By Rachel Barr
In North America, as a country we take for granted most products we consume. We wake up each day, dress in our attire, apply our make up, gel our hair, put our shoes on, and grab our jacket on our way out to our everyday lives. The majority of us have jobs that allow a steady income. In America we are paid at of minimum of $8 per hour, which is enough to sustain living expenses and food: the necessities. How often do we stop to consider where our attire, shoes, and jackets are from? These clothes not only work as a necessity. The average working class household in America is able to afford something most developing countries cannot, which is the option to express oneself through style from unlimited sources and choices of clothing.
Most of our clothes come from people working in developing countries. These people are producing the luxuries they personally cannot afford due to harsh working conditions and excruciatingly low wages, and if you’re a woman working in these conditions, you’re most likely repressed. According to the journal, Global production: The apparel industry in the Pacific Rim, we see the repression of women currently playing a large role in the apparel industry’s globalization through the vulnerability of these workers. Further research findings by Roxana Ng explain the intensity of the desperation of women immigrants, seeking to find work. Ng explains the impact of the different roles that genders, race, and class play in the job industry.
In her article, Canadian Woman Studies, Ng explains how the restructuring of working environments transforms the lives of garment workers. She focuses primarily on developing activist work to improve the working conditions of migrant workers and their wages in this industry. Ng writes, “50 percent of garment workers are immigrants and 76 percent are women”, with a large percent of people working in sweatshops to create our everyday attire. According to Nick Erze, ASB Director of Finance, during the fiscal year for 2012-2013, 871 t-shirts from Alternative Apparel alone were ordered for international ministries and community ministries at Point Loma Nazarene University. Erze states, “These numbers are pretty typical year to year, with the exception of Chaplaincy Ministries’ staff jackets (Patagonia brand) purchase which was a one time purchase.”
I agree with Ng’s call to action which that an alliance must develop between North and South America, along with multidimensional strategies to foresee that workers are paid fairly and with good working conditions. She states “gains by one group of workers will have a ripple effect on other groups.” Meaning, we have the greatest potential to set a positive example for other countries to follow. Ng is uses Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) as an example of a non-profit network, composed of more than 400 organizations concerned with labor issues worldwide, and “has been at the forefront of research and advocacy on garment production. It traces Canadian manufacturers’ involvement in garment production in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean basin, and more recently Asia” (79). Point Loma Nazarene University can develop methods like Ng’s which track what occurs during each step of the manufacturing for apparel in order to ensure an impact the movement towards fair wages and working condition for these workers.