You hear the term sweatshop all the time, but what does that really mean? And how can you make a difference?
I think it’s easy to trivialize sweatshop labor, because we hear the term so often, but here in the U.S. we are so far removed from these shoddy labor practices. The International Labor Rights Forum defines these operations very succinctly:
Sweatshops are workplaces where basic worker rights are not respected.
That means low pay, long hours, unsafe and inhumane conditions, and often employing child labor. Really, though, I don’t think any definition can take the place of actually hearing from someone who’s worked in a sweatshop.
Journalist Raveena Aulakh went undercover in a Bangladeshi sweatshop for four days and reported on the back-breaking labor that she performed alongside children as young as nine. years old.
Is your heart breaking a little bit for girls like Meem? Mine, too. But there are choices that you can make to help!
Sweatshops: What You can Do
There are a couple of different ways that you can make a difference:
- Choose not to buy clothing that you know was produced in sweatshops.
- Support organizations that are helping girls like Meem live a better life.
Avoiding Sweatshop Clothing
The bad news is that many common brands use sweatshop labor to produce their clothing. The good news? These aren’t your only options! Choose clothing from companies that advertise fair labor practices. Here are some companies that are getting it right when it comes to fair labor:
Not sure if a garment you’re considering was made in a sweatshop? Do a little digging! You can google the brand name and see if any stories pop up. Check the company website to see what they say about their labor practices. If all else fails, contact them! Not only will you get a response, but you’ll be letting that company know that customers are looking for clothing that wasn’t produced in sweatshops.
You can also choose to buy your clothing second hand from thrift stores, yard sales, and vintage shops and opt out of the clothing production question all together. Check out these tips from Crafting a Green World on how to refashion those thrift store finds into exactly the piece of clothing that you want.
One of the reasons that young girls work in these situations is that they don’t feel like they have another option, but there are organizations out there working to educate women, so that they can support themselves and their families. Other groups are working to improve labor conditions in these factories. Here are a few of my favorites.
Do you have a favorite company or organization that’s helping give sweatshops the (ethically made) boot? Tell us about it in the comments!