You hear about the evils of big businesses that have sweatshops in other countries. All of the propaganda will have you believe that these big businesses are terrible, exploitive companies. I won’t deny that they may be, but in some cases, working in a sweatshop can be a better circumstance for workers than their previous situations.
While it’s not pleasant or easy work, the job of a sweatshop worker is still a job. And as terrible as it may seem, sweatshops are an economy booster. They’re a way to make money and maybe, just maybe, a step towards a better future. I’m not delusional in thinking that every sweatshop worker’s life has a happy ending, but I think there’s the opportunity for some.
If you consider the vast numbers of people employed in sweatshops, what would they do if you took the sweatshops away? There’s no booming McDonald’s industry in these developing countries that they could go get a job at, and in fact, there’s not many job options at all.
In no way do I endorse the mistreatment of people, but I don’t condemn big businesses for providing jobs. Yes, they don’t pay their workers the wages they deserve, but in a for-profit company, can all the blame be placed on the big businesses?
What about the governments of the countries sweatshops are located in, shouldn’t they also be held responsible for not demanding certain rights for their people? In countries that don’t have laws regulating minimum wage and working conditions, what else are they neglecting to regulate? There are far worse things going on than the operation of sweatshops.
In many of the developing countries where there are sweatshops, there’s another booming business: the sex trade. According to humantrafficking.org, in Indonesia alone 100,000 women and children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation each year and 30 percent of the female prostitutes in Indonesia are under 18 years old.
I doubt that the women and children being trafficked have much say in the matter, but if those would-be-victims managed to get a job in one of these sweatshops, wouldn’t it be a better fate? If I was a woman in a developing country, I’d rather work my fingers to the bone in unsafe working conditions than be a sexual object to countless strangers. Neither of the situations are ideal, but if it came down to it, I would choose the sweatshop.
As a consumer, I would gladly wear a pair of shoes made by a 12-year-old girl if making my shoes is what’s keeping her out of the sex trade. In many cases, the alternatives to working in sweatshops are much worse than the sweatshops themselves. I prefer the lesser of two evils.
Unless you’re completely devoid of compassion, you know that under any circumstances, creating human suffering can’t be justified. Especially for children.
Sweatshops violate many rights that U.S. Americans have fought for and protected in our own country. Why is it okay for businesses from our country to avoid our values by exporting the low moral business practice of sweatshops?
Child labor, low pay, exploitation, poor conditions, physically demanding and dangerous work are not things that I want to support when I get dressed in the morning.
Your Nike tennis shoes, Apple product and most other products that U.S. Americans consume were assembled by the rough, bleeding hands of innocent people, and a lot of the time, by children. Don’t tell me that we’re “supporting their livelihood” or “they’re good at that type of work.”
You may never meet these people, know their names or even remember that they ever existed to make your clothing.
Sweatshop workers are children, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. But they are instead treated like profit-making machines, not humans.
If you could meet the individuals who made just the clothing that you’re wearing today, would you be proud of yourself? Now think about your closet. How many people’s lives had to be sacrificed to make that sweater that you never wear so cheap.
Brands such as Toms, Simple and Threads for Thought have begun to make morally upstanding business models. And we should support that buy paying a little extra.
You may not think that what you buy is like a vote for human rights, but if you choose the evils of sweatshop clothing then the suffering of destitute people will continue. Some lawmakers are trying to advocate localizing manufacturing, but it all starts with the consumers.
The money that sweatshops do put back into the global communities that they invade doesn’t solve any problems. Hardly any of the money that companies make goes to workers or the manufacturing community, it comes back to the United States to the designers. Rest assured, child worker, you’re making some millionaire in another country another dollar while you wait hours for your lunch break that if you’re lucky, means that you get to eat something.
The answers to the global economy reside in education, creation of new economies and businesses that are owned and operated by the communities that sustain them.
People shouldn’t have to choose between being treated as humans or feeding their families, no matter what your personal economics are.
We can’t let this happen.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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