Wednesday, November 16, 2011

whatever happened to the outrage?

Remember a while back, maybe ten years, when sweatshops were a big topic? People were protesting Nike, the GAP, and other big brands; Kathie Lee Gifford broke down in tears when her clothing company was exposed as relying on child labor; 60 Minutes and 20/20 and Hard Copy were running exposes on human-rights violations in third world production factories. Sweatshops were utterly gruesome, and people were outraged to learn they were supporting sweatshop labor by buying overpriced Levis.

Ten years later, the sweatshop situation is even worse, and yet you don't seem to hear much about it. The big brands are more profitable than ever, and the smaller brands that sprang up specifically to offer sweatshop free clothing are struggling, or going out of business (SweatX and Just Garments shut down; No Sweat seems like its on the ropes; even American Apparel--which owed its initial popularity in large part to the anti-sweatshop movement--is starting to look like a short-lived fad, with stock prices that peaked at $15 a share currently trading for 75 cents).

So what's up? Does the public not care anymore? Has their horror been lacquered over by the gloss of a decade's worth of billion-dollar big-brand ad campaigns?

Well, one dude who's still outraged is Charles Kernaghan. Here's a speech he gave last year at the International Association of Fire Fighters. It starts with the American economy and then segues into sweatshops, and it goes on for more than 30 minutes, but if you watch even ten minutes you'll probably start to feel outraged about sweatshops all over again. So watch it.

1 comment:

'The ghost with the most' said...

Apathy happened. You answered the question in your piece about Megan Boyle's book