www.whyville.net Jan 31, 2003 Weekly Issue

Looking Behind the Label

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Looking Behind the Label

Times Writer

Jobs are a necessity in this world of ours, and are one of the only ways to earn an income to support families. Teenagers get to experience the hard work it takes to earn a dollar by getting various jobs where some "only" pay minimum wage. However, next time you want to complain about your job as a cashier at a local supermarket or rambling on about how tedious flipping burgers can be, think again.

Across the globe and even in North America, people are working in harsh environments for long hours a day with very, very low pay. Minimum wage is unheard of here. This is also known as a sweatshop. When many people think of a sweatshop, pictures of cramped, defiled, and dangerous places are conjured up inside their minds. Unfortunately, some of these images are correct.

In North America, immigrants are usually the ones who work endlessly in these environments. Young children and women endure long hours with little pay and no benefits. In the evenings, several of the workers who are employed in sweatshop factories must take more work home to make ends meet. Can you imagine having to work all throughout the day?

Of course, this is a violation of human rights. Even so, some big-name companies look for places all over the world where workers are paid the lowest wages, just so they can earn a higher profit. You may ask, which high-ranked businesses are involved with the promotion of sweatshops and violation of their workers? Nike, the Gap, and Abercomie & Fitch are just some examples of companies who hire individuals in overseas countries such as Indonesia who work for what would be considered as pennies in places such as North America.

This does not make any sense! The companies involved make millions of dollars annually, so why do they actively choose to exploit humans? Frankly, many clothing and retail companies are trying desperately to increase their profits and decrease the production costs, and they don't care about the dangers to their workers. It's all part of the budget. People who work for sweatshops must perform tasks that include handle heavy and dangerous machinery, work with toxic chemicals, and inhale fumes harmful to their systems. Flipping burgers seems mighty fine right know, don't you think?

Sadly, an organization known as UNITE (which stands for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) says that there are no *international* laws that make companies respect the rights of their workers and at least pay them a decent wage. Nevertheless, there is a way that your community can help in the fight against sweatshops. Consumers can start by demanding that retail companies stop using sweatshops to create their merchandise -- this means, write to the companies, and don't buy from them until they change their policies. You can join organizations such as "High-School Students Against Sweatshops", a group of teens dedicated to abolishing the promotion of sweatshops. If you are interested, try checking out their web site at www.uniteunion.org/sweatshops/hsas/hsas.html.

Must our society test its limits and go that far in human exploitation? Did you know that such a thing was occurring right under your nose? What other things can you think of which can help banish sweatshops from existence? If you have any ideas, express them!

Talk to your parents about what is going on because they, too, might not be aware. You can even go as far as letting your voice be known by writing to companies that support sweatshops or refusing to by their clothes. Indeed, perhaps Whyvillians could do something to show support, in Whyville.

Keeping you informed and up to date,


Work Cited

This website includes sites where you can learn about what students are doing to stop sweatshops.




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