Sweatshop child labour
People are quick to campaign against anti-fur by not buying it, but they’re less quick to eschew a cheap and pretty dress even when they know a child made it during a 16+ hour factory shift. Here’s how to avoid supporting companies that use sweatshop labour.
I love buying cute clothing at low prices (who doesn’t?), but that low price tag may come at a far greater cost to someone else – someone you will never the know the name of. It’s horrid to discover that your favourite clothing brands have been caught using child labour in a third world country, where fair labour laws have not been enforced. The employees may actually make enough to survive, but they aren’t rewarded with overtime pay and they are made to work 16+ hours a day. It’s enough to make you thank your lucky stars for your “McJob”.
What is a “sweatshop”, exactly?
This is a term that can describe a place where anything is made (not just clothing) in a dirty or unsafe environment, where the employees are paid wages that are considerably less than what it costs to survive. A manufacturer may actually abide by safety laws, but still employ young people (think under the age of 15) who work for long hours without much to show for it. This is the way many big companies save money – by outsourcing jobs where fair labour laws aren’t as strict, and they can pay their employees much less.
Which companies do not use sweatshop labour?
It’s difficult to know which companies do not use sweatshop labour, because they aren’t always honest. Everyone says they don’t do it, but an uncomfortably high number of them do. Some brands have been ousted once or twice for hiring underaged workers or violating labour laws, but it’s hard to determine if they still use them or not. You can go to the Fair Trade Federation’s website to search for reliable brands that do not use sweatshop labour. At the end of this article are a few helpful links. Don’t feel bad if you have bought goods from companies that have been caught using sweatshops to cut costs. They keep these facts from the public because they know it isn’t right.
What can I do?
– Buy from thrift stores or garage sales, as well as donating and selling your things that you no longer want.
– Write to companies that are known to be using sweatshops and tell them that you will not be buying from them. Getting your friends, family and anyone else in on this will help.
– Try to repurpose your old clothing. Make friends with your sewing machine.
– Buy from “fair trade” companies as much as possible.
For more info on sweatshop, child labour and worker rights…
GAP was using child labour with factory workers as young as eight in 2007. God only knows what they’re doing now.