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Suffolk County Green Party Sells Sweatshop Shirts

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?”

green party suffolk sweatshop shirtOh, 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.

3 comments to Suffolk County Green Party Sells Sweatshop Shirts

  • From what I’ve seen your post is making making mistatements at best. You have no proof whether these shirts are mnade in sweatshops or not. You just know they are not made by American Apparel, a company being hawked throughout your site. How come you do not discuss the criticisms of American Apparel like the series of articles published by Clamor magazine? Are they any better than anyone else? Do you have a relationship with them?

  • Is it a misstatement that the Sufffolk County Green party has been selling these shirts?

    Some of the shirts CafePress refuses to reveal the sources of. Others are from Hanes, for example – which has a long history of sweatshop abuses. NONE of the shirts other than the ones from American Apparel are guaranteed not to come from a sweatshop outsourced overseas. That’s a fact, Ian, not a misstatement.

    The leader of American Apparel has not perfect in his individual behavior, but that’s very different from what the company does. American Apparel jobs are not outsourced overseas, they’re here in the United States, subject to American regulations. That’s more than can be guaranteed for any of the other shirts sold through CafePress.

    The only relationship we have with American Apparel is that we sell some designs on a few their shirts. We choose them because they’re the most ethical choice. No Sweat Apparel, by contrast, outsources its work overseas to exploit workers on the cheap and avoid expensive environmental and worker regulations.

    Why aren’t you giving a share of the rancor to the Suffolk County Green Party, I wonder, Ian?

  • Ian Wilder

    OK, so i’m trying to educate myself. uou say that Hanes is definitely sweatshop. how do you know the mugs and buttons you sell are not made in sweat shops?

    peace,
    Ian

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