Sisterhood Blog

Your Shirt Was Probably Made in a Sweatshop

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share
iStockphoto

Thinking ethically while grocery shopping or eating out has become, for many of us, part of our lives in the past decade. We fill up cloth sacks of local organic apples at our farmers’ markets, and show more concern than ever over the provenance of our chickens.

But many of us who would rather starve than eat a Big Mac are still — often unknowingly — buying clothes made in sweatshops. According to a recent story on Alternet by Jake Blumgart, the majority of our clothes are still produced in conditions that would make us shudder, decades after the anti-sweatshop movement that swept college campuses in the early ’90s.

For example, Blumgart writes the following about Classic, the largest factory in Jordan where workers made clothes for mainstream retailers like Macy’s, Target and Kohl’s:

Management hired young women from Asia, stripped them of their passports, forced them to work grueling hours for awful pay under a managerial regime that subjected them to routine rape. One woman hung herself in the factory’s bathroom with her own scarf after allegedly being raped at the hands of a manager. The Jordanian Department of Labor, when informed of the abuses, did nothing.

Blumgart notes that there have been various attempts to make sweatshop-free clothing lines, but they were never fashion-forward enough to attract a large clientele. Also, companies are reluctant to do an “ethical” line because they worry it would draw attention to how unethically their other products are made.

Because it is Passover (and the 102nd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire) and workers’ rights are on all our minds, I went looking for more information on where to find ethically sourced clothing. I am not a fashion junkie, but I like and buy clothes enough to feel that I can longer ignore the conditions my cardigan was made in while I slurp down an organic kale and apple smoothie.

I discovered GoodGuide, which “provide[s] authoritative information about the health, environmental and social performance of products and companies.” Started by Dara O’Rourke, a professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California, Berkeley, the 5-year-old site has ratings for companies that make everything from household goods to electronics and, of course, clothing.

I had always assumed that the more something costs, the more likely it was to be made by workers who were treated fairly. Turns out this isn’t the case. For example, Levi’s and Nike got much better overall scores than Givenchy and Celine. H&M fared better than Donna Karan and the Gap did better than Splendid (which, sadly, is a personal favorite). J. Crew, Madewell and the “free-spirited” Free People got pretty low scores, and Armani should really be ashamed of themselves.

The clothing industry still lacks transparency, but with GoodGuide we can get some basic direction on which business we should support and which we shouldn’t.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sweatshops, ethically sourced, ethical, clothes, Sisterhood, Jewish women

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.