Garment factory collapse in Bangladesh

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Garment factory collapse in Bangladesh

40 found alive in deadly Bangladesh building collapse

Deep cracks visible in the walls of a Bangladesh garment building had compelled police to order it evacuated a day before it collapsed, officials said Thursday, but factories based there ignored the order and kept more than 2,000 people working.

Wednesday's disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar is the worst ever for Bangladesh's booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire less than five months earlier that killed 112 people. Workers at both sites made clothes for major brands around the world; some of the companies in the building that fell say their customers include retail giants such as Wal-Mart.

Joe Fresh, a Canadian company owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd., issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon confirming that "a small number" of Joe Fresh-branded products were manufactured at the complex.

 

Different Places Have Different Safety Rules and That's OK

It's very plausible that one reason American workplaces have gotten safer over the decades is that we now tend to outsource a lot of factory-explosion-risk to places like Bangladesh where 87 people just died in a building collapse.* This kind of consideration leads Erik Loomis to the conclusion that we need a unified global standard for safety, by which he does not mean that Bangladeshi levels of workplace safety should be implemented in the United States.

I think that's wrong. Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it's entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.

The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good. Jobs that are unusually dangerous—in the contemporary United States that's primarily fishing, logging, and trucking—pay a premium over other working-class occupations precisely because people are reluctant to risk death or maiming at work. And in a free society it's good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum.

Does Matthew Yglesias Enjoy Murder?

A fairly open-and-shut case of criminal negligence, inflicted on a horrifying scale against hundreds of the most vulnerable people on Earth—all of them impoverished, half of them women, and at least some of them children, crushed in day-care centers on the building's ground floor. The crooked owner, Sohel, had flouted the law over the past five years by illegally adding three stories on top of the building, likely causing the cracks. In contravention of the law, the sweatshop foremen coerced hundreds of people fearful of losing their jobs into dying instead.

I would call that murder. Matt Yglesias calls it "entirely appropriate."

In classic "Slate contrarian" form, Yglesias is committed, in his bland way, to discern a moral from this exploitation. Matt doesn't see the need for a global standard of workplace safety. Pish-posh! He sets the fools straight: in America, dangerous jobs, like "fishing, logging, and trucking... pay a premium over other working-class occupations." That's why Americans commonly say phrases like, "I'm as rich as a fisherman!" or, when you see a man in a suit flash a wad of cash, say, "Hey, Mr. Rockefeller, what are you, some kinda long-haul trucker?"

The suggestion of structural economic inequality and exploitation in America is settled. In Bangladesh, it is very different. Why? No one is quite sure. Yglesias obviously feels no need to cite any information about Bangladesh; George Harrison did a nice concert for them once, and I think it was in one of the Roger Moore "Bond" movies. In Bangladesh, a country of non-English speaking chattel, "There are very good reasons for Bangladeshi people to make different choices in this regard than Americans." Whereas the American truck driver's choice is usually between red or white wine with foie gras, Bangladeshis must choose between being fired from their $38 per month jobs, or entering a building that will collapse and kill them. There are very good reasons to make these choices, as Yglesias points out.

Imposing American rules like, "Pajamas cannot be made inside collapsing buildings," might be "unnecessarily immiserating." Apparently being forced to die stitching Matt's "Punisher" tees for pennies a day isn't immiserating in the slightest. Matt knows on which side his bread is buttered. Bangladeshi standards "would be far too flimsy for the richer and more risk-averse United States." Since rich people are our precious resources, we would not want any buildings falling on them. That shit eventuates elsewhere.

Gilded Age Conceptions Of Labor Contracts: Wrong Then, Wrong Now

I don’t see who’s making the “choice” to ignore the basic safety of workers except for the rapacious employer and, by extension, the companies using his exploitative services while looking the other way. This certainly wasn’t the choice of the Bangladeshi state, since the practices of the factory that lead to the deadly collapse were illegal. The workers made a “choice” put their lives at risk in conditions that were known to be appallingly unsafe only according to the kind of logic that led hack Gilded Age jurists to conclude that minimum wage and maximum hours violated the due process rights of not only employers but of workers. The argument for greater intervention on the part of richer liberal democracies to enforce tougher labor standards is not an argument that we should be imposing “our” values on Bangladeshi citizens who don’t value worker safety the way we do. It’s argument that we should be using the greater enforcement capacity and leverage of richer liberal democratic states to enforce values that all evidence suggests are shared between richer and poorer nations. (Hobbes didn’t have an explicit section in Leviathan that we have a universal shared interest in not being crushed by collapsing building so that a well-connected scumbag could employ more people in his sweatshop and American retailers could save a few pennies a unit, but I think his general logic applies here.)

Peace and courage to the workers and their families.

Issues Pages: 
lagatta

Horrible. Another: http://www.industriall-union.org/bangladeshi-garment-workers-crushed-to-...

