I have allot of clothes…
I really like clothes…
For me, what I wear is a reflection of my mood. Feeling sporty: baseball cap, jeans, sneakers, thin rain jacket. Classy? High heels, ankle pants, chiffon blouse, rose gold watch, long jacket. Relaxed? My husband’s shirt and sweat pants with slippers. Clothes can make me feel confident, or make me want to stay home and eat ice cream. Shopping for clothes is therapeutic (so long as I don’t try on anything too small, haha) even if I don’t buy anything. But hey, whats better than finding an awesome shirt for $5 in multiple colours? Buy two. Buy five. Throw in a pair of $10 jeans! And then stores do that horrible thing that I secretly adore where they put the cutest accessories on either side of the checkout line. . . All the pretty necklaces and earrings for cheap. . . Throw a couple of those on the counter with the rest of your clothes and BOOM. Successful shopping trip.
Or is it?
At precisely this moment there are an estimated 250 million children forced to work in sweatshops. These children are between the ages of 5-14. This number does not include those who are over the age of fourteen. Children who start in sweatshops when they are 5-7 work for up to 16 hours a day.
What is it all for? Fast fashion.
Now let me make a little disclaimer. Everyone has their own personal convictions. Some people are vegetarians in order to fight against animal cruelty. Others don’t use transportation vehicles to fight against pollution. We all have our own convictions that we hold firm to. Mine just happen to be fighting against slavery in sweatshops, and cocoa fields (but fair trade chocolate is a conversation for another time). Originally, my conviction was the link between chocolate and slavery. I had some knowledge about sweatshops, but it was some time before I looked into it further and decided that I was no longer going to support sweatshops. So this may be your conviction now, or maybe later, or maybe never. Thats okay! I’m not here to guilt trip you into fighting sweatshops. However I am going to be honest about what I stand for.
I do recommend watching a film called “The True Cost”. It reveals the truth of fast fashion much better than I probably will. Also, do your own research and see the statistics and facts that go with sweatshops.
Sweatshops are labelled when a garment factory fails to meet 2 or more basic labour laws. These labour laws include building structure, hours worked, treatment of employees, et cetera. Now most sweatshops don’t just violate two labour laws, they violate most of them.
Imagine waking up early every morning to walk to work. And as you are entering the factory, you are greeted by cracks in the walls and foundation of the building that are ready to collapse at any given moment. Its hot. . . The ventilation is poor. . . People all around you are coughing and clearly sick but haven’t been allowed to have time off in order to seek medical attention. Thankfully you haven’t caught it yet. You make your way to your station where you will be sitting, or standing, for the next 16 hours. Its dirty. Its dangerous. You wonder whether or not your boss will hit you again, or make some sexual remark towards you. Or maybe your boss will be easy on you today and just yell at you so close to your face that his/her spit coats your skin. Maybe they won’t force you to work 48 hours this time. Hopefully they will give you a break that isn’t mandatory to sleep on so that you can eat a small portion of what you had last night because your kids need the rest more than you do. And maybe they won’t find out that you’re pregnant and fire you. Praying that you won’t go home to find out your son died in one of the other factory’s at the age of thirteen. Holding onto the hope that a fire won’t start, or if one does, that the managers will by some miracle not lock the doors and maybe take the bars off the windows and emergency exits so that you can escape. If you work hard you could sew enough NBA jerseys so that you could take home a few dollars. And if you make it home at the end of your shift, you get to be haunted by all those thoughts and more the next day, the day after that. . . And the day after that. This is your life until the day you die. . . If you’re lucky.
That whole last paragraph may sound like it belongs in a novel where the main character starts at the bottom and then by the last page has conquered their dreams and is living a wonderful life! But this is not fiction. It is reality. Hundreds of millions of people are experiencing this life daily. It is their normal. This reality may sound bad. However I can assure you it is so much more worse. You cannot possibly imagine their lives. Where I live, kids grow up dreaming about becoming astronauts, or doctors, or changing the world through politics or law. Many of those kids actually have the ability to reach those goals. And those dreams can be goals because they are possible to reach! Yet the children in sweatshops are raised knowing that they will work their whole lives to make money for their family to remain in poverty. Their dreams can never become goals capable of reaching.
