Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sweat Shops Alive and Thriving

Sweat Shop - circa 1890

My last blog post received a number of comments and all of them were well thought out and eloquently written. It would appear that all too many artists under value their work due to market expectations and most of us concur that the buying public is lead by Wal-Mart mentality. This is true to a great extent, though there are many individuals who appreciate and recognize the workmanship, quality and uniqueness of any type of handcrafted product that is not mass produced. As long as there is a Wal-Mart people will shop there to take advantage of the low prices and to stretch their hard earned dollars.

Wal-Mart started out as a company that proudly bought products made in the USA, they even boasted how they supported USA manufacturing. That was back in the days of Sam Walton the founder of Wal-Mart, I'm sure Mr. Walton would not recognize the behemoth that his chain of stores has become. In our day and age we would be hard pressed to find many items sitting on a Wal-Mart shelf with the "made in the USA" sticker on them .

To read more about our big corporations benefiting from the use of cheap labor and supporting sweat shop conditions (like those of the western world over 100 years ago) click this link :

I suppose our only hope is that China, along with the other countries who have excessively cheap labor, will eventually end up with strong labor unions in much the same way the Western world did. Strong labor unions will insist that laborers be paid substantially and given benefits such as medical insurance, life insurance, paid vacation, cost of living raises, bonuses, retirement/pension plans and disability benefits should they incur any injury at work. Soon these workers would be earning the same amount as their equivalent in the USA, Canada, England, Australia, etc.

If there is no longer cheap labor, then perhaps companies will stop outsourcing manufacturing jobs. Once this occurs then big box stores such as our infamous Wally World will soon fill its shelves with locally manufactured goods. Since Wal-Mart is a global company I imagine that we could see items manufactured from all parts of the world, perhaps Wal-Mart would even consider changing their name to World-Mart?

So let's root for those strong, organized labor unions in places like China, the Philippines, India and anywhere in the world where big corporations exploit dirt cheap labor.


  1. I agree. Too many Americans are willing to work and work hard if they can only have the opportunity. We should support our own citizens first.

  2. Great post!
    Yes, wouldn't it be nice to see our shelves filled with locally manufactured goods.
    Sweat shops sadly are not a thing of the past, and outsourcing so many things takes away too many American jobs. :-(

  3. This is another insightful and informative blog post that works along the same lines. I just read last week where countries we used to think as third-world are now developing a stable middle class. That's really good for them. It's really bad for us because our middle class is almost gone.

    Amazingly enough the United States fought against sweatshops here--that were filled with women and children only to have American corporations move overseas to set up sweatshops there.

    It's twofold: we are losing jobs at a tremendous rate, which forces people to get the most for their money, which means shopping at Wally-World or Family Dollar, which in turn fuels the need for sweatshops in other countries.

    Sometimes I really wonder at our world leaders and why they give corporations more rights than human beings.

  4. Very interesting post. I had a, um, 'heated discussion' with my boyfriend today about sweatshops and cheap labor, coincidentally. He actually brought up an interesting point (thought don't tell him I said so) - when I said that it was unethical to buy things made in sweat shops because they work inhumanly long hours for such little money. His reply was that America was not much different - sure, the single mom working at a fast food joint for $5 an hour is legally protected by working a max of 8 hours... but the low minimum wage means that she just needs to find two other jobs to make ends meet, which isn't much better than working in a sweat shop anyway.

    Obviously the answers to unfair labour practices are outside the scope of my ability to discuss them, but I think we still have a lot of inequalities to fix at home as well as in other countries.

  5. Big corporations will continue to outsource as long as we keep buying the products that are on the shelves. I believe we the people have the power to make them think twice about it if we would stop buying items made in another country. Unfortunately, Many Americans can't afford it and the big companies don't care about that. They're only interested in the bottom line...$$$$$

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today. You're right...nothing is as quiet as falling snow!

