Raveena Aulakh / Toronto Star
The girl pictured above is named Meem. She is nine years old, lives in Bangladesh and is a boss of a group of children that help make shirts that are sold in the U.S.
Meem and the sewing helpers she supervises earn about $30 a month if they work from 9 to 5 every day, seven days a week or about $35 if they work overtime and stayed until 9 p.m. every day. At Meem’s factory, there are no weekends, except for a half-day every Friday, no sick leave, no holidays. And definitely no school.
I learned about Meem when my friend Jack A of clothingmadeinusa let me know about a story and video from the Toronto Star. I really urge you to read the story and watch the video. Children should be in school, not sitting on the floor of a factory making shirts 80 hours a week. But U.S. apparel firms like hiring Bangladeshi firms that hire children like Meem. Because it lets them make lots of money. More than 4500 apparel factories in Bangladesh employ four million workers who produce $20 billion worth of apparel each year. Before your next trip to the mall to try on some very reasonably priced Gap and Old Navy apparel, I urge you to read this report to discover why the Gap and Old Navy can charge the prices they do and still turn a tidy profit.
Attempting to police labor conditions in Bangladesh from your headquarters in New York can be a little tricky. But there is a simple answer to this problem. Buy apparel made in the U.S. by members of our extended American family. Like t-shirts from All American Clothing Co. for $9.99. Do you really need a t-shirt that’s cheaper than $9.99?
The Gap t-shirt sewn by someone in Bangladesh?
$16.95. Gee, I wonder who is making money on that deal? The workers in Bangladesh? Rather unlikely.
So shame on Gap, shame on Old Navy, shame on all those who profit on the labor of children. It doesn’t have to be that way. You have more power than you know. It’s time to use it every time you go shopping.