Someone has to organise actions for accountability here outside Joe Fresh outlets. Their Montréal flagship shop is located at the historic Park-Extension Railway Station, next to the Loblaws, ironically in a neighbourhood where there are many people from South Asian countries.

Mikal Sergov

The solution is to return a garment industry to Canada by raising import taxes on foreign-made clothing.

lagatta

Yes, but we are still responsible for our fellow workers in Bangladesh who have been making our clothing in substandard, extremely dangerous conditions. This might be the worst workplace accident in the garment industry ever- the death toll already exceeds the historic Triangle factory fire and the very similar disaster in a Thai factory, about a decade ago if I recall, where like their fellow workers, immigrants in NYC at the dawn of the 20th century, the young Thai women workers were locked in.

In this case the workers were ordered back into the factory upon pain of sacking, despite the menacing cracks appearing in the crappy cement (not concrete) the building was made of.

Slumberjack

Quote:
Workers at both sites made clothes for major brands around the world; some of the companies in the building that fell say their customers include retail giants such as Wal-Mart. Joe Fresh, a Canadian company owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd., issued a statement on Wednesday confirming that "a small number" of Joe Fresh-branded products were manufactured at the complex.  "We will be working with our vendor to understand how we may be able to assist them during this time," said the statement, which was attributed to vice-president of public relations Julija Hunter.  Hunter said that Loblaws Inc. has "robust vendor standards to ensure that products are manufactured in a socially responsible way, ensuring a safe and sustainable work environment."

The police won't be going after terrorist organizations such as Walmart and Loblaws anytime soon.

 

onlinediscountanvils

Quote:
Thousands of garment factory workers in Bangladesh have protested for the second day over the deaths of more than 300 workers in a building collapse, even as rescuers struggled to pull out hundreds of survivors believed to be still trapped inside the rubble.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday as protesters attacked factories and smashed vehicles, forcing many garment factories to shut down operations.

"The situation is very volatile. Hundreds of thousands of workers have joined the protests. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them," M Asaduzzaman, an officer in the police control room, told the AFP news agency.

He said some of the protesters were armed with bamboo sticks and their actions had forced factories at Gazipur, just outside the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, to close for the day.

Mustafizur Rahman, the deputy police chief of Gazipur, said workers had attacked factories, smashed vehicles, burnt tyres on the roads and tried to torch roadside shops on the sidelines of the rally.

"They are demanding the arrest and execution of the owners of the factories and the collapsed building at Savar," he told AFP.

Quote:
Widespread anger has been fuelled by revelations that factory bosses forced the 3,000-strong work force to return to the building on Wednesday despite cracks appearing in the building the day before.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/04/201342551752488588.html

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them

Cowards. Villains.

Bacchus

I wouldnt be all that upset if the owners were lynched. And Im usually against such things

Unionist

I haven't been able to post about this horror. Maybe later, or tomorrow.

lagatta

I understand. My eyes are welling up with tears. Alas I don't read Bengali so I can't read the poems being written about each terrible loss, so much like the poems written in Yiddish, Italian and English for the Triangle workers over 100 years ago, and no doubt in Thai and many other languages for workers tied to their posts not only by hunger and wanting a better life for themselves and their families, but even physically, by locked doors and threats. I'm just overcome with grief and anger.

To top it off, 28 April is the International Workers' Memorial Day, also called Day of Mourning and several other names, commemorating dead, injured and work-sickened workers the world over. It was originally a Canadian holiday, by the way.

http://www.ituc-csi.org/april-28-health-and-safety-at-work?lang=en (also exists in French and Spanish).

We also have to think what we can do. I cycled to the Joe Fresh nearby, and kept reading tags. Yes, Bangladesh, but also Cambodia, China of course, other low-wage countries... No, I didn't buy anything. Would so like to stage a symbolic action, calling for accountablity.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Don't forget Honduras which is one of the favourite countries for Canadian corporations and one that we have a "free trade" agreement with.  It appears to have been a bone given to the fascists who seized power after the government had the audacity to raise the minimum wage for workers in Canadian sweat shops.

lagatta

You are right.

There are also a lot of sweatshops in Haiti now. Here is a rabble blogpost on sweatshop labour in this much closer country:

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/roger-annis/2013/04/hard-days-labor-476-...

I'd like to find out more about the sweatshop situation in Honduras.

Recent South Asian garment disasters - a couple of the largest ones, from Wikipedia, "List of industrial disasters".

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Haiti is closer to Quebec but Honduras is closer to BC.  Honduras is a country where our corporations are the lead exploiters often even outdoing American firms. Our BC mining companies are among the most murderous operating in Honduras.

Haiti and Honduras are both countries where our government has been complicit in helping fascists during their coup d'etats.

Here are some links I could find about the situation in a country where Canadian corporations are responsible for the oppression.

