Redefining the American Dream
July 4, 2003 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Sweatshop-free T-shirts "We are not about "made in USA". We are about American values. We believe in the American dream and want to do more for our customers and employees. We are pro-workers rights— whether in Los Angeles or anywhere in the world. We manufacture in the United States not because we are crazy flag fanatics but because it is the most vibrant T-shirt market in the world and therefore the most efficient place to manufacture our T-shirts." In the middle of one of the worst economic climates in decades, with (actual) unemployment near 9 percent, an American company with the courage to compete against the Global Sweatshop economy. Is Politically-driven consumer markets the future? Or do you really need that Nike logo? Could "Sweatshop-free IT Services" be far behind?
posted by reality (40 comments total)
 
Reminds me of the less-than-successful "Buy American" movement from a few years ago - in the end most consumers decide to buy based on quality and price, not the nationality of the manufacturer.
posted by twsf at 7:50 AM on July 4, 2003


At these prices, I'll get my black Hanes t-shirts @ 2 for $6.00 at Target. Sweat shops do not bother my conscience.
posted by mischief at 8:11 AM on July 4, 2003


Soprt of funny to be for American valujes and then to have a translation in French...I noted in paper this morning that even the traditional students-living-in-USA for summer progxram down the tubes...Americans don't want even hot French babes living with them!
posted by Postroad at 8:12 AM on July 4, 2003


Postroad: the lack of subtlety and sophistication which shines through your remark is itself subtle and sophisticated.
posted by signal at 8:34 AM on July 4, 2003


I think that more people (mischief aside, apparently) want to be responsible, ethical consumers then currently "get the chance." The easier it gets, and the more that options proliferate, the more people will look at buying sweatshop-free clothing (or non-factory-farmed food, or whatever) as an option, rather than some nice if impossible sentiment.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:51 AM on July 4, 2003


An interesting twist is that this guy's Canadian. Besides the sweatshop-free angle, though, he is making sales by being able to respond rapidly to bulk, custom orders.
posted by Officeslacker at 8:54 AM on July 4, 2003


AA makes excellent products at, in my opinion, reasonable prices. I own a few of their shirts (bought through third party companies like Threadless and Fresh Baked Goods) and they're great quality.

I'm not American, but the idea of sweat shops does bother me. mischief, I can only assume you're too young to have parents who worked in sweat shops.
posted by dobbs at 8:54 AM on July 4, 2003


So this at Forty-one US dollars is an example of "reasonable prices"?! A shirt they proudly proclaim is "inspired by a $1.99 polyester shirt Dov found in Chinatown"? I'll just take two of these and you can keep your American Liberal Guilt™ fashion statements...
posted by JollyWanker at 8:55 AM on July 4, 2003


I went to NYU, where a significant portion of the student body did in fact note whether or not the items they were buying at the bookstore had the "No Sweat Apparel" tag on them.

It might not bother you, mischief, but the image of people working for slave wages in overseas factories is more harsh to handle when one of those "overseas factories" is a near-condemned warehouse on Lafayette street three blocks from one of your classes. Maybe it's just a case of not wanting to go to the McDonald's that's next to the slaughterhouse, but when I'm specifically told that no one was tortured to make my pants I'm grateful for that information.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:00 AM on July 4, 2003


American Apparel's T-shirts are fantastic. Dov Charney, one of the owners, is obsessed with the tailoring of his shirts, and it shows; they're incredibly comfortable, they drape much more nicely than other T-shirts, and they're long enough that you don't have to tug them down all the time if you don't tuck them in. (The New Yorker ran a profile of Charney in 2001. There's a PDF version available if you prefer.

If you think it's ludicrous to think about things like the "drape" of a T-shirt, or if you're happy to subsidize the exploitation of workers in other countries, then by all means keep buying $3 T-shirts at Target. But if you're willing to pay for quality and social responsibility, by all means give American Apparel a try.

