Reading all of these posts, I realized that a lot of people in the world probably agree with statements that we have made. Everyone wants to make a change, but I think at this point, not a lot of people know what to do about that. I took the survey that happysunshine7 added the link to (thanks! that was super cool!), and found that I had 38 slaves “working for me”. Yikes. What a weird concept. That makes me sick to think that other people are working in terrible conditions, sometimes up to 21 hours a day, just so that I can buy clothes or food that I want. I think it is easy to think that I am doing my part because I am more conscious than others, but that does not mean that I am doing everything I can do make a change. Slunatic made me think about it when they said “Well, what are we doing about it?” I was sad and surprised that my immediate thought was “not much”. While I was aware that certain companies exploited their workers, I didn’t know the extent. It really makes me wonder though, how this information will change my habits and the habits of all of us. Yes, Nike exploits their workers and treats them terribly, but honestly, when it comes down to it, I love my Nike running shoes, and when I wear through the ones I have now, I will probably get another pair from them. Should I feel guilty about that? Should I boycott and buy another brand? Maybe, but I think that getting the word out and forcing Nike to make a change will be more effective. Me boycotting alone will not do much. Hiddenpoet0319 said it best by calling the exploitation by “a disgusting injustice”. It really is and there needs to be a change. I honestly don’t know what to do to make this change, but hopefully together; we can come up with something.
Ps- HAVE A GREAT SPRING BREAK EVERYONE!!!
What I noticed while I was reading the posts and comments of this week, encompassed quite a bit. Most of the authors talked about their eyes being opened to the terrors of sweatshops and the fact that large corporations are utilizing these impoverished people in order to make more money on their products. But even more than that, I noticed a common thread of people talking about what needed to be done about the problem. Slunatic put it best when it asked, “well, what are we doing about it?” Most people then talked about looking into the companies from which they are purchasing good. Theonlysolutionislove talked about “consciously seperat[ing] yourself from systems that oppress people.” In the words of thepunk125, America wants faster, better, and cheaper goods, which is only encouraging sweatshops. And as hiddenpoet0309 noticed, we like to pretend these things aren’t happening even though they are hurting everyone in the world. But I think that acaawesome13 brought up a fantastic point that you could say nailed the pitch. In his or her words: “By liberating them from these jobs, we may be condemning them to starvation. I believe that to honestly fix this problem would require actual sacrifice from those of us who act as consumers.” Channeling its inner Rebel Wilson by typing while doing horizontal running, acaawesome13 is advocating not buying these products in an effort to decrease the market for these sweatshop items. I think that she is advocating something that I did personally about five years ago. I found out that the company I was buying my squirrel bait from was paying the people harvesting the nuts about 5 cents an hour. I wasn’t a fan, so I switched companies. I now buy nuts from an American company paying its workers minimum wage to harvest the acorns I bait my traps with, and honestly, I am happier because of it. Mr. or Ms. Acapella has a point. The best option that we may have is to boycott the huge corporations that are utilizing these sweatshops to make a profit off of some people’s poverty. This week was full of good information and ideas, and I hope that it inspires us to try and oppose these corporations that utilize the terrors that are sweatshops.
While reading the posts this week, two ideas seemed to come up often. First, many of the bloggers were shocked by the issue of sweatshops, low wages, and terrible working conditions. Many of them had not been aware of these issues previously or had limited background information surrounding them. They did not seem to realize that many of the products they use on a daily basis come from companies that support these terrible conditions. Second, the bloggers made it clear that these conditions and situations are unethical and should not occur in our world. They said it is unacceptable that poor women and children are forced to work long hours in terrible conditions just to make a small wage. To go along with this, many bloggers said that something needs to be done about this issue. People should not and cannot continue to live their lives like this. Many suggestions about different actions we can take were given. Some of them were smaller actions that we can take on an individual basis such as researching companies to know where our products come from, while other suggestions were actions needed to be taken by the government and large companies. Happysunshine7 brought up a great point. They said that “knowing about the problem is the first step”. I thought this was very thoughtful and the use of the slavery footprint website just added to the idea even more. In conclusion, spreading awareness about social justice issues needs to be the first priority. Once this is done, action can then be taken by individuals which will hopefully lead to larger corporations and governments taking action.
Through reading all of the blog posts, I noticed one strongly overarching theme of a call for response. This theme included the ideas and questions “what are we going to do about it”, “what can we do about it”, and “what is being done about it” with the “it” being sweatshops, child labor, and forced labor in particular in relation to Wal-Mart and Disney. There was talk of buying fair-trade goods, researching companies we buy from, raising awareness, accessing the My Slavery Footprint website, refusing to buy from stores that utilize sweatshops, and taking government action among other things. All of these practical consumer tips are excellent and seem to follow the argument made by Javdani about how our choices made in America do really affect others throughout the world. At the same time however we read an essay in class about how some families need children to work at a young age to survive and their jobs end up coming from sweatshops. It seems to me that the posters are aware and interested in this debate and thinking about it has sparked new ideas and solutions. Hopefulwanderer1 calls us to live radically, love the world around us, and fight for justice, Hiddenpoet0319 asks for government subsidies to bring companies that are overseas back to the United States to stop the sweatshops, Thirdbolyngirl wants to make what is invisible to Americans visible, and Theonlysolutionislove begs us to boycott companies that exploit their workers. I think we can come to the agreement that inaction is unacceptable and that all of these ideas are positive and practical ways that we can fight injustices. Even so most of the posters focused on what we can do on the home front, but need to also think about what we can do to love and help the people being exploited. We need to go beyond practical. We can end buying dirty goods and we can bring all of our companies back to the USA but without the radical love for the rest of the world talked about by Hopefulwanderer1 what we do will only make a small difference.
