Launch Post: Wal-Mart: Save Money, Live Better? Not so much.

           104 degree factories. Seventeen cents an hour. Thirteen-year-old kids slaving away in a sweatshop somewhere in Bangladesh or China.  All for companies like Nike, Wal-Mart, or Disney (which ironically has the slogan “The Happiest Place on Earth.”). The shocking reality of the harsh child and women labor for these massive corporations was something I have overheard in conversation once or twice, but I never knew how widespread or devastating it has become.

                In particular, the damage these high-grossing companies have had on the American economy is most striking. Kernaghan explains that in the past two years, China has created thirty million manufacturing jobs and the United States has lost two million. If this country wants to continue to be one of the most competitive economic markets on the globe, and consequently one of the most powerful countries, this issue must be dealt with promptly or the American trade system will deteriorate all the more.

                The whole story begs the question, Well, what are we doing about it?–About the terrible wages the women and children receive for hours upon hours of grueling work, about the disaster of an economy these huge corporations are creating for the United States, and about the ways to give the American people the products they need while still keeping the low prices we have come to know. Is it through legislature or through tireless activism to let the world know the injustices of these corporations? Only time will tell as we watch these mega-companies grow all the more and our economy continue to drift away from us, just like a Wal-Mart receipt blowing away in the wind.

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One Response to Launch Post: Wal-Mart: Save Money, Live Better? Not so much.

  1. Asking the question, “Well, what are we doing about it?” is an extremely common response when one is first exposed to a social injustice. I think this is especially true when that social injustice is one that the person unknowingly contributes to. In slunatic’s launch post, they pose this same question is response to the “terrible wages the women and children receive for hours upon hours of grueling work…the disaster of an economy these corporations are creating for the United States, and…the ways to give the American people the products they need while still keeping the low prices we have come to know.”
    While I agree with slunatic that there is not one simple answer to solve the injustices of sweatshops, I strongly disagree with their comment that “only time will tell as we watch these mega-companies grow all the more and our economy continue to drift away from us.” I think this thought is dangerous as it often leads to inaction. In my own personal investigation of the production of my clothes and food, I have found that we as individuals can truly make a difference by educating ourselves about our purchases. Anna Lappe, an author and educator, once said, “every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” Imagine if each person adopted this thought. Instead of simply purchasing the cheapest item, people would make educated purchases that considered where and under what conditions their purchases were made.
    I think for many people, this task seems daunting. Yes, it will take some extra time to research the labor practices of companies. Yes, you will discover injustices that you contributed to. Yes, you will be called to change different aspects of your life. Yes, it is more difficult to go shopping and find fair trade products. But in the end, isn’t it worth it to know that you have consciously separated yourself from systems that oppress people? I believe so.

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