On preview: What Ignatius said.
posted by Hegemonic at 9:02 AM on July 4, 2003


*sigh* Pepsi Blue Filter.

Even tho' I support the ideals & aims behind this co. MeFi isn't about giving free advertising to companies no matter how right-on they are. AA can afford to take out full page ads in mags like XLR8R so they can't be too skint.

At least pull together some links on sweatshops/the rag trade & the like to give us some background so the post doesn't come accross as a total marketing push.
posted by i_cola at 9:19 AM on July 4, 2003


You mean like this ?
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2003


Oh, of course. Every "IT Shop" everywhere outside of the US is also a sweatshop. Everyone knows that foreigners can't code. And they know they can't code, that's why they won't do it unless they are forced too with whips and chains and the like.
posted by delmoi at 10:26 AM on July 4, 2003


And of course, every IT shop in the US is a dot-com fantisy land where everyone works 4 hours a day, most of that time spent playing ping pong in the break room while drinking free beverages or sitting in their Aeron Chairs snorting coke.

People never, ever are forced to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week without extra pay because someone fucked up the deadline. Not in the good ole USA!
posted by delmoi at 10:32 AM on July 4, 2003


So this at Forty-one US dollars is an example of "reasonable prices"?!

I didn't say that I owned every one of their products. I own some t-shirts (see the word "Tee Shirts" in the first sentence of the post?). They're excellent. And reasonably priced (the ones from Threadless were $15-17, after being silk-screened. Unfortch, Threadless no longer uses AA.).

i_cola, what's your email address? perhaps we could all send you our FPPs for approval prior to posting and you can let us know if they meet with your standards and "what MeFi is about". In addition, I didn't think the skintness (whatever the fuck that is) was relevant to whether a company deserved positive word of mouth.
posted by dobbs at 10:37 AM on July 4, 2003


I think there is a distinction worth being made here, before this thread spins into the nether regions. Paying lower wages to workers in other nations is not the same as giving them nasty, unsafe workplaces and excessive hours. Paying, for instance, a tech support engineer in India $20,000 per annum or a sneaker 'assembler' in Vietnam $1,000 per annum seems reasonable given the relative cost of living and the other job opportunities available; putting up with the crap delmoi and DenOfSizer linked does not. Let's try and kep the two parts separate.

Also, the page with that $41 shirt Jolly Wanker linked clearly states that the company mainly does wholesale business and the retail orders are for convenience, so I'm betting you could find their stuff at better prices with very little effort. Let's try and avoid straw men, okay?
posted by billsaysthis at 10:41 AM on July 4, 2003


So this at Forty-one US dollars is an example of "reasonable prices"?!

'Reasonable' because that's how much it costs to make that item while providing reasonable conditions and reasonable pay.

Now if you really want great prices, I hear slave labor is the way to go.
posted by 4easypayments at 10:42 AM on July 4, 2003


Reasonable' because that's how much it costs to make that item while providing reasonable conditions and reasonable pay.

Now if you really want great prices, I hear slave labor is the way to go.


And I suppose every garment factory outside of the U.S. is a sweatshop? I'm sure you could provide reasonable working conditions and reasonable pay outside the U.S. and charge a lot less than $41/shirt.
posted by gyc at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2003


I'm sure you could provide reasonable working conditions and reasonable pay outside the U.S. and charge a lot less than $41/shirt.

Yeah, they should do that! To hell with Americans who want jobs where they're paid a good wage for good work!
posted by dobbs at 11:02 AM on July 4, 2003


Paying, for instance, a tech support engineer in India $20,000 per annum or a sneaker 'assembler' in Vietnam $1,000 per annum seems reasonable given the relative cost of living and the other job opportunities available;

Horseshit. You can't buy a new car in Vietnam for only five hundred bucks or a two-bedroom house for three grand. Yes, the cost of living in many other countries is smaller than than in the United States, but to imply that it's an even remotely equivalent ratio is pure fantasy. Christ, people in this country can't live on what the government calls "reasonable" minimum wage.