  6. Very nicely written. It is a sad predicament. I just can't afford to only buy handmade and made in the USA items. Even if I could, I'm not sure I'd be able to resist cute clothes from K-Mart's $3 and under clearance racks, unless they had tags announcing that they were definitely produced by unfairly treated souls. And then, would I feel guilty for not buying anything because those unfairly treated souls might be fired and their entire families perish from not receiving that little amount of money? Oh dear, it makes my heart hurt. 0.o

    Btw, I chose you as a fellow Stylish and Versatile Blogger!

  7. This topic has really stimulated an interesting discussion :)

    I am mix on the issue because not out sourcing jobs to other countries would not increase productivity/job availibility here, less people would be able to purchase items created/built in the USA so our economy could actually suffer.

    Also, there is always going to be places on the planet where cheaper labour is available, next stop Africa and look at the size and pop. of that country, even if there are unstable regions there are plenty who would be willing to work for corp. America.

    And the other issue, these countries need our patronage, I know there is a lot to improve on regarding these sweatshops, don't get me wrong, but I think that the majority of people are only too grateful to have a job. Just like the rest of the planet you would rather have a job and be able to pay your bills than not, sometimes regardless of how crappy that job is.

    Ok, I know I am going out on a limb here and playing devil's adocate but there is something to be said for outsourcing.

    Have a lovely day, T. :)

  8. great post! i'm a supporter of labor unions and feel that the better living and working conditions everybody has, the world will be a better place. not sure though that positive strides by unions can keep up with the ever increasing supply of labor, as populations continue to boom.

  9. I too am really mixed on this topic. On the one hand I think all people should be paid a fair wage for the hard work they do and no establishment should take advantage of cheap labor just to get product on their shelves and out the door. But then on the other hand fair is relative.

    Matt makes our only stable income in our family (I do make money but its spotty at best so unreliable to count on as stable all year). We are planning, as you know, to move to a different area of the country later this year and the number one reason is that his income will be like a million dollars to us there. Here in the northeast we barely afford to scrape by every month and, yes, we shop at Wally World for the bulk of the items that come into our house from groceries to health and beauty products. If we relied on local grocers and shop keepers we wouldn't be able to pay the small number of bills we have. Especially rent. And any dreams to own a home are right out the window here, even if I were to go out and get a full time job making the same as him we'd be hard pressed to be approved for a loan. That is something I find so sad considering where we want to be in the southwest we could afford a very nice and modern home on his wages.

    I hate the double edged sword that cost of living seems to create. Although I totally know & understand that we are a heck of a lot better off than many of these sweatshop workers are, financially speaking anyway.

  10. There have been lots of anti-Wall-Mart protests here from Vancouver-ites. I think after many years, though, they managed to creep in to the outskirts of town. I refuse to shop there myself, but I must admit, that it is easier to avoid when living in a big city.

  11. Sweatshops and outsourcing keep Americans in a cycle of poverty, it's no wonder so many of us have a hard time affording the basic cost of living (or finding a job.)

    The only way to stop this is to get informed and be smarter consumers. Even if you lack money, you can probably keep a vegetable garden/indoor veggie garden (or get free produce from a friend's), buy local whenever possible (supporting local businesses is also a great way to build business ties and connections, making you less likely to be unemployed), and buy second-hand goods (big corporations that outsource or use sweat shops don't make profits from resold goods, and thrift store jobs cannot be outsourced.)

    Even in the cases where big corporations such as WalMart are the "only shop in town," you can limit your purchases there. Walmart's primary products, such as clothes and toys, are readily available at most thrift stores. And while there are products you just have to buy new, or can't resist getting, not all products fall into that catagory.

    Plus, there are so many things we can do ourselves... (like knitting, cooking, building, etc), and have just forgotten how to in our rush to consume.

    Also, some of us consume because we are unhappy where we are, and buying more crap is not going to change that... but the more new skills you learn, and the more you help out your community by supporting your own beliefs, the better you will feel.

    Great article, by the way. Keep on beading :)


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