This country’s wealth was built upon the blood of slaves. Working long hours in the cotton fields, Africans were often beaten and completely objectified to make their “masters” rich. The Civil War may have ended this overt form of slavery, but it has continued through present day. The large corporations that presently run this nation have outsourced their labor to other countries. Men, women, and children are, in some instances, being beaten, raped, sold, underpaid or not paid at all, and living in filthy conditions to produce clothes for these companies. Since these workers are “out of sight; out of mind" to the American public, we continue to spend our dollars on clothes manufactured under these horrific conditions. From an ethical perspective, are slave labor practices in the clothing industry worth a high-fashion society?
“Child workers, some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high street giant”. This is just one example of Indian children making clothes destined for American stores. Many companies including Nike, Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Target, J. Crew, and Abercrombie and Fitch outsource their labor and use a “no-tell” policy. Even in this age of information availability, statistics and company names are so hard to come by that many corporations are allotted complete anonymity. Child labor statistics alone are overwhelming. It is estimated that there are over 70 million child workers between Asia, Africa, and Latin America today.
The arguments for these practices are weak at best. Some conclude that workers in third world countries need these jobs in order to survive. Some families depend on their children for monetary needs and if we eliminate child labor, they claim, we end their livelihoods. In reality, they are getting paid unfit wages, if any at all: around 17 cents per day in some cases. Is this really a livelihood? Can this really feed an entire family? Gap sells shirts for $40 or more a piece while people are working 18-hour days in sweat shops to make them. Where is the balance? Where is the human dignity?
Is it worth human suffering and degradation for a high-fashion society? Absolutely not! Why do we, as consumers, allow these practices to continue unquestioned? Where is our morality? It is everywhere in current society, but so often hidden. How do we address this issue? How do we create lasting change? What do we value more: human flourishing or money?
“It’s unavoidable: so long as we value money more highly than living beings and more highly than relationships, we will continue to see living beings as resources, and convert them to cash; objectifying, killing, extirpating” -Derrick Jensen