The U.S. Government Uses Sweatshops, Too

By: Saturday January 4, 2014 1:00 pm

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh last April exposed the cruel link between abusive Global South factories and the Western brands they supply. But while consumers may have been shocked to learn of the Gap or Benetton‘s latest designs strewn amid the wreckage of “death trap” factories, they might have missed another bit of debris: the label of the U.S. government. In fact, much of the clothing churned out by overseas sweatshops is custom-made for Uncle Sam.

 

Your ‘Distressed’ Jeans Are Wearing Out Workers’ Lungs

By: Wednesday July 24, 2013 3:35 pm

“Distressed” jeans are designed to make that wear-and-tear look seem oh-so-effortless, but it can be the result of someone’s body taking a real beating.

According to a recent investigation by the advocacy groups Clean Clothes Campaign, War on Want, and Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), several manufacturers in Guangdong, China—which supply global brands such as Levi Strauss, Lee and Wrangler—have used patently unsafe sandblasting techniques on their denim.

Anger Rising in Bangladesh, Putting Big Brands Under Pressure

By: Wednesday May 29, 2013 12:10 pm

It’s been about a month since the Rana Plaza factory complex crumbled into a cement grave for more than 1,100 Bangladeshi workers. Now, the dust has settled, but the anger still burns as workers await compensation and accountability from a manufacturing system that runs on industrial “death traps.”

But last week, at a meeting of the International Labour Organization, dozens of major global clothing brands—none based in the United States—announced they had signed onto a broad safety accord designed to be more comprehensive than previous corporate codes of conduct.

China Labor Watchdogs Expose Dark Side of Global Toy Empire

By: Saturday December 8, 2012 7:00 pm

Despite the occasional factory fire or sweatshop media expose, American consumers have largely inured themselves to the status quo of exploiting the Global South as our overseas workshop for cheap clothes, toys and gadgets. With the holiday shopping season in full swing, consumers have affixed even more tightly the corporate blinders, rendering the workers in Santa’s Workshop comfortably invisible.

But some of the factories churning out hot toys have recently been exposed as bastions of labor abuse.

Pakistan Fires Echo 1911 Triangle Factory Fire—But Will They Spur Similar Change?

By: Saturday September 15, 2012 5:00 pm

About a century after the shock of the Triangle fire spurred major safety reforms in New York and helped catalyze the U.S. labor movement, two catastrophes in Pakistan on Tuesday revealed that similarly dangerous factories still flourish outside of the United States, in the Global South. A massive fire at a textile factory in Karachi (reportedly with ties to the European market) killed more than 250 workers, and a shoe factory in Lahore was also engulfed in flames, killing 25.

FDL Movie Night: Casino Jack and the United States of Money

By: Monday May 17, 2010 5:00 pm

Sundance hit Casino Jack and the United States of Money is everything a documentary should be: Fast paced, informative and fun. It opens with Jack Abramoff’s quote that no one watches documentaries, suggesting that an action film be made instead, and rockets on from there, beginning with a murder and taking us through the perfidious history of Jack Abramoff, a master of corruption, shady deals and deregulation and the fallout: Human trafficking, environmental disasters, the hornswoggling of Indian tribes for casino profits, and murder.

The Woman Behind the New Deal

By: Thursday April 30, 2009 1:30 pm

Help me welcome Kirstin Downey, author of The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience. Kirstin will be online this hour.

Imagine this: Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao witnesses a terrifying spectacle of young women leaping to their deaths from the windows of a burning building where they worked—their only means of escape.

Border Crossings Start in the Boardroom

By: Thursday February 7, 2008 10:30 am

Before the immigration debate builds steam later this election year, I really wish candidates at all levels and in every party could spend a few hours in a maquila talking with workers.

A few years ago, I spent two weeks in Guatemala with STITCH, a U.S.-based labor group that supports women workers in Latin America.

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