Quote:

Supporting a Coup, Again

The military removal of Zelaya was the second successful coup in the hemisphere since Peruvian leader Alberto Fujimori's autogolpe in 1992 (for background on the Honduran coup see Greg Grandin's articles at www.thenation.com and my article "Acceptable Versus Unacceptable Repression"). The first successful one was the 2004 overthrow of Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which Canada also supported diplomatically, economically and militarily (that's Canada's “whole of government” approach to foreign policy in action for you). This makes Canada two for two in successful coup support so far this century (and we're only a decade in!).

Of course, the Canadian state hasn't come out and said “we support the coup,” and nor should we expect it to. But it has ignored the well-documented repression meted out against the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (“Frente”). It also argued against Zelaya's return from exile before he snuck back into the country only to be holed up in the Brazilian embassy. It then criticized him for returning. Canada, along with its American counterparts, pushed the San José-Tegucigalpa Accord, which was signed by Zelaya and the coup forces and allowed for the ousted president's return to office. But the return to office was on terms that would've effectively made him little more than a figurehead president unable to pursue his reform agenda had the coup forces actually followed through with the agreement, which they didn't. That reform agenda was in fact fairly moderate. It did include, though, a proposed vote the day of the coup on whether to proceed with a referendum during presidential elections on establishing a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. The prospect of constitutional reform was the final straw for the country's oligarchy and was consistently misrepresented by international media as a power grab.

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/honduras-archives-46/2930-military-coups...

http://www.waronwant.org/overseas-work/sweatshops-and-plantations/women-...

http://www.miningwatch.ca/blog/honduran-congress-consults-canadian-gover...

http://hondurashumanrights.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/sweatshops-mining-to...

 

flymeetointment

Does it matter that Honduras "is closer to BC"? What the fuck is the matter with you and your BC centric posts. WHO FUCKING CARES IF YOUR FROM BC.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

So Fly tell us what you think about an issue. The invective and venom is not impressing anyone.

How about discussing sweatshops in Bangladesh or other countries making clothes for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

lagatta

kropotkin, I meant that Haiti was a much closer country than Bangladesh, not than Honduras, which is in Central America and thus, once you are on a plane, not a lot farther than any Caribbean country from anywhere in Canada.

Krop has every right to write about where he lives. What an odd, aggressive post, fly.

Thanks for the stuff about sweatshops there; I was well-informed about the coup, but didn't realize the extent of Canadian involvement in exploiting Honduran labour.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Yes Haiti is much closer than Bangladesh and my understanding is that given its French language it has close connections with Quebec.  As a country we have much to be ashamed of when it comes to our corporate board rooms. In many communities in the world Canada is becoming an example of the worst kind of exploiters.  BC is still closer to Quebec in all respects despite geography. 

6079_Smith_W

I assume the situation was only made worse when cotton prices spiked several years ago. Fabric from Pakistan, China, Mexico and similar countries is a lot more expensive now than it was in 2008. I know people who have gotten out of textiles altogether because the margins are so bad. And sadly, it's not that easy to find a good, economical supply of fabrics like hemp and bamboo.

Though as this page points out, cotton prices are still well below what they were in the 80s, and I seriously doubt manufacturers used the previous slump to make things better for their workers:

http://fairtrade.ca/en/products/cotton

 

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Here is a good article on the Bangladesh garment trade. This is reality of our globalized trade regime that lets companies in our country and other countries point to sub contractors as the problem.  I looked at a Joe Fresh press release and it blamed the sub contractors and assured the world that Loblaws Inc. did not know anything about the conditions.

Quote:

These Bangladesh factories are a part of the landscape of globalization that is mimicked in the factories along the US-Mexico border, in Haiti, in Sri Lanka, and in other places that opened their doors to the garment industry’s savvy use of the new manufacturing and trade order of the 1990s. Subdued countries that had neither the patriotic will to fight for their citizens nor any concern for the long-term debilitation of their social order rushed to welcome garment production. The big garment producers no longer wanted to invest in factories – they turned to sub-contractors, offering them very narrow margins for profit and thereby forcing them to run their factories like prison-houses of labour. The sub-contracting regime allowed these firms to deny any culpability for what was done by the actual owners of these small factories, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the cheap products without having their consciences stained with the sweat and blood of the workers. It also allowed the consumers in the Atlantic world to buy vast amount of commodities, often with debt-financed consumption, without concern for the methods of production. An occasionally outburst of liberal sentiment turned against this or that company, but there was no overall appreciation of the way the Wal-Mart type of commodity chain made normal the sorts of business practices that occasioned this or that campaign.

...

