By Rachel Barr
It is very rare that we stop to take the time to ponder the means of distribution or transportation of how our clothes arrived in the retail stores we purchase from. What we fail to realize is the economic structure of where these items come from. The United States has the biggest potential to make an impact on the economies that we import from. Our linkage point with the developing countries that create our products begins the moment we decide to open trade with them. From this moment on, we are in relationship with these countries and should nurture our bond by all means.
Point Loma Nazarene University has almost 1,000 members who are involved in their ministries team. Whether their work is international, or around campus, they receive t-shirts representing their ministry. Point Loma Nazarene chooses to order their t-shirts in bulk from Alternative Apparel, a so-called eco-friendly clothing brand. However, according to their FAQs, under Wages and Benefits, “Employers must recognize that wages are essential to meeting employee’s basic needs. Employers shall pay employees, as a floor, at least the required minimum wage and shall provide legally mandated benefits.” The average total income of a person working fulltime in places that Alternative Apparel import from, namely Bangladesh, is usually no more than $70 -$100 per month, far lower than the minimum wage requirements in the United States. Below is a photo of garment workers in Bangladesh. The depiction would most likely not look very appealing to most college attendees, but it’s sometimes the only option these people have.
Another issue with the brand Alternative Apparel is that they claim to be organic clothing, however, when reading the tags on the clothing, one will realize the clothing barely has any organic matter, if any at all. Also, the company has been known to work with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production (WRAP), according to an ethical clothing review site. These two organizations are “Both known within the anti-sweatshop movement to lack moxie.” Becoming aware of multinational companies is crucial if one really cares about alleviating poverty in the poorest countries. Part of the reason many workers decide to tolerate harsh working conditions for low wages is out of desperation. It’s our duty, especially as consumers of these products to change the circumstances of these people.