The unfair treatment of day laborers in mass-production factories is a pervasive industrial issue throughout western nations. Fortunately, shoppers are now coming to recognize the harmful results of such treatment. To keep up with the public’s ever-changing style and product preferences, retail and general goods companies have developed a system that takes commodities directly from advertisements to store shelves to consumers’ homes to landfills.
The speed with which the production process needs to be executed demands that factory laborers work long hours for little pay, often in dirty and unsafe places. One such factory in Bangladesh forced its workers to clock overtime hours in a building deemed extremely dangerous by inspectors - the result was a catastrophic collapse that killed over 1,000 workers in a single day (source: New York Times). Unfortunately for these sweatshop workers, the final merchandise yields easy money, and the resulting onslaught of cheap commodities has made it difficult for consumers to acknowledge the means by which their products were created. Paying unfair wages for hard labor that is often coerced from the most vulnerable - no matter how veiled in corporate gain - is a form of human trafficking.
The first step towards fixing the system is recognizing how widespread consumerism affects factory workers’ lives. Most day laborers are in their trade because of generational financial issues, but the exploitation of their circumstances is not worth a “good deal” and never will be. We believe that the mistreatment of at-risk communities cannot be excused away, but we also understand that these individuals need to provide for their families – and if not this way, then how?
This is where our Partners come in: they are able to provide people with job opportunities that are sustainable and fairly compensated while caring for their personal well-being as individuals at the same time. One of our Partners in the Philippines does this by seeking out families in poverty who are vulnerable to economic exploitation and provides them with respected jobs creating textiles. This job change is enough to transform the trajectory of an entire family’s legacy and future, allowing children to attend school rather than work in sweatshops and parents to maintain their dignity while contributing to society and learning valuable skill sets. In short, your rejection of consumerist habits could save a child from being trafficked, and your refusal to participate in trends like fast fashion (the rapid purchasing of trendy, inexpensive clothing that is mass-produced under questionable circumstances) could help break a family’s cycle of poverty and manipulation.
There are practical, simple ways you can be a part of undoing this system and protecting those oppressed by it:
1. Be conscious of your purchases. Avoid buying items that sacrifice ethical production for ease.
2. Research the stores you frequent. There are different standards of “fair trade”, and it’s important to ensure that is a tenet of the organization and not just a marketing buzzword.
3. Ask questions about fair trade habits and how you can implement them as a practice rather than a label.
4. Join the fight against the root causes of human trafficking - we need you, and more importantly, they need you.