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Today in Sweatshops

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Everyone loves Beyoncé. But you would be surprised to know that she is exploiting sweatshop labor for her clothing brand? Of course you wouldn’t:

Ivy Park, the sportswear brand that is a joint venture between singer Beyonce and Topshop tycoon Philip Green, has defended itself against a Sun newspaper report that says its supplier in Sri Lanka uses “sweatshop slaves” to produce the clothing.

Workers making some of the clothes at MAS Holdings in Sri Lanka earn just 4.30 pounds ($6.30) a day, the tabloid reported on Sunday. Most of the “poverty-stricken seamstresses” are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs, it said.

“Ivy Park has a rigorous ethical trading programme. We are proud of our sustained efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits, and our teams worldwide work very closely with our suppliers and their factories to ensure compliance,” Ivy Park said in a statement emailed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We expect our suppliers to meet our code of conduct and we support them in achieving these requirements,” it said.

Oh, well, I’m convinced….

However, while companies generally comply with the minimum-wage levels set by governments in Asia, these wages “fall far below a wage a person could live on”, according to lobby group Clean Clothes Campaign.

It estimates that in Sri Lanka the minimum monthly wage is about a fifth of the country’s living wage.

Annanya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA)said the garment workers in Sri Lanka were probably working longer than eight-hour days and not being paid overtime.

“They often don’t have the option of saying ‘no’ as they may lose their jobs if they do, and also because of economic coercion. So this is a form of forced labour; they’re bound to the employer,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The AFWA will call on the International Labour Organization at its conference next month to adopt its recommendations for global standards for supply chains that include the recognition of a living wage as a human right.

To be blunt, if Beyoncé believes in feminism and social justice as she claims, she needs to intervene here. I am positive she has no idea what is going on in those sweatshops and it’s her people handling all of this. But it’s her name and it’s on her to do something about it.

Speaking of such things, how about opening a store in New York that exposes random people who walk to some information about sweatshops?

The Mad Rush is a concept store launched in Amsterdam aimed to raise awareness about dangerous working conditions behind cheap fashion, designed by Schone Kleren Campagne, the Dutch arm of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

The boutique is situated in the busy shopping street of Kalverstraat in Amsterdam. From the outside, it appears like any other well-lit, stylish clothing store. However, once a customer asks to try something on, they’re led into a hellish sweatshop that mimics real world working conditions behind cheap, disposable fashion. Next, an educational hub informs customers what they can do to help.

The project is meant to alert customers about an often neglected reality, and offer tips on what individual shoppers can do to help change working conditions in the garment industry.

I love this so much.

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  • Bruce Vail

    The union organizers at IATSE know Beyonce all too well.

    http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17498/atlanta_stagehands_fight_labor_pimps_pushing_temp_work_low_wages

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for her to do the right thing on sweatshops.

  • The fundamental problem, imho, is not that people don’t know, it’s that they don’t want to know. The information can be easily found in two or three mouse clicks on the Internet. Most people just choose not to make them.

    • Bruce Vail

      I don’t thinking raising awareness of the sweatshop issue is the problem.

      I have a relative who brushes the whole issue off with the assertion that “Oh, those kind of wages are lot of money on those underdeveloped) countries. Those are good jobs in those kinds of places.”

      • Which your relative could easily learn otherwise in 2-3 mouse clicks if it were important to do so :-)

      • DrDick

        I think it is a bit of both and most people simply do not care about those people.

  • Murc

    Speaking of such things, how about opening a store in New York that exposes random people who walk to some information about sweatshops?

    … Jesus fucking Christ, that is fucking awful.

    I know at least two people who, if they were minding their own business doing some clothes shopping, and suddenly a clerk ushered them into a room designed to mimic a hellish sweatshop, would have pretty decent chance of having a panic attack right then.

    Don’t ambush people who are just trying to go about their day. It’s not clever. It’s terrible. And it’s probably counterproductive.

    • yet_another_lawyer

      First thing I thought of as well. Being cruel to someone to teach them about cruelty just makes you a new cruel person. Even if the “victims” were carefully screened to make sure they were psychologically healthy and not already anti-sweatshop activists, I have some serious questions about the morality of this.

      Whether or not it’s effective is an empirical question that I doubt there’s a ready answer to, but I have my doubts.

    • The Dark God of Time

      Do it like agitprop house of horrors around Halloween, preferably in an abandoned factory. All proceeds go towards lobbying against sweatshop labor.

  • MPAVictoria

    Yep. This is the difference between “liberals” and “leftists”. Beyonce may be a liberal but she sure isn’t a leftist.

  • wengler

    $6.30 a day? That’s more than a lot of Mexicans! Seriously, that isn’t bad money for the sweatshop game, where 20 to 30 cents an hour is more the norm.

  • DrDick

    Using contractors is all, and only, about plausible deniability.

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