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Harry Potter and Working Conditions

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This is an interesting story about how a sizable group of Harry Potter fans have organized to push Warner Brothers to make sure that Harry Potter-themed products are produced in fair and just conditions. The Harry Potter Alliance believes chocolate associated with the series is produced using child labor in Africa. It is pressuring Warner Brothers to ensure it is produced without child labor. WB claims it looked into it and is fine, but of course there is no transparency here.

This is a case when there is absolutely no reason not to source products with fair employers. Like with Apple products, the buyers are willing to pay high prices already because of the commitment to the brand. Raising those prices by a tiny amount to cover chocolate produced by adults, clothing made in safe factories, and (in Apple’s case) computers not produced in plants that require suicide nets to keep workers from jumping out windows, is an obvious call. Even outside of the morality of the issue and the fact that no products should be produced this way, it’s a clear upside for the corporations who can claim they care about these issues. But producing goods as cheaply as possible is more than just a business decision. It’s an ideology and the hippies who oppose it hate capitalism or something.

This also shows how motivated consumer groups can still make a difference in workers’ lives, but it’s much harder to do when there is such distance between production and consumption. When New Yorkers saw women jumping out of the Asch Building during the Triangle Fire in 1910, they were motivated to demand change because of their own personal experiences. Outsourcing clothing to Bangladesh or producing chocolate in west Africa (admittedly there are climatic and soil limitations on where the crop can grow) make it extremely difficult to know anything meaningful by the conditions of production. And this is a huge benefit for corporations.

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