What is Sweatshop Clothing?

Diana Bocco

Sweatshops are manufacturing facilities that employ substandard methods or facilities. People who work in sweatshops are often subjected to mental abuse, poor working conditions, lack of benefits, and even slavery. Many minors work to produce what is known as sweatshop clothing, as do illegal immigrants, and people who lack the ability to obtain a standard job. Sweatshop clothing is now largely produced in third world countries, but it was once a common procedure in major US and European cities, including New York and London.

Sweatshop clothing is largely produced in third world countries.
Sweatshop clothing is largely produced in third world countries.

Sweatshop clothing is largely objected to because it is used by large corporations who make big profits based on the cheap labor provided. Mainly produced in countries where there is little to no control on labor laws, sweatshop clothing has come under attack by several organizations, such as the National Labor Committee and the International Labor Rights Fund. The anti-globalization movement, which is represented through organizations such as the AFL-CIO Labor Union, is active throughout the world with education and outreach programs. Some of them work actively to influence large companies to change their policies regarding sweatshop clothing. As a result, companies such as GAP Inc have established policies on clothing production in third-world countries.

Shoes are often manufactured in sweatshops.
Shoes are often manufactured in sweatshops.

Some defenders of sweatshop clothing argue that wages are actually not as bad as people seem to believe. While certainly low, they say that the wages are more than enough for local workers to live on, and they also offer an alternative to other, more physical jobs, such as farming, cleaning, building, etc.

Many people who are concerned about sweatshop clothing choose to boycott companies selling them. This can be harder than it seems, since there is no way of knowing how each company handles production. A quick search online will give you a general idea of what companies are selling sweatshop clothing; if you cannot find anything about a specific company, it doesn't mean that their clothes are more "ethical" but at least there is a chance they may be. Certain companies sell exclusively "anti-sweatshop clothing." American Apparel, Union Jean and Apparel, and Busted Tees are just some examples.

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