Cheap Prices vs Human Rights

I was about 16 years old when I was in the passengers seat of my grandma’s car, gripping tightly to my new handbag. It was an awful bright orange color (seriously, what was I thinking?) & we had gone to several stores in the search for “the perfect bag”. My excitement from the day & my new treasure quickly faded as I suddenly thought a question that would change my shopping habits forever.

“Who made this?”

Thus beginning my research on where exactly our food, clothes, and accessories come from & who exactly makes them.

Here are just a few facts I learned:

  • Products that commonly come from sweatshops are garments, cotton, bricks, cocoa, and coffee.
  • In developing countries, an estimated 168 million children ages 5 to 14 are forced to work.
  • Philippians pay rate is 88 cents per hour.
  • In Bangladesh, the average worker’s hourly wage is just 13 cents, which is the lowest in the world
  • America has stronger labor laws than most undeveloped countries, but it is not free of sweatshop conditions. Many labor violations slip under the radar of the US Department of Labor
  • One mill in China can use over 150 tons of water for each ton of fabric it dyes; many rivers are colored as the untreated & toxic dyes drain from the mills.
  • Doubling the salary of sweatshop workers would only increase the consumer cost of an item by 1.8
  • Women sewing NBA jerseys make 24 cents per garment – an item that will eventually sell for $140 or more.
  • It takes an apparel worker in a sweatshop an average of working 70 hours per week to exceed the average income for their country.
  • In Asia, children as young as 5 were found to work from 6 in the morning until 7 at night for less than 20 cents per day
  • Many Nike sweatshop workers die by the age of 15.
  • 98% of Los Angeles garment factories violated workplace health and safety standards.

Slavery is very prevalent in our world. Estimated 12 million people are forced to work in apparel sweatshops, in fields harvesting produce…& almost everything sold in a chain store is made by either slaves or low-wage factory workers.

So what can you do?

  • Buy local – artists, seamstresses, woodworkers.
  • Shop secondhand – thrift shops are a great way to save money & shop somewhat ethically.
  • Do with what you have. Do you really need a new purse for the season? Do you really need that top?
  • If you must buy new, buy things that will get used. Socks? Yes. A dress for a wedding that you’ll only wear once or twice? No.
  • Spread awareness. Encourage loved ones to buy that cute necklace elsewhere. Write Facebook posts. Or blog posts.
  • Do your own research. Look at what top companies are changing in their manufacturing process. Read the numbers on what their workers are paid or how many hours they work. If you spend 10 minutes searching
    fun facts about Greys Anatomy, you can spend 10 minutes reading about the companies you shop at.

So what’s stopping the general population from pursuing ethical choices?

A small, yet truthful, reason is because we have been tricked into thinking we need what someone else has. We don’t need the newest wallet from the Spring 2017 collection of Kate Spade. We don’t need that jersey to cheer on our favorite sports team. We can get by in last years wallet & our team colors.

But the number 1 excuse (and #1 lie) for not shopping ethically?

“It costs too much”.

When you buy from companies that don’t follow labor laws, you are essentially saying, “Cheap prices are more important than human rights.”

Sure, this pair of shoes might have been made by a 7 year old who has been forced to work 24 hours straight, being paid change I can find at the bottom of my purse…but hey, you can’t beat that price of $15. 

At what point did a good deal become more important than the safety & fair treatment of others?

That’s why I’m urging you today to start making small changes in your shopping habits.


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