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Overseas Cheap Labor T-Shirt Production Doesn’t Make For Ultra Cheap T-Shirts

I’ve been looking at a wholesale price list of blank t-shirts, and I’m struck by the not-too-big difference in per-shirt prices between the sorts of shirts made by corporations using overseas cheap labor and shirts produced by unions here in the USA. In the catalog I’m looking at, a union-made cotton pocket t-shirt goes for $4.38 a shirt. A cotton pocket t-shirt of the same weight and color made by a company that sources with cheap overseas labor goes for $2.40 a shirt. That $1.98 difference may sound like a lot, but these are sold to screenprinters who turn the shirts around with designs on them for $15-$20 a pop, plus shipping. Either shirt offers a lot of profit for a printer. The union-made USA shirt involves less use of transportation resources and pays the people who make the shirt a big chunk of change more.

2 comments to Overseas Cheap Labor T-Shirt Production Doesn’t Make For Ultra Cheap T-Shirts

  • Horatio

    It’s as if the corporations who outsource their t-shirt production to sweatshops overseas do so because of some kind of ideological revulsion against American labor, not because it makes economic sense.

  • Jim

    Well, for corporations I guess it does make some kind of sense, along the line of sense that for Wal-Mart involves coercing overseas producers into cutting standards so that their toilet paper will cost 5 cents less per case. If you multiply a $1.98 difference times 20 million, it’s a large difference all right and looks good for the bottom line. This is part of the scream on the part of corporations for more, more, more profit, damned the externalities, and that’s in response to the push, push, push of better-off investors who just want their dividend money, damned the externalities. But at the scale of individual citizens like ourselves, it isn’t a big difference, especially when you weigh the difference against the difference in the treatment of workers in the two circumstances.

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