Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Australia in recent years, you will have noticed that the price of clothing has dropped dramatically.
Stores like Target, Kmart, Rivers, Cotton On, Coles and Big W have always sold cheaper clothing as opposed to other retailers such as David Jones and Myer. However even for their cheaper prices, in recent times their prices have gone even lower. It’s possible now to buy a T-shirt for a few measly dollars.
Interestingly, I cleaned out my wardrobe last Christmas, donating four large bags of good quality clothing that no longer fitted me, to charity. When I was in the charity store, I noticed that they were selling second hand clothing for $10/piece. Which, was way more expensive than going to Coles and picking up a Mix branded, brand new T-shirt. I discussed this with my mother and we both agreed that the people who would normally shop in charity stores, would understandably be more likely to go to Coles now to get something fashionable and brand new.
Earlier this year, an eight storey clothing factory collapsed in Bangladesh. Over 1000 workers were killed. When I heard of this occurring, I remembered the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire where 146 people perished and 71 were injured as a direct result of appalling working conditions. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire happened in the midst of a major unionisation movement and led to the improvement of conditions and allowed the growth of the unionisation of the workers to enforce safe working conditions and reasonable working conditions.
While we in the West have been working in safe conditions, thanks to the brave women and men who died at work and fought ever so tirelessly for workplace safety during the industrialisation of our society, there has been up until very recently, a largely ignored population of workers who are suffering the conditions that our ancestors did one hundred years ago.
On 24 April 2013, horrific news broke out of Bangladesh. A garment factory, named Rana Plaza where thousands of people worked making clothes for multi-national companies, collapsed killing 1,127 people, with approximately 2,500 people injured and many unaccounted for.
This tragedy brought to our attention, exactly what is going on and where our cheap clothes really come from.
The sheer number of people who died, for me is unfathomable. I don’t think there are 1,500 employees at my work. Or if there are that many, the number wouldn’t be far above 1,500. To think then that another 2,500 were injured and then there are many more unaccounted for, is just horrific.
If you have an hour, I urge you to click on the link below and watch the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s episode of 4 Corners
The next thing for you to consider, is where exactly your clothes come from. I did look through my wardrobe today. I can honestly say that in the last two years, I’ve bought clothes mainly from Target, Big W, Rivers and Kmart. For myself and my Missy. I’m not made of money, so when I see something for $10 over the equivalent for $40, of course I pick the $10 option. Also, I compare the quality of the fabric and often there’s no difference, so I choose the cheaper option, naturally.
Seeing the ‘Made in Bangladesh’ labels on my clothes made my heart sink. Here I am perpetuating an industry that treats workers like nothing more than cogs in an engine. Churning out more and more for less and less.
Another report on the ABC’s programme, The Roast compared these garment factory workers, to battery hens.
And they’re absolutely right! Here we are, happily paying a few extra dollars to buy a dozen eggs that have been procured in an ethical environment for our chooks, but happily allowing the continuing plight of the most vulnerable people in the globalisation food chain.
If you click here you’ll be taken to a website that lists companies that allegedly source their labour and products ethically. Two that stand out though, are Rivers and Cotton On which were two of the companies named in the 4 Corners story. So I’m not sure of the veracity of the web page. It may be outdated information.
As I post here today, I’m making a public declaration to shop ethically. I know that by taking my business elsewhere, I’m potentially cutting off the thousands of oppressed Bangladeshi workers who rely on the garment factories to survive, however I cannot willingly support the system.
This is what cheap clothes look like to us
This is what cheap clothes look like to them
They need us in the West to take a stand and say that we will not allow our fellow men and women (and even children) to be literal slaves to an industry for pittance.
It’s your turn now, are you with me?