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Letter to Democratic Underground about Sweatshop Choices

I just finished writing a letter to David Allen, founder of Democratic Underground. A year and a half ago, J. Clifford wrote a pair of articles taking Democratic Underground to task for opposing sweatshop labor production while selling sweatshop shirts. Democratic Underground still sells the same questionable shirts. And so I’ve written to the man who can fix this and asked him whether he will commit to a change. Here’s the letter:

Dear Mr. Allen,

I wanted to take this opportunity to write about your CafePress shop for Democratic Underground. I’ve noticed a fair number of articles on DU over the years regarding the use of overseas sweatshop labor. Most prominent in my memory is the satire lampooning Republican party activists for receiving pro-Republican sweatshirts made in overseas sweatshops:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/bob/04/97.html

So I am dismayed to see that Democratic Underground’s CafePress store, at:

http://www.cafepress.com/du_store/591633

offers sweatshirts made in overseas factories — such as this sweatshirt made by Hanes:

http://www.cafepress.com/du_store.21464076

Hanes is infamous for its history of using sweatshop labor, including child labor at incredibly low wages. Hanes’ history in this regard is not ancient. Just last fall the National Labor Committee released its findings regarding one overseas factory where Hanes apparel was made, which you can read in full at:

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_3234.cfm

Here’s an excerpt:

“An estimated 200 children, some 11 years old or even younger, are sewing clothing for Hanes, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and Puma at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh.

The children report being routinely slapped and beaten, sometimes falling down from exhaustion, forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, even some all-night, 19- to 20-hour shifts, often seven days a week, for wages as low as 6 and a half cents an hour. The wages are so wretchedly low that many of the child workers get up at 5 a.m. each morning to brush their teeth using just their finger and ashes from the fire, since they cannot afford a toothbrush or toothpaste.

The workers say that if they could earn just 36 cents an hour, they could climb out of misery and into poverty, where they could live with a modicum of decency.

In the month of September, the children had just one day off, and before clothing shipments had to leave for the U.S., the workers were often kept at the factory 95 to 110 hours a week. After being forced to work a grueling all-night 19- to 20-hour shift, from 8 a.m. to 3 or 4 a.m. the following day, the children sleep on the factory floor for two or three hours before being woken to start their next shift at 8 a.m. that same morning.

The child workers are beaten for falling behind in their production goal, making mistakes or taking too long in the bathroom (which is filthy, lacking even toilet paper, soap or towels).”

I have two simple questions that stem from these observations:

1. Will Democratic Underground practice what it preaches and remove Hanes apparel from its CafePress shop?

2. Will Democratic Underground restrict itself to offering American Apparel clothing on its CafePress shop, or other clothing options that have been reliably sourced to ethical production facilities?

I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jim Cook
Irregular Times
http://irregulartimes.com

Democratic Underground is a big shot website, with much more traffic and influence than Irregular Times will probably ever have. The choices that DU makes therefore can have a really big impact. I will keep you informed about Allen’s response, or lack thereof, as time passes.

5 comments to Letter to Democratic Underground about Sweatshop Choices

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