Attempts to shift the needle of exploitation have been thwarted by concerted government pressure and the advantages of assassination. Whatever decent lurks in Bangladesh’s Labour Act is eclipsed by weak enforcement by the Ministry of Labour’s Inspections Department. There are only eighteen inspectors and assistant inspectors to monitor 100,000 factories in the Dhaka area, where most of the garment factories are located. If an infraction is detected, the fines are too low to generate any reforms. When workers try to form unions, the harsh response from the management is sufficient to curtail their efforts. Management prefers the anarchic outbreaks of violence to the steady consolidation of worker power. In fact, the violence led the Bangladeshi government to create a Crisis Management Cell and an Industrial Police not to monitor violations of labour laws, but to spy on worker organisers. In April 2012, agents of capital kidnapped Aminul Islam, one of the key organisers of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. He was found dead a few days later, his body littered with the marks of torture.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/04/26/the-terror-of-capitalism/

mark_alfred

I used to use a shopping guide published by UNITE that listed which brands of clothing were Canadian and union made.  Levis, and Hathaway shirts, were two that I remember relying on.  But the guide disappeared, and Levis moved production to Mexico.  It's very difficult to find Canadian made clothing now.  In Toronto, if you buy in bulk, you can get clothing at http://cavanadv.com/  I bought a whack of T-shirts, golf-shirts, and sweat-shirts from here a while back.  Admittedly, I haven't been as rigorous as I once was in checking the labels and searching for Canadian made products (or American made in the case of running shoes -- just couldn't find Canuck running shoes).

Anyway, I think the idea of consumers having to police their own purchases is misguided.  Proper government regulation of the clothing industry (and of trade) should be the approach.  Standards should be set.  A CBC article touched upon this:

Quote:

Osmud Rahman, a professor at the Ryerson School of Fashion with an expertise in consumer behaviour, says that the average person doesn’t have enough information at hand about where, and how, their clothing is made.

He proposes a system like the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, for the garment industry. The ISO establishes standards for a wide range of consumer products and services, and Rahman says a similar system for clothing would help ethically minded consumers decide what to buy.

 

6079_Smith_W

mark_alfred wrote:

Anyway, I think the idea of consumers having to police their own purchases is misguided.  Proper government regulation of the clothing industry (and of trade) should be the approach.

I get what you're saying about government regulation, but I think people need to always pay attention to where they spend their money. It is at least as important as how we vote - probably more.

flymeetointment

6079_Smith_W wrote:

mark_alfred wrote:

Anyway, I think the idea of consumers having to police their own purchases is misguided.  Proper government regulation of the clothing industry (and of trade) should be the approach.

I get what you're saying about government regulation, but I think people need to always pay attention to where they spend their money. It is at least as important as how we vote - probably more.

Exactly, those low low prices aren`t just on the backs of employee wages, but the buidings they work in, the contactors hired to produce the building and the government who is "open for business". It all translates to north americans/europeans buying jeans for 19.99.

Michelle

On Metro Morning (CBC morning show in Toronto) either yesterday or the day before, they were interviewing Franco Mirabelli, a Canadian high end fashion designer who has all his clothing made in Canada, as a way of going in depth into this story and the story behind the cheap clothes in the chain stores.

So then the host asked him, "What do your clothes cost?"  And the answer was something like, a jacket costs $350, and a pair of dress pants costs between $150-250.  Interview is here.  When it was mentioned that those prices are out of reach for a lot of people, Mirabelli replied that they're actually good prices when you compare them to the high end pret-a-porter and haute couture markets, where you can pay $1,000 or more for those items.

So that's wonderful - that interview gives people the impression that we have the choice of either paying $8 for a sweatshop made t-shirt in discount chains like Joe Fresh or Walmart or Old Navy, or we can spend thousands of dollars on a made-in-Canada wardrobe from Mirabelli (no word, of course, on whether the factory where his clothes are made in Canada is unionized or treats their employees well).  And shopping at more expensive retail clothing stores than Joe Fresh doesn't mean you get sweatshop free clothes - it just means you're paying a higher mark-up for sweatshop clothes.

And this, of course, assumes that the person buying the clothes has the right body type to even have a choice of stores at which to shop.  I checked out MEC, but their sizing is only for "normal" to somewhat overweight people.  (I put "normal" in quotes because in Canada, 60% of people are either overweight or obese, so actually, that is the norm, not "normal" BMI.)  American Apparel, while sweatshop free (although there are all sorts of labour issues with them, but at least you probably don't have to worry about them being crushed to death in a crumbling factory), tailors their clothes to "youthful figures" according to their website.

And if you need something other than "labour chic" man-tailored t-shirts that look like crap on most women (not to mention that lots of people need to buy business or business casual clothes for work), your choice is basically sweatshop stuff, sew your own (although the fabric is probably made in sweatshops or under poor labour conditions), get custom-tailored clothes which cost money that most people don't have (and again the fabric will likely have been made in a sweatshop), or buy extremely high end pret-a-porter stuff that the vast majority of people can't afford no matter what (and who knows where the fabric was made even if the clothes are sewn in Canada).  And heaven forbid your weight should fluctuate up or down if you go for one of the latter two options.

