Look At The Label & Remember

Next time you see “Made in Bangladesh” on your clothing, remember this picture:

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This is the factory in Bangladesh which supposedly made clothing for Wal-mart, Dress Barn, Benetton, and others, where workers were ordered inside despite the sudden appearance of large cracks in the building, and a hundred or more died as a result:

The cracks that suddenly appeared on Tuesday afternoon in the Rana Plaza building were large enough to send workers fleeing into the street.

They made the television news that night, but the building’s owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, told reporters the sudden appearance of cracks was “nothing serious”.

He did not say that police had ordered him to shut the factory. Nor did he mention that the top four floors of the building, in Savar, north of Dhaka, were constructed illegally without permits.

I know the New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof has been trying to convince us that outsourcing our manufacturing to poverty-stricken countries like Bangladesh is a good thing because jobs and blah blah. Pretty sure he’s not saying such things with anything close to a straight face any more, though. As NPR notes:

The collapse comes just five months after 112 workers were killed in a fire in another apparel factory in Bangladesh that had supplied Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

I’d like steal a phrase (and documentary title) and say this is the high cost of those low prices. But actually, it’s not even low prices anymore; Benetton ain’t cheap. I’ve seen “Made in Bangladesh” on clothes I’ve purchased at higher-end stores, too. This seems to be “the way it’s done” these days. Clothing manufacturing has been outsourced to desperately poor countries where people work in Triangle Shirt Waist Factory conditions. I certainly didn’t ask for that, and I have no control over it. Even if I don’t buy a $10 T-shirt from CostCo, my clothes are still made overseas under specious conditions. At least if they were made in the U.S. I’d have some, tiny shred of confidence that the workers weren’t abused in the process (though the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion has even put that to the test). It’s damn hard to avoid it.

I really don’t want people dying to make my stuff. I don’t get why that’s so hard for Wal-mart and Dress Barn and Macy’s and The Gap and everyone else to understand.

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10 Comments

Filed under corporations, globalization, outsourcing, poverty

10 responses to “Look At The Label & Remember

  1. greennotGreen

    Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who will buy clothes no matter where they’re made and no matter how many died to make them because they willfully *will not know about it.* Or will not believe it. I don’t know how many times I’ve railed at my mother about Walmart’s employment practices, but she still shops there because she wants to save those three pennies on whatever.

  2. Tracey

    I’ve been so unhappy with the way clothes are being made–even at formerly-good stores, the clothes are now crap. Part of the problem is that clothes are being made by virtual-slaves, out of the cheapest of the cheapest fabric, so the labels selling the clothes can save pennies. Now I buy far fewer clothes. It’s astounding to examine clothes I bought at low-end department stores like Sears 10 or 15 years ago–the quality is so much better than the garbage available now even at higher-end department stores.

    • Min

      That’s my experience. Clothes are so cheaply and badly made, and synthetics are everywhere. Does no one wear good quality wool, cotton, and linen anymore?

  3. Tracey

    @greennotGreen; I have the same argument with my mother, who will complain about having to buy new sweaters every year because the previous year’s clothes have shrunk/unravelled/discolored. When I point out that she buys her clothes at Wal-Mart, she insists that she can’t afford to pay more. She gets angry when I point out that paying $20 a year for sweaters for three years ends up costing more than paying $50 for a sweater that will last 10 years.

  4. democommie

    I buy very few clothes these days. I am fortunate to have a friend who buys extremely nice clothes and gives a lot of them to me when I would consider them to be barely “broken in”. So I’m not guilty on that score.

    Otoh, I shop at Lowe’s and they sell a lot of stuff that is complete shit, it just LOOKS like the good product it’s been copied from.

    “Clothing manufacturing has been outsourced to desperately poor countries where people work in Triangle Shirt Waist Factory conditions.”

    Many of them will never work in a place as NICE as Triangle Shirt Waist.

  5. That’s true. The clothes are really poorly made. My family immigrated from a poor country, the Philippines, but you won’t find clothes made in the Philippines here in the US. Clothes made in the Philippines are well made and expensive. The reason being, factory workers in the Philippines are unionized, the only country in Asia, they say , where unions play an important role in the economy. The problem is, big multi-national companies , even those that have been in the Philippines for 100 years like Proctor and Gamble have left and moved to countries like Indonesia and bangladesh and Vietnam where unions are not allowed. Profts are maximized.

  6. Ann

    Thank you very much for Good News Friday. And the wisteria photos are awesome.