Ethical Clothing Pt. 1
This blog series is written by Sara Chauvette, an employee at Yana Dee. Sara has been working with Yana Dee for close to two years as a seamstress and retail clerk.
The benefits of purchasing clothing from local retailers are numerous. Clothing made in the United States is more often free of sweatshop labor, and purchases of this clothing aids local economies. Furthermore, clothing made on a small scale with sustainable materials helps to reduce waste and pollution. This blog series will seek to make the benefits of local, sustainable clothing clear. Since the topic is multifaceted I will be writing several articles in order to better explain each aspect of this issue. Human suffering is the most important factor in the ethical production of clothing and therefore the first topic of focus will be sweatshop labor.
A sweatshop is defined by the US Department of Labor as a factory that violates two or more labor laws. The United States used sweatshop labor to make garments in the early to late 1800s until labor laws began to take hold. After this companies began moving their production facilities overseas in order to continue benefitting from low labor costs in other countries which had/have not implemented labor laws yet.
The issues with sweatshops are far reaching:
- Child labor is often used to lower the cost of production
- 90% of sweatshop workers are women
- Some people work for as little as $.01per hour in U.S. currency
- Some sweatshops require employees to work up to 72 hours straight
- Workers who complain are often physically and verbally abused
- (More information can be found here)
These facts are especially frustrating when studies such as the one conducted by Robert Pollin in his book Contours of Decent are examined. According to his research, a 100% wage increase for Mexican apparel employees would result in a 1.8% increase in the cost of clothing. For example a $100 jacket would cost $101.80 after said wage increase.
The easiest and most immediate way to end your support of sweatshop labor is to make a habit of buying made in the USA (or other countries with labor laws i.e. Canada, UK, ect.) clothing. Even in these cases, however, it is important to research the company you are purchasing from as sweatshop conditions exist even in the United States.
I understand that it is not possible for everyone to purchase all made in the USA clothing all the time. Companies in the United States cannot produce clothes at the low costs consumers have become accustomed to. However, clothing made by small scale, local designers are often better made and stand up to wear and tear longer, thus making them more affordable in the long run than their sweatshop produced counterparts. Another option for consumers on a budget are resale shops. Clothing purchased at resale shops may not be made in the United States but at least your purchasing dollar is going towards a local or charitable organization rather than a multimillion dollar company that utilizes sweat shop labor.
Additional Reading Materials:
- Companies that refused to sign an agreement that would improve safety conditions in Bangladesh clothing factories after a building collapse killed over 1,100 people:
- Child labor conditions for Walmart, Hanes, J.C. Penny, and Puma
- A quick list for buying sweatshop-free products