Where'd it come from?

I know with all that’s going on very few people are thinking about the following, but I think that there are certain concerns that are timeless and that apply and are important no matter how small or unimportant they may seem at the time. We are SO influential in ways and sides we see and in ways and on sides we don’t see, regarding people’s lives and quality of life, not just in this country but around the world. What I’m talking about is the goods we got and still keep gettin’.
Just recently I was watching an expose on TV and it was talking about how sometimes we really don’t think about everything it took to get some of the things we enjoy to our doorstep. Of course you know that sweatshops are the next subject that logically comes up in this line of conversation and I’m concerned about knowing what to buy (which doesn’t come from a sweatshop) and what not to buy, thereby sort of boycotting the conditions and ending the situation from whence it came. Have you ever looked at a bottle of fruit juice at the listing of ingredients? It sometimes says something like “has juice from Italy, China, Hungary, Argentina, etc…” I wonder if on the one hand it’s my moral duty to buy fruit juice when I can instead of soda to acknowledge the possible hours and hours and hours of punctured fingers, sweat, heat prostration, back-breaking labor, monotony and elongated arms or on the other hand not to get it because I may be supporting that kind of circumstance for an untold number of people when the money finds its way to the operation in charge. Do you have any suggestions about what’s ok and what’s really not and how to recognize? Thanks.

Good thread topic!

Diamonds are on the “do not buy” list. My understanding is that in some countries totally substandard and dehumanizing conditions exist in the mining. Not all diamonds come from these places but it is impossible to know for certain where your diamonds came from.

I sometimes check out Shop For a Change

Who Owns Who can help you track down the parent companies.

Incredible. Thank you both! And while I’m not yet rich enough to buy gems I’ll bypass those when I am and I looked at those web sites and it’s good to know there are people who realize that when you buy something or really with anything you do/say/consume there are CONSEQUENCES. We forget those sometimes.

As bad as sweatshops are, I think that starving to death in utter poverty is still worse… It´s very hard to make a decision on this: to buy products that came form sweatshops or not; I´d go for a third option, to support political and economic changes that would end the socio-economic matrix in which sweatshops can emerge and sustain. Enforcement of international treaties regarding working conditions for example; or getting more basic, just plain old human rights.

The other thing is what constitutes a “sweatshop”? There is a lot of grey area.

If you’re a Chinese peasant from the countryside that now works 12 hours a day, eats pretty meager food and lives in extremely crowded dormitories in order to send $100 home each month. Is that a sweatshop? Of course to someone from a middle class American or European background it is. Hell, to someone from a middle class Chinese background, it is a sweatshop.

But a peasant from the countryside with nothing but subsitenence farming, low education, no jobs, no access to capital, it just might sound like a good deal. Good deal though is not quite the right term. In fact to between 50-200 *million * Chinese take make up the migrant population here, the sweatshops are certainly a better alternative than the fields.

What’s fair, what’s equitable? I don’t have the faintest idea.

An observation: conditions in a lot of the Chinese factories have improved markedly over the past few years. I know plenty of people that inspect factories and consumer pressure on the Nike’s of the world is having a positive effect of improving conditions without eliminating the job. Now, in other countries like the philippines, I know that much of the work is moving to China.

This site says:

I’d like to see more recent numbers. Also, Nike contracts out the factories. In China it generally uses a Taiwanese company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange called IIRC “Yu Yuen.”

I’m the last one to say that life in a chinese sweatshop making goods for the foreign market is a bed of roses. However, I have seen some of the factory conditions, and I spent 3 years in the deep and very poor Chinese countryside, not to mention growing up picking walnuts and other farm work with migrant workers in norcal.

But to say an opportunity to make wages and star capital accumulation when there are literally no other options is not necessarily a horrible thing.

I do see your point, **China Guy, ** but it’s my personal opinion that for Nike to pay less than a living wage, when a living wage is less than * $50 a month * is just plain cold-hearted corporate greed.

Were I in charge, I don’t know how I would be able to sleep at night knowing that such a paltry sum could lift my employees from poverty, but decide instead to use the money to snag another celebrity endorsement.

Should they do it? Yes. Will they do it? Probably not. Firstly, they can simply get away with paying less. The workers have no power, and are easily replaceable, should they get fed up with the conditions and low pay. Corporations purposely look for nations with the poorest and most desperate work pool when deciding where to build a factory.

Secondly, American outrage is confined primarily to we few loonies who actually care what our purchases represent. It’s not going to affect overall sales. The average American would agree with the idea that the workers should be grateful for any crumbs from Nike’s table, even though they themselves would never submit to those kinds of working conditions, or tolerate being compensated so poorly.

Of course, Nike is not the only offender in this area. It’s almost impossible to buy a product today which hasn’t exploited * somebody * in its production. Yes, I can buy a shirt “made in the U.S.A” but the cloth may have been woven and dyed in Indonesia.

All the consumer can do is to try to buy responsibly, write letters to companies expressing your opinion, and try to support causes which work to help the workers.