Today, they stopped searching for bodies in Bangladesh. The death toll from the garment factory building collapse: 1,127.
I stopped buying a certain retailer’s clothes a few years back. I had just read an article about a small child in one of their contract factories who had his mouth stuffed with oil soaked rags because he was crying.
And there I was, hanging up my young son’s jacket with their label on it – and I felt so guilty.
Guilty, that children are suffering somewhere so my kids can have cheap clothes. All I could think to myself was ...“there is a huge price being paid by a child somewhere for $5 t-shirts and onesies here in America”.
The trouble is, no one names names, and I wish they did.
No one would use the words anti-capitalist or tree hugger to describe me. I understand that businesses need to make a profit or else they fail and then nobody gets paid.
However, I do like to be a conscious consumer when I can. I buy cage free eggs and local produce to support those practices. I feel good when I pay a few extra bucks for fair trade coffee. Cruelty-free labeling had the power to change the cosmetics industry.
Finding out which clothing companies truly practice and support fair labor standards -- and which ones pass off inhuman conditions as the failings of a third party contractor -- is really hard. No one wants to name names. But someone should.
Bangladesh understands the power of the American consumer. It took 1,127 horrible, crushing deaths for the Cabinet to allow trade unions and raise the minimum wage for garment workers. Government officials are promising improvements in safety.
As I am writing this, I have just learned that H&M – one of the largest buyers of clothes made in Bangladesh -- has signed onto a safety plan created by the labor unions. PVH, which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands has as well.
Let’s hope those companies, and others who step up and sign on will use their power to enforce the standards. Consumers will reward retailers who do the right thing. If only we knew who they were.