One of the problems, I think, is how MANY clothes people feel is "normal" to have in their wardrobe.  Is it "normal" to have 20 pairs of shoes, 10 pairs of jeans, 25 t-shirts, 15 pairs of shorts, 15 dresses, 10 handbags, etc.?  And to replace them constantly before they're worn out?  (Or to replace them constantly BECAUSE they wear out quickly because they're so cheaply made?)  I think in North America that IS "normal" for many (maybe most?) people, but it's nowhere near necessary.

lagatta

I have arthritis, so shoes are an expensive item. Alas, dependable German brands like Rohde and Rieker, and the British standard, Clarks, are usually no longer made in their home countries; at best, elsewhere in Europe, but often in China and other low-wage countries. And yes, the quality and legendary durability have suffered. I've had better luck with Josef Seibel (for shoes I can also wear for business-casual, when working at conferences). They are still made in Europe, but most in central or eastern Europe, rarely in Germany. At least they last for a long time and can be re-soled. I don't have many shoes.

The fairtrade type clothes are about the worst for only coming in very skimpy "junior" sizes. As in my skinny, size 5 to 7 friend takes a "Large".

Actually, Mirabelli's clothes do seem well-priced for their category, but that is really too high for most working women, unless they are really prepared to dress in the traditional Italian or French mode, saving up to buy a few "good" items and wearing them always, with different scarves and accessories. That kind of dressing was also seen in Central European countries, and the wearers often had very limited budgets. But it also required tailors and tailoring, services that are not nearly as prevalent now.

And as Michelle said, we know nothing about Mirabelli's workers' salaries, health and safety or general working conditions.

I'm absolutely the wrong build (at any weight I might be) for men's t-shirts!

6079_Smith_W

#

lagatta

That was cryptic!

mark_alfred

Michelle wrote:

So that's wonderful - that interview gives people the impression that we have the choice of either paying $8 for a sweatshop made t-shirt in discount chains like Joe Fresh or Walmart or Old Navy, or we can spend thousands of dollars on a made-in-Canada wardrobe from Mirabelli (no word, of course, on whether the factory where his clothes are made in Canada is unionized or treats their employees well).  And shopping at more expensive retail clothing stores than Joe Fresh doesn't mean you get sweatshop free clothes - it just means you're paying a higher mark-up for sweatshop clothes.

I agree.  There's an impression that to make clothing in Canada means it will have a prohibitively high price.  Yet, only twenty or thirty years ago, most items were made in Canada.  And these were the cheap items.  Back then, it was common to refer to "high-end imports", or, regarding dishes, "fancy china" (rather than crappy domestics).  Now, when I ask sales people where I can buy made in Canada goods (particularly clothing), they look at me like I'm crazy, and make bizarre statements like, "if it was made in Canada than it would cost $4000.00 rather than $200.00."  I suspect the fact is that much of the clothing has shifted hands so many times that the end price doesn't see much (if any) of a cost savings at all to the final consumer (IE, there are numerous middle-people).

The T-shirts I got from Cavan Advertising (a company that typically supplies many unions with Canadian and union made clothing in Toronto) were $7 each, while golf shirts were $12 and sweatshirts $15 -- and that was only a few years ago (I still have most of those shirts).  Granted, at Honest Eds I can get T-shirts for less, but the price difference isn't that huge.  And similar golf shirts in the Bay go for far more.

mark_alfred

flymeetointment wrote:

6079_Smith_W wrote:

mark_alfred wrote:

Anyway, I think the idea of consumers having to police their own purchases is misguided.  Proper government regulation of the clothing industry (and of trade) should be the approach.

I get what you're saying about government regulation, but I think people need to always pay attention to where they spend their money. It is at least as important as how we vote - probably more.

Exactly, those low low prices aren`t just on the backs of employee wages, but the buidings they work in, the contactors hired to produce the building and the government who is "open for business". It all translates to north americans/europeans buying jeans for 19.99.

As I mentioned though, Levis (and other products associated with Levis, like Dockers) used to be largely made in Canada about ten years ago, and their pants were considered top of the line, and I could get them for between $20 to $40.  Their prices did not go down when they started to be produced in Mexico.  Admittedly, though, there are more options for very cheap clothing than there used to be.  But I do feel that prices haven't gone down as much as people like to believe.

Regarding consumer vigilance, I agree it's important to put pressure on government and companies.  I used to ask the clerks for sourcing policies (and some, like the Bay, did oblige me).  But bothering sales clerks seems misplaced.

To buy shoes, I used to purchase "sweat-free" shoes (which looked like Converse) via an online service (I think sweatfree.org, or something).  These were like $45 (a bit more expensive than you can find here, but not much).  However, they went out of business.  For a while there was an anti-sweatshop movement going, but it never caught on like fair-trade or organic foodstuff (which, while having some success, is still an exception rather than the norm).

