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.
Jake VP.
Jake VP.

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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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...


Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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