The people at The Onion are the masters of humor. They were doing The Daily Show before there was The Daily Show. I’ve respected their work for years. I also know enough about The Onion that one has to be careful not to interpret their satire as literally true.
So, I’m not sure what to make of this funny video, which purports to report on the Gap Kids For Kids By Kids clothing line.
It seems that The Onion is drawing attention, in a satirical way, to The Gap’s use of child labor in foreign countries to produce inexpensive clothing for children in the United States. This video led me to try to find out more about the clothing sold at Gap Kids and child workers in foreign countries.
The information I found was not clear. It seems that The Gap does have a long history of getting its clothes from operations in foreign countries that abuse workers in many ways, including the use of child workers. There are many reports, however, that beginning in 2002, The Gap has been working on creating and enforcing a system of review of the outsourced factories that it uses to get cheap clothing, to make sure that The Gap eventually stops using sweatshops to supply its stores.
The Gap has indeed cut its relationships to many abusive factories in the last several years. However, I remain skeptical. Corporate public relations often covers up a less pretty truth. I’d like to find some more concrete information on the issue, and if someone can point me in the right direction, I’d be much obliged.
There are many other companies, however, for which the sweatshop issue is much less complicated. One of these companies is CafePress. CafePress has some clothes that are free of sweatshop labor, and some that aren’t. The distinction between these two kinds of clothes is clear. The clothes made for CafePress by American Apparel are not made in sweatshops. Everything else is.
Here at Irregular Times, we sell some shirts made by CafePress, but only those shirts that are made by American Apparel. Wherever else we sell shirts online, we follow the same promise: To only sell shirts that are not made by companies that use sweatshop labor. That’s why we’ve recently begun selling shirts at Skreened – like us, Skreened only sells shirts guaranteed made without sweatshop labor.
It’s frustrating, sometimes, to follow the no sweatshop promise. There are a lot of opportunities for us out there, to sell t-shirts quickly, easily, and cheaply… but using exploited labor to do so. So, we understand why so many other web sites give in to the temptation to make an easy buck off of the work of abused laborers. It’s easy to just not think about what really goes into that cheap shirt.
I’m sure that’s what behind the choice of PrideDEPOT to sell shirts from CafePress that are made by companies with a history of using sweatshop labor. It seems that H. Lukas Green of PrideDEPOT admires the very same short video by The Onion, satirizing sweatshop labor, that I admired. But, when you look on over to the graphic on the right hand side of that video, it features a t-shirt designed by PrideDEPOT, featured on a t-shirt made in a sweatshop!
The message of this t-shirt design is ironic: Where is the outrage? Indeed, PrideDEPOT. Where is the outrage?
Instead of just embarrassing PrideDEPOT, I’m going to help them find a way out of this moral quandry they’re in, of joining in the satirical condemnation of sweatshop labor while selling clothes made in sweatshops themselves. I’ll be sending the following email to them today:
“To the good people at PrideDEPOT:
I appreciate your work on the PrideDEPOT web site, motivated by the ideal of defending liberty for all people. I’m especially glad that you helped me find the recent video produced by The Onion that satirizes the Gap Kids sweatshop labor problem.
I was a bit disappointed, however, to see on that very same page of your web site that you’re advertising a companion shop of your at CafePress. In that shop, many of the shirts that you sell are made by companies with a history of using sweatshop labor, and there is no guarantee whatsoever that those shirts are sweatshop-free.
Fortunately, some of the CafePress shirts are guaranteed sweatshop-free. These are the items that are made by American Apparel: The organic cotton t-shirt, the fitted t-shirt, the spaghetti tank top, the raglan, and the jr. hoodie. It’s my understanding that these are the only sweatshop-free shirts offered by CafePress.
We at Irregular Times sell through CafePress as well, but because we have the same moral objection to sweatshop labor as you do, we make sure only to sell the CafePress shirts made by American Apparel. I hope that you will join us in this decision, and in our communication to Cindy Clarke, Director of Merchandise for CafePress, (firstname.lastname@example.org), requesting that CafePress expand its offerings of sweatshop-free clothing.
Do you have a CafePress catalog online yourself? Look at what you’re selling, and see if you are putting any of the sweatshop-made shirts online for sale. Then, you need to decide if you’re willing to make the ethical compromise of supporting sweatshops in the hopes of making a buck. If you are willing to make that compromise, then you’re also forfeitting the right to criticize giant clothing outlets like The Gap when they choose to use sweatshops and look the other way.
Update: Jody May-Chang, the founder and editor of PrideDEPOT, has sent the following positive response: “Thank you for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We will most certainly look into this further and make appropriate changes.”
Good for her. We look forward to seeing those changes.