In the Progressive Era, the photographs of Lewis Hine brought the horrible conditions of child laborers in the United States into the sight of the middle class, helping to bring about the end of most child labor in this country. It was part of the larger Progressive effort to mobilize middle class opinion to create fair and decent conditions for the poor in this country, even if they weren’t particularly interested in empowering those workers.
Part of the advantage for sourcing apparel production overseas is so that department stores can once again demand just-in-time clothing made for cheap by easily exploitable women and children. Most of us don’t know this–the clothing magically appears on the hangers at The Gap! But in fact, kids are working to make this clothing instead of going to school. Child labor also lowers the pay standards for adult labor in these countries, as it did in the U.S. a century ago, providing additional advantages to corporations.
So who will be our Lewis Hine today? Can placing the conditions of work for these children back in our sight make us do anything to stop the exploitation of these workers? One would like to see a lot more of these Claudio Montesano Casillas photographs of Bangladeshi child laborers, but at least there are a few featured here that might make you interested in putting a stop to this system.