I believe years ago (before my time) when people bought food, they would actually not know what they were getting.  For instance, something labelled as peanut butter might not contain any peanuts, but rather industrial lard and chemicals.  Laws were put in place to ensure proper standards of labelling of foodstuff (IE, to claim to be peanut butter, it had to contain a certain proportion of actual peanuts).  Laws and standards such as this for the garment industry are what is needed.

Bacchus
pookie

I agree with what lagatta referenced.  Part of the answer is to own fewer, but better made, clothes.  If you only have 2-3 nice outfits, then Mirabelli's costs aren't really prohibitive.  They may well last longer too.

Tommy_Paine

I don't think it's a matter of cheap clothes as much as manufacturers and retailers maximizing profits.  They'll charge what they feel their market will bare, whether that market is Giant Tiger or The Bay, or some Boutique in some retail area of Toronto that I don't know of but sells to the high end. (Hence me not having the name of a high end store to use)

I will confess.

After going two years without sneakers, I bought  a pair last week from Wallmart.

I really detest buying stuff from Wallmart.  I think in the last ten years, I might have done maybe $100.00 worth of business with them.

Sneakers have been driving me crazy lately.  I wanted a decentish pair.   But we all know what's going on here with sneakers.  They are universally made by sweat shop labour.  But sneakers that retail for $80.00 here in Canada go for $40.00 or less in the States.  In either case, the amount of labour to make a pair of sneakers is measured not in dollars, but in pennies.

This isn't about Canadian workers demanding too much in wages, forcing a high price.  It's about maximizing the return.  Manufacturing on sneakers and other items were moved off shore because the people who owned the manufacturing wanted a higher return on their investment.  It's not like they can't make affordable clothes and sneakers here and still make a good return.

It's about owning a Ferrari instead of a lowly Boxter.

So they take advantage of the low wages and insulate themselves from health and safety liabilities by contracting with criminals.

Maybe I should hire shoplifters to do my shoping at Loblaws.

Slumberjack

Exactly.  What these crime syndicates that call themselves corporations have done is to remove all moral considerations from the activity of shoplifting.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

I've heard that some factories sell the same garments to multiple retailers, who then put their respective tags on them and sell them at different prices. So you might get the same t-shirts selling for one price at The Bay, and a cheaper price at Joe Fresh. Only difference being the tag and the price.

Has anyone else noticed that a lot more companies are skimping on the thread count in their shirts? Seems to me that a lot of companies are using a thread count that's a lot thinner than what it was even a decade ago.

 

Mr.Tea

mark_alfred wrote:

As I mentioned though, Levis (and other products associated with Levis, like Dockers) used to be largely made in Canada about ten years ago, and their pants were considered top of the line, and I could get them for between $20 to $40.  Their prices did not go down when they started to be produced in Mexico.  Admittedly, though, there are more options for very cheap clothing than there used to be.  But I do feel that prices haven't gone down as much as people like to believe.

Some Levi's jeans are still made in America. The pair I'm wearing right now were made in North Carolina. True Religion brand jeans are also made in America. For t-shirts, underwear, etc. I like to buy American Apparel which are made in Los Angeles and for shoes, New Balance are made in Maine. It's quite possible (in most cases) to buy clothing not made in sweatshops, especially with all of that information available right in the palm of your hand. Yes, you may pay a little bit more but, in my experience, not all that much more.

mark_alfred

Tommy_Paine wrote:

Sneakers have been driving me crazy lately.  I wanted a decentish pair.   But we all know what's going on here with sneakers.  They are universally made by sweat shop labour.  But sneakers that retail for $80.00 here in Canada go for $40.00 or less in the States.  In either case, the amount of labour to make a pair of sneakers is measured not in dollars, but in pennies.

New Balance makes some of their sneakers in the USA.  link1 link2  You just need to check the labels when shopping.  Most are made overseas, some are made in the USA, while others are assembled in the USA.  Again, best to check the labels.

The other option is to get used sneakers at a Salvation Army or a Goodwill store.  If you shop around enough, you should be able to find a suitable pair without resorting to WalMart.

It's too bad that no sweat apparel has discontinued.  It was a good place to get cheap union-made sneakers.  But to avoid direct involvement with sweatshops, the two options I've laid out above are good.

mark_alfred

Mr.Tea wrote:

mark_alfred wrote:

As I mentioned though, Levis (and other products associated with Levis, like Dockers) used to be largely made in Canada about ten years ago, and their pants were considered top of the line, and I could get them for between $20 to $40.  Their prices did not go down when they started to be produced in Mexico.  Admittedly, though, there are more options for very cheap clothing than there used to be.  But I do feel that prices haven't gone down as much as people like to believe.

