&M and The Child’s Place (to name only a few), tumbled to the ground due to shoddy construction. The place had not been inspected properly, and the problems with the integrity of the building had been overlooked in favour of producing clothing quickly and cheaply. The collapse of the building resulted in a considerable amount of publicity for the workers, making many people in the western world that much more aware of the conditions of the workers on the other side of the world. Today, in 2015, over $6 million in compensation is still owed to the workers.
Sources: huffingtonpost.com, jezebel.com, dailymail.co.uk, bbc.com, nytimes.com, theguardian.com, cnn.com, cultofmac.com, nytimes.com, cbsnews.com, cnet.comtheguardian.co, newyorker.com, vator.tv, peopleandplanet.org
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