We Are Supporting Sweatshops, Maybe It's Time To Evaluate Where We Spend Our Money

We Are Supporting Sweatshops, Maybe It's Time To Evaluate Where We Spend Our Money

Only can the workers getting their due can this be stopped.
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From purchasing tickets for “Black Panther” over “The Maze Runner” to buying from Chipotle instead of McDonald's, we all vote with our money. Usually unintentionally, but in the end, every purchase (or lack of a purchase) puts money into an organization we would like to see keep living. Ultimately that is what our purchases do, yes we get something out of it, a burrito bowl, watching a movie, but we are also saying “we want more of this!” with each purchase.

This is one of the most basic principles of the marketplace, this is the “invisible hand” which lets some business succeed, and others fail. Sometimes there is a delayed effect, for instance; you buy some Chipotle, but then you get sick, you were NOT happy with your purchase, but you already gave them your money, you already told the market “I want more Chipotle!” although you certainly do not. Well fear not, next time you will use your new knowledge to make a more informed decision, and next time go to McDonald’s instead or support a new food company and the market will once again work as it’s supposed to.

Nice, right? Sadly it doesn’t always work that way, and one of the hardest industries to see this with is the garment industry. Now clothes probably won’t make you sick, but as we talked about, buying things is voting with your money, and when you purchase from many clothing retailers you are supporting child labor or sweatshops.

You can read more about the issue in this Guardian piece, which states that “The ILO (International Labor Organization) estimates that 170 million are engaged in child labor, with many making textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the US, and beyond.”

At this point you are probably thinking “well I will just support the companies which don’t engage in child labor” but sadly it is much more complicated. The presence of large clothing businesses plays a damaging effect on the market, to the point where it is not functioning as it should. For one thing, businesses are so large that they are unable to follow where all of their clothes are being made from in a never-ending train of contractors and sub-contractors, where workers pay the price.

This leads to areas without oversight, where workers are mistreated. This rules out our “if Chipotle makes you sick, buy from McDonald's” scenario because they both are making you sick. So that leaves buying from a new store, one which is small enough for the proper oversight.

Sadly, new stores are hardly an option. One story from the third chapter in “Unmaking the Global Sweatshop” describes one individual's attempt at creating an ethical clothing store. In making clothes both in, and out of America, one needs a factory. Outside of the United States, the business struggled to get the factory owner to adhere to the ethical standards they wished, because, well why would they? Yes, the factory wants business but the small ethical company lacked the leverage a larger company would have to get the factory to do as they wished.

Once, America factories would ignore contracts to complete orders, preferring to fulfill orders by larger companies first. In both situations, the new ethical business was crowded out by the larger ones and struggled to overcome the norms entrenched in the existing system.

In the end, the business had to admit defeat and stopped production. This all too well shows the problems with the clothing market. With companies too large to oversee their production, and so big they crowd out smaller companies, while consumers are unable to gain the knowledge required to make informed decisions.

Currently most attempts to fix this involve non-government organizations stepping in, and usually give some kind of accreditation, such as “the Fairtrade Label Organisation, the Global Organic Textile Standard and the Ethical Trading Initiative, but all of them struggle with the lack of transparency in the textile and garment supply chain.”

Slightly better is The Fair Wear Foundation has a list of over 120 brands that have signed up to its code of labor practices, which do not allow for the use of child labor. Accredited brands must ensure with regular audits that all of the suppliers in the cut-make-trim stage of production meet these standards, meaning it goes beyond most companies’ in-house policies” (read more here). I argue though, that this is not enough.

As we have seen, the larger and more powerful a company is, the more likely workers rights are able to fall through the cracks, and the harder it is for new companies to rise up. More oversight is good, but this does not get at the root of the problem, such as poverty, and a disregard for the workers. What is needed is for the workers themselves to be able to benefit directly from their work, and that can only be done by them owning the factories themselves.

The workers owning the factories would allow them to work at the hours and pace of their choosing, and the need for oversight would disappear as they would all be equals. The only downside would be that here in the US we would need to pay more for our clothing, but I think we are all comfortable paying a little more, and voting with our money, for the sake of freedom.

Cover Image Credit: Kris Atomic

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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A Florida House Committee Is Undermining Your Vote On Amendment 4

Before felons can regain their right to vote, they must pay court fines, fees, and take care of any other "financial obligations." Essentially, this is a poll tax.

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Amendment 4, also known as the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, was added to the Constitution of Florida after being passed this last midterm election on November 6, 2018.

Amendment 4 restored the voting rights of Floridians with prior felony convictions after all terms of their sentence have been met, including parole and probation. This amendment only applies to felons who have not been convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

On January 8, 2019, an estimated 1.4 million ex-felons regained their right to vote. This is monumental. Prior to this amendment, Florida was one of four states that used felony disenfranchisement. Amendment 4 gives voice, and rightfully so, to felons who have served their time. Amendment 4 is also putting to rest, finally, years and years of disenfranchisement and suppression.

Now, only two months after its passage, the House Criminal Justice Committee is trying to water down this piece of legislation. This is a direct violation of the will of the 64% of Floridians who voted for the legislation as is. This amendment was not to be "clarified," as Governor DeSantis put it, but rather to be self-implementing.

However, the House Criminal Justice Committee proposed a bill that would tack on some extra qualifiers in order for felons to be enfranchised. The bill will require court fines, fees, and other "financial obligations" (in addition to fees administered in a judge's sentence) to be paid in full before a felon's voting rights are restored. This seems awfully similar to a poll tax to me. Obviously, this is going to affect people without a lot of resources rather than white-collar criminals who can afford a $500,000 bond.

This new qualifier will prevent felons from voting based on the money that can be coughed up as if they don't have to worry about their finances long after they leave prison.

Some may argue that these felons shouldn't have committed a crime in the first place. However, I would argue that holding a felon's vote hostage on the basis of money is unconstitutional.

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