Today, We Cut All Ties With Skreened. Here’s Why.
Back in 2007, we started selling sweatshop-free t-shirts with Skreened as a way of taking care of expenses here without having to resort to advertising. When we went into business with the t-shirt printer Skreened back in 2007, I met with Skreened’s owner several times (including a four-part interview: 1|2|3|4). Skreened’s owner originally committed to only sell shirts that were made in the USA to avoid sweatshop labor rights abuses and low pay for apparel workers. In a later shift, Skreened started selling other shirts, but its owner made a personal commitment to me that Irregular Times would be able to select only made-in-the-USA, sweatshop-free shirts to sell. At Irregular Times, we made an additional commitment to donate a portion of our proceeds from Skreened sales to overseas human needs and domestic grassroots political organizing.
This morning, following a possible tip in a comment to Irregular Times, I revisited our Skreened shops. As these images show (click for full view), Irregular Times’ graphic designs have been made available for sale without our expressed permission on Alternative Apparel brand shirts.
It appears, although I cannot confirm this, that Irregular Times’ graphic designs have also been made available for sale on District Clothing brand shirts. We have written about the questionable ethical commitments of Alternative Apparel brand shirts here. Ethixmerch also has qualms about Alternative Apparel. EcoSalon notes the very poor wages associated with the nations in which Alternative Apparel commits only to abide by the minimum wage, and further notes that Alternative Apparel has tried to hide its factory locations. Rachel Barr notes similar problems. If you visit the webpage of District Clothing, furthermore, you will see that the ethical commitment of District Clothing brand shirts extends to not employing slaves, abiding by the shoddy laws of third-world countries, and being a member of the Fair Labor Association, a “fairwashing” corporate front group that lets third-world apparel producers slap an “ethical” label while treating apparel workers like cattle and paying them peanuts. See United Students Against Sweatshop’s exposes of the FLA here, here and here. See also this critique of the Fair Labor Association in the New York Times. I am not affirmatively assserting that Alternative Apparel and District Clothing produce their clothing using sweatshop labor. I am affirmatively asserting that if you define “sweatshop labor” as failing to pay third-world workers a living wage and exploiting their despair, both Alternative Apparel and District Clothing source with factories in nations that use sweatshop labor and have failed to convincingly demonstrate to me that their factories avoid such labor. The possibility that shirts with catchy and liberal Irregular Times political riffs printed on them may have possibly come from such factories for some period this fall is nauseating to me. (I am only soothed somewhat by the knowledge that, with Skreened’s waning popularity on the Internet, we have only sold a handful of shirts during the period.)
Irregular Times has never agreed to the change made by Skreened, through which our graphic designs have been used to hawk the products of third-world despair. We do not agree to this change. We do not support any relationship in which third-world workers are paid low wages to help companies like Skreened rake in revenue. In our opinion, it’s not just right.
In response, we at Irregular Times held a quick conference this morning and unanimously agreed to delete our Skreened shops. Given this dramatic ethical slide by Skreened despite past commitments, we no longer have any relationship with Skreened, and we no longer recommend a relationship with Skreened. We have noted this change on old posts that once endorse Skreened so that people can learn about the change.
Documentation of Skreened’s prior ethical commitments are available through the images of Skreened’s old website (before its multiple changes) that you can see below. Click on the images for larger versions of the images. As you might deduce from one of the images, Irregular Times used to be one of Skreened’s top sellers at a time when its business was expanding at least partly on the basis of ethical recommendations from websites like Irregular Times. If you must, visit the Skreened website to read its current ethical commitments, which you will notice are very vague and non-specific. Except for ink. Skreened is very specific about its ink ethics. It’s not so specific about the rest of its ethics any more, surely not as specific as the old commitments you can read below.
I would like to say more than this, but I considering that Skreened made these changes without our express approval and that Skreened now rakes in multi-million-dollar-revenues, I don’t want to risk being the subject of a lawsuit. Given its behavior, I do not trust Skreened any farther than I can spit.
The writers for Irregular Times cannot control what Skreened chooses to do — but we can control what we choose to do in response, and we have acted as swiftly, assuredly, completely and publicly as possible. I am very sad to see this old relationship with Skreened come to an end. I am downright angry at the abandoned commitments that led to the relationship’s dissolution.