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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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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An Open Letter To PETA CEO Ingrid Newkirk

For an organization whose sole purpose is to ensure the ethical treatment of animals, I have many questions.

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Dear Ms. Newkirk,

I, like you, am a firm believer in the right to compassion for all living beings around the world. Ever since converting to veganism from the omnivorous lifestyle I was raised to lead nearly six years ago, I have heavily relied on PETA.com and its affiliates for information, facts and statistics, recipe ideas, cruelty-free lifestyle selections, and activism opportunities on almost a daily basis so that I may further grow my knowledge and support for this permanent lifestyle change. When I search for new beauty or household products, clothing, shoes, and more, it is always comforting to see the "PETA-Approved Vegan" logo on the box, and I am confident in the purchases that I am making.

It was only recently that a new stream of data was brought to my attention that has altered my viewpoint of your organization and what it truly stands for, and I request that you provide the public your reasoning or justification for such acts, and any reparations that need to be made. Another lifelong vegan friend of mine recently pointed out to me a website called petakillsanimals.com where there is sizable physical legal evidence of immense animal cruelty, suffering, and murder at the hands of PETA over the last fifteen of years. Seeing as you have been the CEO of the organization for over 25 years, I figured it would be best to address you directly, seeking a response to this evidence of cruelty from the globally renowned organization that does all that it can to fight cruelty in every form.

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, from 1998 to 2017, 85.2% of all dogs and cats transferred to your facility for shelter were euthanized within 24 hours of being brought to your facility. Despite your reasoning that you painlessly end the suffering of animals who would have otherwise been left to suffer anyway, the arguments and justifications that you are making mirror the arguments of the meat, dairy, poultry, and fish industries (whom you dedicate your life to combating) all too identically. Just as PETA fights to end society's blasé attitude toward animal cruelty and murder, your attempt at claiming that the way you euthanize the animals in your facility is "better", renders one of PETA's greatest catchphrases, essentially, worthless: "There is no such thing as humane murder".

Similarly, after wrongfully luring a family pet off its porch in 2014, PETA took the pet from its owner's property and euthanized it, bringing the dog's owners to file a lawsuit with your organization that was just settled in 2017, where PETA was forced to pay the family nearly $50,000 dollars in damages. Finally, terror is not ever a justifiable option to invoke change, so why are you personally and professionally so aligned with the Animal Liberation Front, a terrorist organization responsible for arson, extensive property damage, and assault? Why have you donated nearly $80,000 to groups that promote harming life in order to save a life?

Ridding the world of violence with more violence has never, does not, and will never work, so if I can request only one thing from you in this letter, even if you refuse to answer my other questions, it is this: please take the funds that are allocated towards extensive euthanasia drugs and services used by and in your facility, and put them toward building either another building to house more animals if physical space is a concern, for providing food and more extensive adoption services for these animals, or donate them to a true no-kill animal-rights organization like Best Friends Animal Society, Underdog Rescue, or any others provided on this list.

In this letter, my intention was neither to attack nor provoke you in an inflammatory manner, but rather to merely seek truth from an organization that I once so dearly respected and wish to one day respect again in the same manner. I thank you for your time, and for all of the lives that you have saved in between.

Sincerely,

An Animal Lover & Ally

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