Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Consequences of Being an Uninformed Shopper

This post is the start of a series of information from a speech I gave for a class last year. (It still remains in the speech format)

Sixty-nine percent of you (my class) said you relatively do not know where the products you buy come from. You may know that you bought that banana at Wal-Mart, or that shirt from Express, but you have no idea who made it or who worked in the fields or for how much.
Even a popular clothing store, The Gap, in 2004 admitted to widespread problems - from unsafe machinery to child labor violations - in the thousands of factories it uses around the world to produce clothing (Teather). Today I would like to share with you the issue of passive consumerism and how through our multiple purchases, things like child labor, under pay, and adverse working conditions go unnamed.

Surprisingly child labor still exists in the world today. An estimated 211 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working around the world according to the International Labor Organization (Batstone). An article in USA Today, reported a discovery of children as young as 10 sewing clothes for clothing retailer Gap Inc. in a New Delhi factory (India). Children working at such young ages mean that they are not being educated, ruining their future to get a better job. Not only are they working, but The Child Rights Information Network states that 126 million children from the ages 5 to 17 work in hazardous conditions (Child).

Not only are children forced to work, but also the entirety of the work force is being affected negatively. Much of this is due to the fact that we want things cheap causing those providing all of our stuff to get paid cheaply. Also due to lack of funding or care, working conditions are harsh. Companies like Wal-Mart supply many resources. This means that many workers are paid up to 30 percent below their country's legal minimum wage (Creating). We know that when companies outsource they are able to pay workers less because the country’s standard of living is much less. Yet many companies are not even paying to match the country’s standard of living.
Workers also are forced to work long hours; often 16 to 18 hours a day and do not get paid over time (Creating).
Women are not only underpaid, but in many cases paid less than men. They also deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, and workplace-related sexual violence (Rights).
According to the International Labor Rights Forum under its Wal-Mart Campaign they state that, “the health clinics that many countries require their factories to have often do not exist and workers are not provided with basic safety equipment, such as dust masks (Creating)”. In many factories, workers are required to have a pass or a permit to go for a timed bathroom break.

There is a problem and we are all a part of it. We all consume. Simply being an American most likely means that we consume a lot. Being human means we like things to be cheap. This desire for many cheap goods has helped child labor thrive, drove workers’ pay down, and taken the time away for regulations that ensure healthy working conditions. We unknowingly support this with our daily purchases.

Works Cited
Batstone, David. "Stop Child Labor - Cocoa Campaign." International Labor Rights Forum. 11 Apr. 2008. Child Labor. 12 Apr. 2008 .
"Child Labour." Child Rights Information Network. 2008. CRIN. 6 Apr. 2008 .
"Creating a Sweat Free World - Wal-Mart Campaign." International Labor Rights Forum. 2007. Labor. 2 Apr. 2008 .
"India Activists Decry Gap Child Labor." USA Today. 2007. News. 1 Apr. 2008 .
"Rights for Working Women." International Labor Rights Forum. 2007. Labor. 9 Apr. 2008 .
Teather, David. "Gap Admits to Child Labour Violations in Outsource Factories." The Guardian. 13 May 2004. News. 2 Apr. 2008 .

(The next post will have some solutions to this problem.... sorry this is not written like a paper format... pretend you're hearing a speech :)

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