My previous mention about McDonald's and the slaughterhouse is still my point here: if you want thrid-world labor to make your products cheap, so be it. But don't try to justify the exploitation and then decide it's me who's suffering from "liberal guilt." I'd rather have "liberal guilt" than "ignorant denial."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:34 AM on July 4, 2003


I'm neither "ignorant" of their wages nor in "denial" of their working conditions; I just don't care. However, to make you feel better, your heart can bleed a bit more on my behalf. ;-P
posted by mischief at 12:24 PM on July 4, 2003


could sweatshop-free it services be far behind?

As an Indian, I resent that remark. When people mention "sweatshops", it evokes images of people struggling to make a living in pathetic working conditions. This is completely false, at least over here. IT workers are among the highest-earning in India, and work in airconditioned offices with all facilities. Please don't label them as "sweatshop workers". To do so would be to display your ignorance.

XQUZYPHYR, some things like cars and real estate are certainly more expensive here (cars because of the ridiculous import duty of the Indian government and real estate because of the population), but the overall cost of living is lower. $6000 per annum, for instance, is about what a programmer with 3 years experience would make, and it's a tidy sum. Double that, and you're a well-paid manager.
posted by madman at 12:53 PM on July 4, 2003


do you drink alchohol XQUZYPHYR?
posted by poopy at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2003


More links on ethical trading? OK. Try Bishopston Trading, hug clothing, One World is Enough. Or you can even go to the good old Fair Trade site itself. All of whose prices are in line with non-Fairtrade High Street clothing in the UK. Don't believe me? Well, here's a typical UK High Street store, and another, and a third (all requiring flash so I'll tell you the price of a basic top at all of these is between £10-£25). Given that every summer seaon in the UK tends to "take its inspiration" from India, China or Japan the Fair Trade stuff is even "in".

Fair Trade coffee and tea in the UK is either the same price or cheaper than the mid-range non-FT stuff (you know, the stuff which doesn't taste like the dredgings of a river bed but which also doesn't require you to sell your grandmother to afford it).

(on preview - IT is a bit of a distraction isn't it? I've never perceived the increase of Asian based, UK owned call-centres as meaning the person dealing with my call is in a sweatshop. It's more about factory workers than desk jobs)
posted by anyanka at 1:14 PM on July 4, 2003


Aa-ough! My hernia!

But seriously, I don't see why this can't work -- there are other people (Old Navy, Hilfiger, blah etc) charging high prices for what is essentially commodity clothing. They just tend to work the brand/style angle rather than the domestic economy angle, since they know that plays.

Myself, a T-shirt would have to be darn near indestructible and change colors on demand before I'd pay $50+ for it.
posted by namespan at 1:22 PM on July 4, 2003


To hell with Americans who want jobs where they're paid a good wage for good work!

You seem to be laboring under the misapprension that simply because someone wants something, they therefore deserve it.
posted by kindall at 1:33 PM on July 4, 2003


You seem to be laboring under the misapprension that simply because someone wants something, they therefore deserve it.

Which is perhaps on par with the idea that something good which that doesn't exist shouldn't be worked for.
posted by namespan at 2:05 PM on July 4, 2003


$15.80 for a ringer-tee? Yikes. I think I'll head back to Old Navy where they are 2 for $12.

I think we need to look at the economics of sweatshops. We all think it's a horrible concept, these sweat shops run with 12 year olds sewing clothes all day. But would these kids have any money if it were not for these jobs? And what is the equivalent money made? For example, here minimum wage is $5.15, and a shirt is $15.80. There, if they make $0.50 an hour, how much is that same shirt? Probably not as much as it costs here. It's economies of scale.
posted by benjh at 2:49 PM on July 4, 2003


It's economies of scale.