It is ironic that the company responsible for creating “the happiest place on earth” for a for some children is also responsible for the creation of “hell on earth” for the children unfortunate enough to be born on the other side of the world… It really is a small world after all. As pointed out by Kernaghan and elaborated on by slunatic, many of America’s most widely known and most popular brands such as Nike and Wal-Mart are responsible for the terrible labor conditions of many women and children who are forced to work hours in grueling sweat shops for merely pennies a day. Slunatic posed many great questions that need to be addressed, all beneath the over arching question: What are we going to do about it? There are so many issues within this one problem that sometimes it is hard to figure out where to begin even if we have the desire to change it. Slunatic suggested the option of making legislature to fix this problem. Although this sounds like a good solution, at least to start with, we must be careful that our actions do not prove to be a greater burden for these exploited people. This issue was addressed in our reading for Tuesday, Live Free and Starve by Chitra Divakaruni. She lets us know that these people need these jobs in order to survive. By liberating them from theses jobs, we may be condemning them to starvation. I believe that to honestly fix this problem would require actual sacrifice from those of us who act as consumers. Human rights activists can put on the pressure by making public the atrocities of the sweat shops, but if we are unwilling to change our ways and stop contributing to the problem, their words and efforts will mean nothing and this problem will again slip back into the darkness and never be resolved.
It is a practice that we, as Americans, like to pretend isn’t happening, but it’s hurting everyone in the world except for a very select few who see their bank accounts increase exponentially. The shipping of manufacturing jobs oversees has been ripe with human rights violations since day one. A jacket that costs you $150 to purchase only cost the company 35 cents and some poor Chinese kids’ hand in the making of it. In America, we see our cities fall into decay as industry continues to leave our borders to go overseas to where companies can exploit the workers of the third world to make their products at ridiculously cheap prices. Corporations will drone on and on about how this is a “necessary” business practice, but, at the very end of “Keeper of the Fire”, I think Kernaghan said it exactly right, “Why does anyone need so much money?” It is ridiculous to claim that the exploitation and disgusting abuse of fellow human beings is ever “necessary”. The question is, how do we change this horrid practice? The fact of the matter is, corporations aren’t inherently evil, they are inherently greedy. The only thing that matters is the company’s bottom line, so if we as a people can find a way to make this practice more detrimental to their bottom line than it is worth, then the practice will change. I believe that it would take a great deal of government subsidization of companies that would bring manufacturing jobs back from oversees, as well as a great deal of consumer awareness and activism. With these two things though, I think we can bring down the high costs of low prices. Many would claim that this would cause these industries to skyrocket their prices, but they can’t do that, because no one will buy them. The truth of the matter is that these companies will simply have to settle with making less money if people take a stand against these practices. No one should have more money than they can spend in a life time when so many live in such horrible poverty. When a majority of the world does not even have a simple washing machine, and yes, I do mean a MAJORITY of the world, no one should be able to spend $52,000 a day for 781 years without ever running out of money. It is a disgusting injustice, and we as consumers must not stand for it. We must make ethical behavior a necessity for the profitable conduct of business.
We’ve all heard the cliché phrase “less is more” throughout our lives. The articles this week about Charlie Kernaghan’s work exposing child and women sweatshops bring a more negative light to this phrase. Our society always pushes for faster, better, cheaper, newer, etc. We rarely stop to think, “what will that all cost?”
In “A Conversation with Charlie Kernaghan”, Kernaghan talks about Wal-Mart as an example of a company that’s pushing for lower prices that will beat any ones anywhere, but they won’t tell how they are able to get prices that low or where their factories are located. In the other article “Keeper of the Fire”, Kernaghan lists off stats about American products: “83 percent of all garments sold in the United States are now made offshore, as are 80 percent of the toys, 90 percent of the sporting goods, 95 percent of the shoes.” Big companies are sending jobs over seas where they can find labor for pennies an hour and where they can work those who have less rights: women and children. Of course companies would opt for cheaper labor! That means they can pay workers less, set prices slightly lower to get more consumers, and then gain more profit. What’s the cost of this for Americans? Jobs that are needed that will employ workers that they will also respect and pay a decent wage. Kernaghan said, “We’ve lost more than 2 million manufacturing jobs in the last two years.” While those jobs are also needed in other countries, workers aren’t getting the benefits of having a job and suffering because of our societies need for cheaper products. It’s a lose-lose situation; fewer jobs in America, poor conditions and wages in other countries. Society’s push to continue growth towards faster, better, and cheaper goods (more for less) will only support sweatshops and poor labor laws and wages to continue to exist.
This brings to mind a question for people and society: Now that we know what it takes to make the things we ‘need’ for our luxurious lives to continue, will we still purchase these items pretending we are naive to the truth, or will people feel called to take a stand.