Sweatshops and forced child labor are a growing problem, especially in the clothing and textiles industry. In general, almost 75 percent of the price of a garment made in a sweatshop goes into the pockets of the manufacturer and retailer. When you consider that every stitch of every article of clothing we wear was put there by another human being, this inequity is an issue we cannot fail to address.
If you want to play a role in advocating for living wages and safe working conditions, leveraging the power of your dollars to support good, green, sweat-free businesses is a strong start. Co-op America's freeGuide to Ending Sweatshops is chock-full of ideas on how to build a greener economy, including four ways you can take action and end help sweatshops altogether:
1. Demand corporate responsibility: Whenever you shop, check that the company you're buying from can communicate knowledgeably with you about its supply chain. Ask questions about how the workers who make its products are treated, whether the workers are paid a living wage-enough to support their families-and if the business has a code of conduct that protects human rights and forbids child labor and unsafe conditions in its factories.
2. Shift your purchasing: Buy green and sweat-free from companies with transparent supply chains. Tell irresponsible companies why you are switching, and what they will have to do to earn your business back. (Visit Co-op America's Web site to find a listing of responsible, sweat-free business.)
Remember that you can also buy used and vintage clothing, purchase directly from the producers, or make your own clothing yourself.
3. Organize with others: Consider mobilizing with other like-minded folk to help stop sweatshops in your community, at your university, or anywhere else. Visit Sweatfree.org for more resources on mounting your own community campaign.
To take action for a sweat-free university, check out the non-profit United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). The total labor cost for sewing one $15 college T-shirt is less than 3 cents, according to the USAS, or less than 0.2 percent of the total cost of the shirt.
4. Speak out: Share your vision of a sweat-free world with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, or by telling the sweat-free story behind your own garments. When someone compliments you and asks where you bought your cute togs from, you can tell them much more than just the name of the store.
Difficulty level: Easy to advanced