No, it's not.
posted by signal at 3:10 PM on July 4, 2003


In the middle of one of the worst economic climates in decades... What decades are these? 2003 only looks like a bad economic climate in comparison to the incredibly booming, prosperous, record-setting 1990s. 2003 is not worse than 1987. 2003 is not worse than 1991. 2003 is not even close to the entire 1970s -- which was an economy so hideous, it would have stripped the hide off'n you scared dot-com sissies. If you remove the 1990s from the equation, the American economy today is STILL possibly the most secure, prosperous and hopeful in all of human history. We remain in a golden age -- and manufacturing overseas just spreads the wealth around.
posted by Faze at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2003


Faze: Did you see the unemployment result that came out this week?

XQblahblah: I think my point went *woosh* on you, which was that cheaper labor overseas does not necessarily equal sweatshops. I realize that sentence included words longer than one syllable but... LOL, j/k, must be the espresso I just made.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:22 PM on July 4, 2003


Half of you: The stuff is a little pricy. Whoever can afford it, that's great. I want this company to do well, but just because you shop there, don't lord it over others (I'm not saying all of you are either).

Other half of you: Eat a dick. Really. I'm jumping to conclusions but I imagine you're the same people who complain that "anti-WTO protestors" need to offer real alternatives instead of just complaining about the status quo. Here is a company offering an alternative, if you don't like it, fine, but STFU.

What XQ said..s
posted by Slimemonster at 4:19 PM on July 4, 2003


The problem with sweatshops is that there are not enough of them.
posted by goethean at 4:56 PM on July 4, 2003


But would these kids have any money if it were not for these jobs?

Did you try reading up on Fair Trade before defending the lethal sweatshop system? All the links I provided were to clothing outlets who either bought raw materials or finished products from developing countries at a decent level and who ensure that the working conditions are of the standard we would demand for ourselves, and that no child labour is involved. Fair Trade isn't against buying from developing countries - it's about not exploiting them.

(One thing I did notice about "American Apparel" was that it does not state where the raw materials for their product comes from, only that the garments are sewn in good working conditions).
posted by anyanka at 5:10 PM on July 4, 2003 [1 favorite]


All for it. You shouldn't save money on semi-slave labour. Who are these objectors? Here's more like AA, the Ben Cohen-backed Sweat X
posted by theplayethic at 5:38 PM on July 4, 2003


You know if it works for Kathy-Lee Gifford & Martha Stewart It Works...

Eh...

Im So Fucking Glad I Lucked Out & Was Born In America Instead Of Guatemala...

Heh, So the people here who have a Cafe Press Shop our Supporting Sweat Shops?

For Another Viewpoint...
posted by Dreamghost at 7:59 PM on July 4, 2003


Hilarious links Dreamghost -
'Ironically, when we hear accusations of child labor in Honduras, Pakistan, Bangladesh, it's a sign these country is on the right track. It's suggests they are becoming competitive with monopolistic unions here. But instead of competing fair and square, the unions turn to protectionist politics and media propaganda.'

Following this kind of logic, I could I suppose developing nuclear weapons is a sign of peaceful intentions and of a developed sense of self -worth.
posted by asok at 2:46 AM on July 5, 2003


Dreamghost's Viewpoint link is also hilarious for using Nike as an example of how to fight back against these charges since the Supreme Court just turned down (refused to hear) their appeal of decision that says the company is not allowed to LIE to refute such assertions. Plus it's from 1996! But I want to know, Dreamghost, if you were being serious or sarcastic with that comment.
posted by billsaysthis at 10:28 AM on July 5, 2003


Im going to hell...

If your going to buy sweatshop goods like Nike why don't you just buy the no name brand. They probably pay there employees more & don't wear out in 2 months.

I wonder if Big & Tall uses Sweat Shops that's got to really goad those 12 year old 55 pound third world country workers.

And Boo Berry is American as apple pie...
posted by Dreamghost at 5:13 PM on July 5, 2003


Time to realign your spiritual beliefs, Dreamghost? ; )
posted by asok at 2:22 AM on July 6, 2003


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