Some Levi's jeans are still made in America. The pair I'm wearing right now were made in North Carolina. True Religion brand jeans are also made in America. For t-shirts, underwear, etc. I like to buy American Apparel which are made in Los Angeles and for shoes, New Balance are made in Maine. It's quite possible (in most cases) to buy clothing not made in sweatshops, especially with all of that information available right in the palm of your hand. Yes, you may pay a little bit more but, in my experience, not all that much more.

I used to really focus on buying stuff that was made in Canada (or, if not available, then at least made somewhere that indicated a greater probability for decent worker's rights).  But I do think that fighting abuse of workers' rights should not lie on the individual consumer.  It should lie collectively on the population as a whole, and as citizens, we should pressure government to make regulations prohibiting big business from profiting from sweatshop labour in either domestically produced or foreign imported products.  The option to buy sweatshop produced goods simply should not exist.  This should not be allowed as even a choice.  So, I'm going to start writing the government to make these demands.

onlinediscountanvils

Slumberjack wrote:
Exactly.  What these crime syndicates that call themselves corporations have done is to remove all moral considerations from the activity of shoplifting.

[url=http://m.vice.com/en_ca/read/inside-barcelonas-political-shoplifting-mov...

 

Mr.Tea wrote:
New Balance are made in Maine. It's quite possible (in most cases) to buy clothing not made in sweatshops

I started wearing NB years ago, in part because they were the only major running shoe company that was still manufacturing in the U.S. But over the years, they've been getting away from that. My two current pairs were made in Indonesia and China. Finding something that was (presumably) not made in a sweatshop was always as big of a priority for me as finding the right fit. But I noticed that was becoming harder and harder, so I finally asked someone at the store about it. I was told that even when the label says 'Manufactured in the U.S.A.', it doesn't necessarily mean as much as you might think. The individual panels and components are almost always stitched together and then imported to the U.S., where they only put the finishing touches on the shoe.

[cross-posted with mark_alfred]

Mr.Tea

It's also worth pointing out that there was lobbying done back in the day by Jack Abramoff (who since went to prison on corruption and bribery charges) on behalf of the Marianas Islands, which are technically a U.S. territory but where U.S. labour laws do not apply. He successfully lobbied for them to be able to include "Made in USA" on products made there even though the sweatshops are as bad as you'd find elsewhere

lagatta

I was very lucky to buy a pair of Josef Seibel Caspian leather sneakers for $25, because a shoe store I patronise was moving and clearing out a lot of stock! http://video.onlineshoes.com/v/22407/women-josef-seibel-caspian-casual-s... Normally those are at least $125. They are extremely comfy for walking (I have arthritis) and cute enough to wear with a casual skirt as well as with jeans.

I'll definitely buy another pair, hoping to get them at least a bit marked down. Yes, that is a serious price tag, but I don't have the choice for shoes.

This is a German company, and until recently their shoes were all made in Germany or Austria, but now many are made in Central and Eastern Europe, but I believe the working conditions are decent, although obviously the wages are lower than in Germany.

Also agree with mark_alfred that sweatshop clothing should simply not be for sale, no more than tainted food, but we'll have to press for that. Hell, even the risk of tainted and adulterated food is much higher now with the cuts in food inspections.

mark_alfred

Okay, so I finally got around to writing a letter to the Prime Minister.  I'll also send it to my MP and to the leader of the Opposition (via Canada Post -- free postage to MPs.)

 

Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

 I found the recent news of a Bangladesh garment factory building that collapsed and killed many of the workers there quite disturbing. Apparently this garment building was a catastrophe just waiting to happen. And apparently this garment factory supplied some major clothing chains here in Canada.

 I would like to see regulations prohibiting big business from profiting from sweatshop labour in either domestically produced or foreign imported products.  The option to buy sweatshop produced goods simply should not exist.  This should not be allowed as even a choice to Canadian consumers. If labour standards of imported goods cannot equal the bare minimum of acceptable work standards, which it seems clear that conditions in this garment factory did not, then no corporation or business entity should be allowed to import and sell those items here. So please write me and tell me how this government plans to address this situation.

 Sincerely,

Mark

 

I've decided that the onus for change should be on big business and government, not on me (or other individuals) to search for sweatshop free goods.  So, I'll continue shopping wherever the hell I feel like, while continuing to demand action of the government.

PS, in writing Mulcair I changed the last line to "So please write me and tell me how your party plans to push this government to address this situation."

PPS, the address for all House of Commons members is:

House of Commons

Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

onlinediscountanvils

Maquila Solidarity Network: [url=http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/node/1123]What you can do about the deadly factory collapse in Bangladesh[/url]

milo204

The worst part is that when you ask people if they care that their shopping habits support this kind of thing the response is "i don't care as long as it's cheap"....in other words, like most things, the problem is capitalism.  same with the "foreign temp worker" program and "intra company transfers"....this system is killing us, yet no one wants to blame the system...

...if only some really smart organizers that can connect to the mainstream society got to work on this...

