For years, we writers at Irregular Times have kept our effort afloat and started new efforts like That’s My Congress by putting liberal t-shirts up for sale. We have only sold shirts made in the USA because in the United States there are clearly defined labor and workspace protections, and because American Apparel goes above and beyond them in its domestic production facilities. According to a report last year by the U.S. Department of Labor, clothing production in a number of countries overseas is riddled with child labor and forced labor. Other sweatshop abuses in the shirt industry overseas are common even when kids and forced labor aren’t involved. We simply don’t want to take part in that kind of a production system. Shirts that are made and shipped domestically are also lighter on the environment than shirts shipped across the ocean. These are all reasons for us to work with shirts made in the USA.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for investment in other countries. If one of the richest nations in the world keeps its wealth within its own borders, then that wealth will tend to stay concentrated and it will be that much harder for people living in poor countries to escape poverty. While we’re happy with the ethical parameters of our shirt sales, we’ve decided we’d like to do more to help alleviate poverty outside the United States. And so, for every t-shirt we sell through our shop at Skreened, Irregular Times pledges issue a $1 in the form of Kiva microloans to developing world. We’re not intending to obtain more income this way: the proceeds we receive from these microloans will be reinvested into more microloans and more overseas development.
Our first microloan goes to Loam Cham of Cambodia, who works as a wedding chef and earns $5 a day. With a camera, she’ll be able to expand her offerings to include wedding photography, increasing her income without a doubling of effort.