The Green Party organization in Suffolk County, New York talks a good talk when it comes to progressive activism. They promote Green Party candidates, of course, but they also promote the Ten Key Values of the Green Party.
One of those Ten Key Values, the value of community-based economics caught my eye this morning. Under the Suffolk County Green Party’s heading for community-based economics, they ask the following questions.
“How can we redesign our work structures to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy? How can we develop new economic activities and institutions that will allow us to use our new technologies in ways that are humane, freeing, ecological and accountable, and responsive to communities?”
Oh, those are good questions, and I have a particular answer for what the Green Party of Suffolk can do on these very important economic ethical questions: The Green Party of Suffolk can stop selling shirts that are made in overseas sweatshops.
The Green Party of Suffolk sells a lot of Green Party merchandise through CafePress, but the group isn’t very selective about which kinds of clothing it sells. Yes, they sell a few of CafePress’s shirts that are made here in the USA, sweatshop-free, but most of their shirts are made in outsourced factories overseas. Is that the kind of community-based economics that are part of the Green Party’s Ten Key Values?
The Green Party of Suffolk sells baby t-shirts, black t-shirts, women’s t-shirts, even golf shirts that were made by underpaid workers in foreign sweatshops. This practice of selling cheap stuff made by exploited workers is reminiscent of Wal-Mart.
Maybe the people at the Green Party of Suffolk County just didn’t think it through when they opened up their CafePress shop. If that’s the case, let me offer the Suffolk County Greens a piece of advice: Follow our policy of ethics on this matter.
We here at Irregular Times sell a lot of items through CafePress, but we are very selective when it comes to the kinds of shirts we put up for sale at our CafePress shops. There is a small number of kinds of shirts that CafePress sells that are made here in the USA, sweatshop-free. They’re clearly marked Made in the USA. We only sell those. In fact, we have three CafePress shops which sell nothing at all but sweatshop-free shirt that are ethically manufactured here in the USA. One of those shops sells nothing but sweatshop-free t-shirts made with cotton that is organically grown.
By selling the non-sweatshop shirts, and refusing to sell the sweatshop shirts, we’re working to send CafePress a message that there’s a market for shirts made without sweatshop labor here in the USA. We’re also helping our readers feel good about the political messages that they wear on their chests. As part of that effort, we pledge to take 20 percent of the after-tax profits we make through sales at CafePress, and donate them to progressive causes. We’ve provided a good amount of funding to a lot of progressive interests just over the last few years, because people know that when they make a purchase, they’re not just getting something good. They’re doing something good, too.
I’m sure that the Suffolk County Green Party means well, but good intentions on their own don’t go very far. If they want to make a real impact in favor of community-based economies, they’ll trim down their selection of shirts to just those ones that are made with a progressive set of community ethics in mind.