Note: Even though there are a very large number of links here, they are all quite short, so don’t feel intimidated!1. Review the websites below and post a 200-300 word reflection. There are two issues I am most interested in having a discussion about here. First, who should be held accountable for the tragedy in Bangladesh? The Bangladesh government? The factory owner? The companies that buy from the factory? Western governments? Consumers of the final product (i.e. you!). Secondly, is American Apparel an aberration, or could its model be replicated by more businesses, especially in the clothing/textile industry? Go to American Apparel’s website at http://www.americanapparel.net/ (Links to an external site.) and check out the following links within the site:http://www.americanapparel.net/aboutus/verticalint/ (Links to an external site.)http://www.americanapparel.net/aboutus/verticalint/usa/ (Links to an external site.)http://www.americanapparel.net/aboutus/verticalint/workers/ (Links to an external site.)http://www.americanapparel.net/aboutus/corpresp/ (Links to an external site.)http://www.americanapparel.net/aboutus/verticalint/factory/ (Links to an external site.) (optional)Read an article on American Apparel’s filing for bankruptcy at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/business/american-apparel-files-for-bankruptcy.html (Links to an external site.). Browse through at least a couple of these articles (they are short news stories) related to the tragic factory collapse that killed hundreds of textile workers in Bangladesh in 2012.http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/26/18447688-bangladesh-factory-collapse-why-women-endure-danger-to-make-clothes-for-the-west?lite (Links to an external site.)http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/bangladesh-factory-disaster-forces-west-to-think-about-high-cost-of-cheap-clothes-1.1634663 (Links to an external site.)http://www.globallabourrights.org/campaigns/gap-and-old-navy-in-bangladesh (Links to an external site.)http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/24/opinion/bangladesh-garment-workers/ (Links to an external site.)http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/world/asia/garment-makers-stumble-on-call-for-accountability.html?hp (Links to an external site.)2. comment on two other posts substantively. (the two posts are in the file)two_posts.docx1.
An interesting question here, who is to blame for lives lost? The people who owned the building?
The managers who allowed the building to deteriorate and did not speak up to have it fixed? The
workers for working in crappy conditions [this comment is meant to be ironic]? The owners of
companies who push such hard deadlines and expectations? Someone in the middle of all this mess?
There are two sides here: these jobs offer somewhat higher wages than what is available elsewhere
in that province, state, or county. These wages support an entire family. The other side is that this
is by no means a sustainable job. When choosing a job, you don’t choose between a living wages
with a probability of an early death because of working conditions. Or do you? The other side of
the sword here is that the executives are banking on these terrible wages and conditions. There is a
reason in developed countries we have strict laws that are enforced to provide a safe and healthy
work environment. But that reason means spending more money to produce the same thing an
undeveloped country could produce for half or even less. In some cases, this means people die or
suffer as a result.
Pointing fingers isn’t my strong suit, so I’ll be direct. The owners of the building are directly
responsible. They have to maintain it so it is safe to work in. If they don’t, they lose money when it
does collapse [they benefit if they keep it safe]. Next, the managers who direct the entire operation
are also at fault; they continued to allow people to work in an unsafe work environment.
Aberration is an interesting thought here: can we have more “Made in the USA” products? Of
course we can. I believe that greed gets in the way here. The wage gap has caused tremendous
strife in capitalistic societies. Salary transparency is essential . Also, I don’t think CEO’s should
be making 200x-800x more than the lowest paid employee . Costco is a great example of what it
means to be employee friendly, promote transparency regarding wages, and keeping the executive
wages low so they can be their workers higher than their company’s rivals .
It is easy to blame the corporations and local governments for the tragedy in Bangladesh. For one
they are the ones who are physically there. They own the building, employ the workers and
are legally responsible for working conditions. However, corporations and local governments make
up just the surface part of the problem.
The underlying force that perpetuates tragedies like this to happen, is the consumer. The Capitalist
marketplace demands that the consumer be emphasized over the worker. The typical consumer
wants products that are cheap and of high quality. Thus the corporations that provide us with the
cheapest high quality objects are the ones that survive and excel in the marketplace.
Critics may argue that many successful companies are still able to account for labor rights (antisweatshop labor, good work conditions, etc.). However the far majority of these companies are not
as successful as their peers. American Apparel refused sweatshop labor and has recently filed for
bankruptcy. Major clothing companies on the other hand (Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Old Navy,
Gap, Victoria’s Secret, H&M, Disney, Sears, K-Mart, The Children’s Place, J. Crew, Abercrombie &
Fitch & more) all utilize sweatshop labor. Undoubtedly, American Apparel was also never as big or
successful as many of the previously listed corporations.
So how is this possible? Why do major clothing companies utilize sweatshop labor?
Simply put, sweatshop labor allows companies to produce what the consumer wants. The typical
consumer likes a balance of cheap + high quality. The power of the market thus entices (and some
cases forces) clothing companies to utilize sweat-shop conditions to survive in the economy.
American Apparel is an aberration of the clothing industry.
For example a solid color t-shirt is offered at American Apparel for
$24.00 http://store.americanapparel.net/box-hammer-tee_hj402 (Links to an external site.), while a
similar product is offered at H&M for $9.99 http://www.hm.com/us/product/85961?article=85961A (Links to an external site.) and at Walmart for $3.47 http://www.walmart.com/ip/Gildan-MensClassic-Short-Sleeve-T-Shirt/46478966 (Links to an external site.). Evidenced by American
Apparels recent bankruptcy, the majority of people would purchase the cheaper options. Are these
consumers bad people for doing so? Personally I do not think so. I believe that this is just the way
the Capitalist system works. In addition, many people do not have the privilege or resources
available to buy more expensive sweat-shop free clothing products.
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