Here are some facts about different sweatshops. What they require of employees. What their statistics are.
- Mandatory pregnancy tests. Every factory requires their female workers to take pregnancy tests. If a worker is pregnant, she is fired because they don’t want to pay for her maternity leave. Maternity leave is equivalent of one lazy worker in their eyes, and they will not stand for it.
- Paid in between 10 – 29 cents for each clothing piece they make which sells for $60 – $200 in the US.
- Threatened to be fired for asking to seek medical attention due to sickness that was caused by the work environment.
- Ninety – 100 degrees on the floor at all times.
- Obligatory overtime.
- Require permission to get a drink of water that is contaminated, or use a bathroom where video cameras are set up.
- Suffer physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse regularly.
- Workers are locked in the factory with barred emergency exits and windows because of poor ventilation.
This is a condensed list of everything happening to human beings in sweatshops. For what? For a $5 shirt.
Many companies pays their workers the equivalent of 2/10ths of 1% of the retail price they sell their clothing for. Children who work in these factories die before their fifteenth birthday because of bad work conditions. Majority of the workers who sew jerseys for sports get paid 24 cents per garment. In the past their have been workers who have tried to establish unions, or have attempted to bring together a group of workers to present to the board the bad work conditions and a game plan of how to fix them. Did these people on the board listen and consider their proposal? No, they lock the workers in the room and beat them with chairs, phones, and hammers.
While we are dying to get our hands on the latest fashions, men, women and children are physically dying to make it. Is it worth it?
What we can do:
So what can we do to fight this. To give these people a voice. To give them hope and show them that one day, hopefully soon, they can have goals instead of dreams?
Buy sweatshop free. There are allot of clothing companies that follow all the labour laws for their workers, or use machines to make their garments. Did you know that La Vie En Rose uses machines? And that Aritzia is serious about following labour laws and making sure that their workers are aware of their legal rights?
One of my problems when i started to shop sweatshop free was that allot of the clothing companies who were sweatshop free sold clothing that had a higher price range. Im not rich in money. How can I afford such prices? Well think about it this way; Instead of buying eight, cheap quality shirts, where the $40 will go to the owner and the tiniest of tiny percentage will go to the worker making the shirt, purchase one $40 shirt that is high quality where you know the person who made it is making a legal wage. Your wardrobe may not grow as quickly, but it will so be worth it.
Thrift shops are another great option to shop sweatshop free. I personally do not like thrift stores. . . Maybe its because all the ones i’ve been in have me on alert the whole time. However one day I hope to find a nice thrift store where I can score some nice clothes for cheap. I believe that store is out there. . . Just can’t find it. . .
Stores like Ross and Marshalls are safe as well. They get their inventory from companies who just want to get rid of their overstock. When you buy something from those places it goes to the store and its workers and not to the company who manufactured the items.
There are endless amounts of small businesses who sell the cutest pieces of clothing, accessories, home decorations, et cetera, where your money goes straight to the maker of the item. You can find all of these little businesses online! I follow so many of them on instagram (their pictures are to die for) and always look forward to buying their product.
I understand that sometimes we have to buy one or two items from a store that uses sweatshops to make their garments. But I encourage you to try your best to shop as ethical as possible!
Like I said in the beginning of this post. . . This was not always my conviction. As time went on and I learned more and more about sweatshops and the horror that goes on inside of them, every time I bought a new shirt that came from fast fashion my heart would sink a little more and a little more until I couldn’t handle it anymore. Thats when I knew I had to fight against sweatshops and support ethical brands. It was not an easy switch, but I can tell you it is so worth it.
So what will you do?