Not Worth The Bargain
By Arielle Gordis
Let’s be real- we all love the feeling of finding an insane bargain. It’s almost a rush to see a super chic bag for only $5 or a perfect new pair of summer sandals for just $3.99!
But let’s also consider this bargain for a second. Have you ever wondered how these bargains could be so cheap? I mean, how is it possible to have grown and harvested the cotton, transported the cotton and other needed materials, manufacture it into a bag and cover costs? Let alone make a profit from a $5 bag!
When you look at it this way, the answer is painfully obvious; Those cheap clothes, that fast fashion that you were so psyched about were likely made using unethical farming methods by exploited workers in developing countries. It is only by these workers earning such a painfully low wage that it is even possible to create a profit margin. Beyond the unlivable low working wage, these workers are often forced to work insanely long hours, in hazardous, even life-threatening conditions.
In the Western world, we pride ourselves on the better industrial practice and treatment of our local workers. But in an international market, when we buy something with a label that reads, “Made in Bangladesh” or “Made in Vietnam”, we are contributing to the serious and ongoing international problem. Often we manage to convince ourselves that it’s so far away and just out of our control- I mean, how would not buying those $3.99 sandals really make any difference for those workers in Bangladesh...right?!
Consider the intention so the forward facing retail experience- when we walk into those clean, polished stores we forget the back end supply chain. Sweatshops exist because those horrible working conditions and that unfair treatment of workers is so well hidden from us. Out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps it would be harder to hand over our credit cards, if the dark realities of sweatshop production were visible to us when we went to purchase those bargain items. I mean, that $5 bag can't possibly be worth VISIBLE worker abuse or the unethical manufacturing chain.
The tide is changing, however slowly, there is hope. Even though these problems remain hidden from us on a day-to-day basis, many individuals, such as Aja Barber and organizations around the developing world are finally standing up and rejecting the unfair traditional trade standards of the past and present and demanding better treatment for those far away workers. One such solution: FAIR TRADE. Fair trade practices mean giving producers fair, transparent and respectful deals, rather than profiting off of their desperation to survive. It means paying farmers and producers enough money to support their families in the short term and guaranteeing that they are working under long-term contracts with enough security to invest into their businesses and communities. The treatment of these workers follows international labor law standards, enabling them to join labor unions and bargain collectively to improve their working conditions and lives.
Recently I was introduced to one such Tel-Aviv-based social enterprise, KitePride, which primarily aims to provide jobs to those who have suffered at the hands of human trafficking and find themselves in the cycle of modern day slavery. By designing bags and other accessories, KitePride and the umbrella organization it belongs to, Glowbalact, is committed to only engaging in fair trade practices. Through it's an alternative system of sourcing (upcycling used parachutes and sails), designing and production, it is changing the status-quo of mainstream manufacturing processes. All of their workers receive living wages, work normal hours (following international labor law standards) and under safe working conditions. Volunteers cook healthy and delicious meals for all of our workers to enjoy together, and they are committed to establishing a supportive and cooperative environment.
It’s time to stop taking advantage of workers in developing countries because those cheap items simply aren’t WORTH their suffering. Last year, according to Accenture’s retail strategy report, more than half of customers in the UK believe their words and actions—from posting comments on social media to participating in boycotts—can influence a brand’s reaction to an event or its stance on an issue of public concern. KitePride is but one example of supporting and consuming in FAIR TRADE practices! Check them out, seek out fair trade alternative- it’s worth it and you'll be directly contributing to an improved horizon for workers everywhere.
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
- William Wilberforce
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