Written by Kenya Rosabal
Sweatshops are a factory or workshop, especially in the clothing industry, where workers are employed at very low wages for long hours and under poor conditions. The name itself is defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as a factory that violates two or more labor laws.
The goods that come out of sweatshops are sold at ridiculously high prices at some of the most famous and well-known stores such as Forever 21, Nike, Walmart and Victoria’s Secret.
These companies use sweatshops to produce goods and merchandise for cheap and pay their workers very little. You’ve probably shopped at least one, if not all of these stores without knowing of this issue.
For undeveloped and developing countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Guatemala, and many many others this is how people make a “living”. I put quotations around the word living because the little money workers make in return for their hard labor is a joke.
Workers put their lives and health on the line by working in horrible working conditions just to be paid ridiculously low wages. In addition, workers can work up to 100 hours a week and still not make enough money to live comfortably.
To make matters worse, child labor is heavily prevalent in the sweatshop industry. According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 168 million children ages 5 to 14 are forced to work in developing countries. These children are targeted because of the low skill factor of the work. Another reason children are targeted because of their small frames, which allows them to fit into machinery adults cannot.
Work-related deaths and accidents are heavily prevalent in this industry. In 2013 Rana Plaza, a sweatshop factory, collapsed killing 1,134 people and injuring about 2,500.
So what do we do about this issue? Do we say no to the unjust labor for good and put an end to this form of modern-day slavery? Well, that would put millions out of work who depend on the money for survival, no matter how small the pay is. One idea is to boycott the companies that use sweatshops and capitalize off of the backs of the poor
It’s easy for me, and other people from developed countries to vote to ban sweatshops all together. However, this is one of the leading ways people make money to support themselves and their families. Yes, taking away sweatshops will hurt people financially, but ethically isn’t it the right thing to do?
Yet again, that is not a justification for the horrible pay and conditions these people are put through. I will reiterate that the pay the workers get is close to nothing, so although money is needed, it is not enough to live off of.
As consumers, we should be aware of how our products are being made. The thought of a poor child working hours on end just to make items that half the time aren’t even appreciated by buyers is worrisome to me.
The bottom line is the good does not outweigh the bad in this issue. No one, no matter what age, race, or economic status should have to be subjected to the horrific labor sweatshop workers are put through.
Use this as a reality check. In America, we are privileged. We have options on where to work and have laws that continuously fight for the minimum wage to rise which in Missouri is $8.60. Others don’t have that luxury, and are forced to work in these horrible conditions for less than a fraction of that.
So next time you go to the mall and pick up an overpriced $13 shirt with “let’s taco ‘bout it” from Forever 21, and slide on your expensive Nike flip flops, think of the unjust hard labor that went into making those.
Supporting companies that don’t use sweatshops can lower demand and in return, possibly help limit the usage of sweatshops. You can avoid feeding into this crisis by looking for fair trade labeled products, which ensures the products were made under just conditions and pay. Thrifting is a great way to shop for clothes and other items, as well as selling your unused items so others can buy them.