A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.1 When considered in the context of globalization and modern capitalism, Churchill's words are oddly disturbing. As the global population continues to grow, unemployment and the prevalence of difficult living conditions is only increasing; Chinese sweatshops and Ford layoffs immediately come to mind. Today's optimists are using global suffering as an economic opportunity. Why? Outsourcers blame globalization. It is true that globalization increases competition, but the increased interaction and interdependence between people in different countries does not include exploiting the poor.2 Furthermore, consumerism reinforces ruthless capitalism by purchasing unethically sourced products. Only through a widely supported economic rejection of unfair products can consumers change the status quo.Have I rejected unfair products? Yes and no. I am a somewhat typical consumer. For the most part, I buy what I like and what is affordable. In my refrigerator, I found some Planters dry roasted peanuts from the local Trader Joe's. Planters is actually owned by Kraft America, and the label says that the nuts were made in the USA. They are certainly roasted and packaged in America, but the actual packaging (top and bottle) and some ingredients probably derive from overseas. Kraft is a known outsourcer.3
[...] By supporting companies like Fair Indigo, unethical companies will be economically hurt by the disparity in labor standards. If the market rewards ethical companies, then countries can demand better labor practices since companies like Fair Indigo can still profit under such demands. Giant, exploitive companies will no longer hold the power. It is like a domino effect of ethics. Consumers literally have the power to change politics with their wallets. Are you willing to spend a few extra dollars and push over that first domino? [...]
[...] What makes Fair Indigo's business plan innovative is the application of cooperative theory. In most manufacturing facilities, there are workers and owners. The owners try to squeeze as much work out of the workers in order to maximize profits. In a cooperative, the workers are the owners. The workers make the management decisions that the management makes, and the workers share the profits that the factory earns. When I visited Israel, I stayed on a kibbutz for a few days. [...]
[...] My $25 online purchase helped pay for each step of that process.13 The majority of the labor in my mango shirt chain was done by the Fair Indigo factory employees, but who are these employees? Regular workers? Mr. Behnke said that the Peruvian factory was one of the top three in all of Lima.14 Considering how much more the labor standards, this makes sense. The desirability of working at the factory also means that the employees are probably the crème de crop of the Peruvian work force. [...]
[...] I bought my shirt online, although the company does have a Chicago store now.8 The BC Ethic hoodie is probably the worst in terms of labor standards. Based in California, BC Ethic sources a significant portion of the work to China. Considering the complex construction (cotton/poly shell) and poly lining, I find it hard to believe that they infused branded blue-collar work ethic” into my $40 hoodie made in China.9 I purchased this item from Marshalls in Phoenix. The wide range of the production sources in my closet and refrigerator shows that companies can minimize labor costs by “playing the market” of international labor. [...]
[...] Still, the “incredible attention to detail and quality” combined with the labor standards makes the profit-sharing structure in Lima an acceptable compromise.20 In addition to the generous benefits and wages, Fair Indigo abides by all national laws receives regular, voluntary audits from the agency Verite. In the case of the Lima factory, Peru regulates that the standard work week is forty-eight hours; Fair Indigo employees work only forty except during the holiday seasons. Employees can also collectively bargain, strike, have equal opportunities regardless of national extraction or race, and a minimum working age of fifteen years.21 Verite maintains accordance with labor and human rights laws nationally, and sometimes even internationally. [...]
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