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What Anti-Sweatshop Pressure Can Do

[ 26 ] July 5, 2014 |

As we talked about here earlier, the idea that the kids just aren’t doing their activism right because I’m too lazy to find out what the kids are doing today is a stupid critique of modern activism, in part because students are doing awesome things. Pressure from students at Rutgers led that university to cut off contracts from two apparel companies who refused to sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Now Outdoor Cap, which made their hats, is crying about it.

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  1. J. Otto Pohl says:

    That is great. University students in Ghana tend to be completely uninterested in any type of political activism not directly tied to election campaigns of either the NDC (the ruling and historically more left center party) or more frequently the NPP (the party more orientated towards neo-liberal economics). For the most part student organized activity centers around the various evangelical churches particularly the Pentacostal ones.

  2. Nobdy says:

    I love Jan Sport’s response of “We didn’t make collegiate gear in Bangladesh, but, you know, we make other stuff there and what’s it to you if it’s made in factories where the workers have a high likelihood of being crushed or burned to death? What, you want your socks to cost 12 cents more a pair? I didn’t think so.”

    • Hogan says:

      “Look, we’re working very, very slowly on improving working conditions all around the world. It would be beneath us to do anything specific about one country.”

    • efgoldman says:

      They actually said they don’t make anything in Bangladesh.

      “We are disappointed with the decision, especially considering that the JanSport brand does not produce any products in Bangladesh, and it never has. VF Corp. is working closely with the Bangladeshi government, Bangladeshi workers, labor unions, local NGOs, factory owners and other members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety to improve working conditions in Bangladesh,” said Craig Hodges, a VF Corporation spokesman.

      But yeah, it makes no sense to me, either.

      • Jake says:

        JanSport doesn’t, but the same company owns Wrangler, Lee Jeans, North Face, etc.

        Anyway, good for the college kids.

      • VCarlson says:

        Since they specified “JanSport Brand,” my nasty, suspicious mind immediately began to wonder about contractors. Though the other named brands mentioned are a good hairsplit, too.

  3. Aimai says:

    Just want to see if I’ve got my avatar up and running.

  4. Are there any legal reasons why companies couldn’t be made liable for the actions of those with whom they contract?

    Also:

    Outdoor Cap, based in Bentonville, Arkansas

    Are there any legal reasons why Bentonville, Arkansas (the home of Wal*Mart) couldn’t be nuked from space?

    .

    • Doggy Daddy says:

      Are there any legal reasons why companies couldn’t be made liable for the actions of those with whom they contract?

      Mmmm….contract law?

      • Brett says:

        Pretty much. It’s especially the case if you don’t know what’s going on with the contractor – if I hire a guy to mow my lawn and it turns out that he’s been cheating his employees on wages, you don’t get to hold me liable for his misconduct.

        That said, the US has laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They could pass laws constricting the conditions in which US firms sub-contract abroad, requiring them to verify certain things first. Assuming that’s possible – not all countries are keen to let foreigners inspect their firms for misbehavior.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          If the U.S. made inspections and certifications mandatory for accessing our markets, how many countries would opt out?

          I don’t think the number is zero, but I’ll bet you can see zero from there.

          • J. Otto Pohl says:

            It is more likely that they would attempt to get around the letter of the law. In the 1930s the USSR got around the prohibition on prison made labor imports to the US by shifting to “special settler” labor in regards to lumber. Technically people deported and confined to exile villages under OGPU supervision in the Far North and Urals as kulaks were not prisoners. But, they certainly were not free labor.

            The use of contractors and subcontractors is already a move to skirt around existing US laws. The secret is to make such skirting expensive and difficult. It can be done. But, the costs added to bypass the laws has to be greater than the savings due to not following them.

  5. [Pretend I closed that tag. kthnxbye.]

    .

  6. Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Wonder:

    …according to Better Factories Cambodia, one third of the 92 factories which were in violation of the so-called “critical issues”—21 basic legal requirements—made some improvements after discovering they were to be shamed in the report.

    A total of 43 factories were found to have no violations of the “critical issues,” including 19 that cleaned up their acts to be included in the group, according to BFC.

    So yeah, this useless carping about how terrible conditions can be for factory workers abroad is pointless; these kids today oughta be thrifting, like we did in my day.

    Naming and shaming, taking away their contracts, targeting retailers for action–they all work, someone just has to do them.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Here’s what I always wanted to know: why aren’t libertarians the first ones doing this?

      Isn’t “naming and shaming” brands supposed to be their alternative to regulation?

      So where are they?

  7. cpinva says:

    and yet another strawman response:

    “We regret that our long-term partnership with Rutgers has ended,” the company said in a statement. “At Outdoor Cap we are committed to supporting safe working conditions globally, and we do not believe that signing the accord is the only way to confirm this commitment.

    bolding mine.

    of course no one has claimed that signing the accord is the only way to change things, it is one of many actions that can be taken, in order to effectuate the desired changes.

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