Nearly a decade ago, the media were awash with stories tying Kathie Lee Gifford to sweatshops in Honduras. It seems she had endorsed a line of clothing sold at Walmart and, when it was discovered that Walmart outsourced the clothing manufacture to sweatshops using children, Kathie Lee was vilified. Walmart, on the other hand, emerged from the scandal unscathed.
Of course, much has changed since then. Such clothing lines are no longer made in Honduras. They are now outsourced to countries with even cheaper labor and even more deplorable working conditions…countries like Bangladesh where more than 1,100 recently died while working in an unsafe building.
But one thing hasn’t changed. The retailer, clothing brand and contractors are still held blameless for outsourcing their brands to sweatshops.
As long as they offer clothing at low prices, we simply shake our heads at such tragedies and continue to shop for the next bargain. It doesn’t matter that the clothing is as disposable as the workers forced to make it. All we really seem to care about is price. We’re seemingly unconcerned that adding a few pennies to the cost of a garment would improve working conditions. Likewise, we seem unconcerned that the owners of Walmart and other large retailers pressure manufacturers to continue to cut costs in order to line their own pockets with millions more.
This, of course, is a never-ending cycle.
As long as there are regions of desperate, impoverished people in the world, manufacturers and retailers will take advantage of them. And, as long as consumers reward those corporations by continuing to purchase their junk, the practice will continue.
The sad truth is that we’re all as responsible for the deaths of the workers in Bangladesh as the owner of the building and the brands being made there.