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Dilemma regarding sweatshops

Old 05-06-08, 02:09 PM
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Dilemma regarding sweatshops

This actually contains some personal content, so it's not all dry policy and theory. I've been invited by a student friend of mine to a rally opposing the use of sweatshops in producing college branded apparel. My friend is very earnest and well meaning with respect to this, but I have a bit of internal conflict over the whole issue. On the one hand, no one wants people to have to work in conditions that would be described as a "sweatshop". On the other hand, it seems to me that it's part of the natural evolution of a society's economy, and is probably a step up in most ways from subsistence farming, which one assumes most people did before getting their sweatshop job. Is opposing sweatshops really, ultimately hurting people in the third world, or would I be doing them a favor? What would you do?
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Old 05-06-08, 02:11 PM
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What is the rally actually doing? Are they trying to change where the college is buying stuff from and going to cause people to lose jobs?

My sister's wedding invitations were done by child labor. She went to India and went to this orphanage school that takes kids off the streets and gives them jobs making crafts (invitations etc) if they are willing to go to school. The logic is this kids are going to try to work anyway, might as well have them going to school and work in a safe environment than work on the streets.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:12 PM
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I wouldn't attend the rally for the reasons you said.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:16 PM
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"Sweatshop" is a relative term. It could very well be terrible, sub-human, conditions to us. But at the same time, the people that work there would probably give anything to reach our definition of poverty. I think you are correct about the natural evolution, and I wouldn't attend, except to have counter picket signs as a joke. Some pooe kid out of work that now can't help feed his sister. That type of thing.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:20 PM
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Sweatshops are manned by people who think working a rotten job and living in slums is still better than life on a farm. My ancestors probably thought the same thing when they left Ireland for America.

However, according to some anti-globalization lectures I've heard, money management is a lot more sophisticated than it was fifty years ago, and the local economies are not being helped as much as they used to be.

In the end, I'd have to vote in favor of sweatshops. Life in industrialized countries like Singapore and South Korea is much better than life in agrarian countries like Sudan and Somalia.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
What is the rally actually doing? Are they trying to change where the college is buying stuff from and going to cause people to lose jobs?
The protest is to urge the administration to not license apparel from companies that use sweatshop labor. I assume people will lose jobs because of this.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051128/dreier

It's just kinda hard to think of myself as "pro-sweatshop", you know?
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Old 05-06-08, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
I recommend you read Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England, and after that a good text of economic history, maybe North's The Rise of the Western World.
What am I, 16? I read Engels when I was a kid, and God knows I've read a ton of DC North.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:22 PM
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So you're like, getting a PhD in political economics or something, and you're asking us about sweatshops?
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Old 05-06-08, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
It's just kinda hard to think of myself as "pro-sweatshop", you know?
That is the unfortunate thing about these sorts of issues. For a lot of people the mere term being used will cause them to abandon reason and just oppose the idea.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Danger
So you're like, getting a PhD in political economics or something, and you're asking us about sweatshops?
I'd already made up my mind about it, I just wanted to talk a little about something other than the election.

And I am so not getting a Ph.D. I don't have that kind of spare time these days.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
It's just kinda hard to think of myself as "pro-sweatshop", you know?
capitalist pig!
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Old 05-06-08, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
capitalist pig!
You left out the "imperialist running dog" part.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:36 PM
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Sweatshops
A sweatshop is a workplace where workers are subject to extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or benefits, poor working conditions, and arbitrary discipline, such as verbal and physical abuse. Since sweatshop workers are paid less than their daily expenses, they are never able to save any money to improve their lives. They are trapped in an awful cycle of exploitation.

Defenders of sweatshops often bring up the fact that even though sweatshops are bad, they at least give people jobs they wouldn't have had otherwise. However, the type of jobs sweatshop workers receive are so bad that they rarely improve their economic situation.
http://www.veganpeace.com/sweatshops...hild_labor.htm

According to this site if you are able to improve your economic status then you are not being exploited; I imagine the "living wage" item is in comparison to the West and not the third world though.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
Sorry, I should have known most Americans have read Engels by the age of 16.
I don't know about most Americans, but I always found Engels' prose more compelling than Marx's.
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Old 05-06-08, 02:48 PM
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Come protest the conditions at my office. They recently stopped buying Evian water and replaced it with Dasani.
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Old 05-06-08, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
I don't know about most Americans, but I always found Engels' prose more compelling than Marx's.
Considering he wrote all that while still farming in Walnut Grove, it is even more impressive.
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Old 05-06-08, 03:10 PM
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I'm certainly against physical abuse in the workplace. There was a report on CNN about an Asian shrimp factory:
Workers who angered the employer were often 'put to shame' in front of others by having their hair cut or shaved in patches. Women and girls were stripped naked and publicly beaten as a form of discipline
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapc...orkers.report/
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Old 05-06-08, 03:24 PM
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This happened locally about a week ago. The students ended up being suspended for about a week.
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Old 05-06-08, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Come protest the conditions at my office. They recently stopped buying Evian water and replaced it with Dasani.
Heartless bastards!
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Old 05-06-08, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by MartinBlank
This happened locally about a week ago. The students ended up being suspended for about a week.
Good thing they didn't draw a picture of it or they would have been expelled.
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Old 05-07-08, 08:40 AM
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If it is a factory that actually treats employees fairly, as in, they are getting a decent living wage for the country they are in, then that's OK.

Unfortunately it seems that many of these are rife with abuse, sexual harassment and sexual favors to keep jobs, locking them inside the doors, banning bathroom breaks, and other morally awful labor practices.

Overall I think it's a mixed bag. It's probably a good thing that in the long run will help to bring these countries closer to economic equality, but the labor conditions still suck for the workers, and I'd hate to contribute to that.

I think in the long run it will be a benefit for them...these kinds of things existed in the US during the industrial revolution, until the labor movement and subsequent labor reform came along. Hopefully they get to that part of it, eventually.

Last edited by GreenMonkey; 05-07-08 at 08:42 AM.
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Old 05-07-08, 09:58 AM
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I think you need to really know the conditions of the factory before you throw a term "sweatshop" out there. If they are locking them in rooms and not letting them take bathroom breaks, or not paying them, then yeah, it's a fucking sweatshop and I don't think they deserve my business.
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Old 05-07-08, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
I'd already made up my mind about it, I just wanted to talk a little about something other than the election.

And I am so not getting a Ph.D. I don't have that kind of spare time these days.


So then I can assume you are not attending?
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Old 05-07-08, 10:13 AM
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wenders, ask your friend what information he has about this supplier. Just because it's clothing made in a third-world country doesn't mean that it comes from a sweatshop, in the Upton Sinclair sense of the word.

I would ask if they treat their workers fairly. This could include any number of variables, from pay, to factory conditions, to treatment by supervisors, to any possible benefits they might get. Look at the bottom half of the <a href="http://adbusters.org/metas/corpo/blackspotshoes/info.php">information page about Blackspot Shoes and how they treat their workers</a>.

I wouldn't be surprised if your friend planning the protest has no idea what is going on in the actual factory where this is made.
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Old 05-07-08, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
So then I can assume you are not attending?
I won't attend, but I might walk by on my afternoon stroll.
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