 

mark_alfred

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

Maquila Solidarity Network: [url=http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/node/1123]What you can do about the deadly factory collapse in Bangladesh[/url]

Excellent.  Thanks.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Loblaw to compensate victims of Bangladesh collapse

Fuck. You.

Harjap Grewal, on facebook wrote:
This image from Dhaka/Savar reminds me of the iconic photo of a baby after the Bhopal Gas Disaster. It is heartbreaking, deeply painful and yet another symbol of how those at the complete mercy of global finance, imperialism and colonialism continue to suffer in the worst possible way. If you tend to dismiss people as being "divisive" or "too ideological" when they talk about capitalism, please remember what it does. This is not the result of "culture" or one bad manager. This is the result of constantly needing to drive down costs by any and all means in order to increase profits because corporations are legally obligated to do so in the interest of their share holders. The root causes - something that the Harper Government is clear they don't want to hear about - are surprisingly not considered by many people working on "winnable" campaign. They really should not be ignored. Regulation won't eliminate the root causes. Corporate responsibility won't eliminate the root causes. Social democrats aren't interested in eliminating the root causes. Revolutionary anti-capitalist struggle exists for a reason. From Bhopal to Dhaka we will always remember.

lagatta

By the way, Mexico is in North America.

Fidel

Socialismo O Muerte!

[url=The">http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-bangladesh-factory-collapse-the-global-... Bangladesh Factory Collapse, The Global Cheap Labor Economy, Wages at a Dollar a Day[/url]

Quote:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina put the rescue operation on a “war footing” and dispatched troops and police, including units of the notorious Rapid Action Battalion—in order to suppress the anger of workers. Hundreds of thousands of garment workers took to the streets of Dhaka and nearby industrial areas on Thursday and Friday. ...

The global retail giants have gone into well-practised damage control—a few crocodile tears, and, where possible, denials of any involvement, or current involvement, with the particular suppliers in the Rana Plaza complex, followed by empty promises to improve conditions in the future. Labels for the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, the Spanish chain El Corte Ingles and PC Penney have been found in the rubble. Web sites for the factories in the building indicate that they also supplied Germany’s Kik, Belgium’s C&A, Benetton UK, Spain’s Mango, Canada’s Trimark and Premark in Ireland, to name a few.

These companies’ expressions of “shock” at the disaster are particularly cynical. All these corporations know very well the sweatshop conditions that are required to produce garments at the prices they demand. They operate through a complex system of middlemen and subcontractors to distance themselves from the actual production processes. Many have a system of factory audits, not to improve safety and conditions, but to provide a face-saving façade to protect their corporate images and brand names.

In the wake of the tragedy, governments, the media, trade unions and various NGOs declare, in one way or another, that something must be done and promote the illusion that the global corporations and Bangladeshi government can be pressured to improve safety and living standards for garment workers. The reality is the government will do nothing to jeopardise exports or profits. Amid the deepening breakdown of global capitalism, safety standards will worsen, not improve.

The reality is that nothing will be done about it. Neoliberal competitiveness for sweatshop economy is an open secret in all of the miserable third world capitalist countries.

In Cuba the kids are in school all day long not cutting cane under the tropical sun for the good of Bacardi shareholders, and they aren't stitching clothes together for Benetton or Trimark in ramshackle buildings unsafe for human occupation.

Viva la revolucion!

Michelle

Thanks for those links, ODA.  Messages sent.

lagatta

More on the mass murder and its impact on the surviving families and community:

Mass Murder at Savar: the stench of rotting corpses

http://www.newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2013-04-28&nid=47440#.UYFj4amIOX1

It is a horror story, but there are many tender touches in this account.

janfromthebruce

And just to show how much Trudeau Jr. is up with the Garment factory collapse in Bangladesh and Joe Fresh using such factories to sew their cheap clothing, we have a Canadian model showing off his latest purchase.

Kelly McParland: Cleverly subversive Liberal ad messes with Harper’s head

Yesterday the party released a video of Trudeau bragging about the money that’s been pouring in since he became leader.  The party was so eager to get it out that they didn’t give him time to get dressed, and he turns up in somebody’s front yard in his crumpled Saturday cargo pants and a green Joe Fresh T-shirt.

Trudeau is all about free trade and totally shows lack of awareness of sensitivity to workers in such recent international awareness to oppressive work and safety concerns in underdeveloped countries. Joe Fresh poster child - Liberal Style!

lagatta

Why the hell can't someone with his money buy more locally-sourced and (hopefully) sweatshop-free Ts? And cripes he isn't heavy, so doesn't have to deal with those going up only to a very skimpy size large.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I am not up on "fashion" maybe someone could explain to me how anyone knows that his t-shirt is from Joe-Fresh. He looks like he could have gone to the Bay or Eddie Bauer for the same clothes. I know the National Post writer said it but personally I don't really trust that source.

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