Investigators Uncover More Evidence Of Forced Child Labor At Factory Producing Gap Clothing.

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This week I am going to skip my usual “Prefab Wednesday” feature and talk about something a lot more important – The use of underage slave labor by major corporations. We all like to think that the goods we buy are coming from some magical place overseas, but as study after study has shown, there are some major issues about who is making the stuff we buy. Think that t-shirt you bought at Wal-Mart was a good deal at $4? It might be for you and your wallet, but for someone in India or China, the conditions they are working in are deplorable. Now is that t-shirt a good deal? Didn’t think so…

Last week, investigators for The Observer found evidence that a factory in India who was making clothes for Baby Gap employed underage children sold into the factory workforce. These children were forced to work incredibly long hours for no pay, and they were constantly threatened with beatings if they did not work harder. “The Observer discovered the children in a filthy sweatshop working on piles of beaded children’s blouses marked with serial numbers that Gap admitted corresponded with its own inventory.” – lovely, no?

This kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time – it’s just that now people are starting to take notice. The Gap, for instance, was busted on charges like this before and loudly proclaimed that they were going to clean it up. Obviously, they weren’t that serious about it, because the cheaper that they can get their goods made, the more profit they can milk out of us consumers – at the expense of a child’s health in some foreign land. The thought that my t-shirt could have been made by an underage child under these conditions makes me sick to my stomach.

For the last 6 months, my wife and I have tried our best to avoid buying any clothing that wasn’t either used and/or made from a sustainable, eco-friendly sources under fair labor laws. By being conscious of where we get our clothes from, it has made quite an impact on our shopping trips. It makes it a lot harder to find the things we want, but knowing that we are not supporting and/or contributing to these type of situations have made us feel a little better about what we buy. We no longer shop at place like the Gap because we just don’t know where these clothes came from and what conditions they were made under. We no longer buy cheap t-shirts at Target because, well, t-shirts should cost more than $5! Something you can wear every day for years should be more expensive, so it makes us curious where Target is getting these shirts from.

Sure, Americans love their cheap crap from China and India…but at what expense do we get to buy these things? Is it worth knowing that the jeans you are wearing were made by a 10 year old who was sold into slave labor and is working 18 hour days without pay? No way, not in my book. It’s bad enough when adults do this kind of work…but children? At some point people will have to really dig down deep and start to consider the ramifications of their actions, and I hope it happens sooner rather than later. And I am sorry if this post comes off as preachy, but when it comes to children being forced to work like this, I cannot sit by quietly and watch it happen. The more people who learn that the stuff they buy might be made in factories where conditions are so deplorable, the better off we all will be.

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  1. GAP needs to release a clear corrective action plan to deal with this. Also the global apparel industry needs to go from voluntary monitoring to legal enforced regulations that have impact on current sourcing practices. This is a problem that is far deeper than the GAP and its going to first take companies like Wal-Mart that have so much sourcing around the world to fundamentally change the way they do business. Its going to take education on the part of the American consumer in that sweatshops will continue because we are not outraged enough to demand a change. Its going to take policymakers standing out to corporate lobbyists when it comes to free trade deals. Finally if you are interested in more specifics, you can see the statement released by the International Labor Rights Forum and SweatFree Communities regarding what GAP and the rest of the industry need to do:

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