I was looking into a new site through which to sell political t-shirts, in addition to CafePress, and saw that this operation sells shirts made by a company called Alternative Apparel. Alternative, huh? Why that sounds like it might be progressive, and if it sounds like it might be progressive, then they just might run a good solid operation here in the United States without outsourcing labor to abusive overseas sweatshop factories. Cool, huh?
Well, maybe not so cool.
Here’s what the Alternative Apparel “No Sweat” policy says:
“We require all manufacturing to comply with the applicable laws and regulations of the localities, states, and countries in which they operate. We visit each factory at least four times a year to monitor production and to insure the quality of life for our employees. We enforce total compliance with local labor laws that include child labor regulations as well as adequate living wages and the most current emergency equipment. Currently, we have manufacturing facilities in five different countries, including the United States. We provide not only employment, but also lifelong job skills to those who are lacking opportunity. We plan to continue to improve the lives of our employees globally and provide a positive and productive work environment.
Sweat-shop free has been a marketing tactic used by domestic competitors to mislead buyers that all imports are made in sweat-shops. That is simply not the case. We at Alternative use only the highest quality factories with the highest skilled employees. We are committed to insuring the well being of our employees.”
Here’s what I can pull out of this short statement:
When it comes right down to it, clothing manufacturers that use sweatshop labor, like Hanes and Fruit of the Loom, use the very same kind of language that Alternative Apparel does.
Is it possible that Alternative Apparel somehow manages to run a clean, sweatshop-free operation, in spite of the odds? Yes, it’s possible. But, as someone who runs a progressive political business, I’m not going to risk working with them. Their language is too ambiguous, leaving too much room for reasonable skepticism. I need to tell the people who buy the shirts that we sell here that I am 100% certain that they’re made here in the USA in shops with good labor conditions.
So, if Alternative Apparel wants progressives like me to run some business their way, they’re going to have to get a lot more specific about how they can guarantee that their clothes are not made in conditions that exploit workers overseas.