Sweatshop conditions

By. Theresa Skubic


Theresa: It is so easy to swipe, insert, or tap our debit cards which purchasing a shirt of H&M, Joe fresh and Nike. But do you ever stop and think where did the journey of this nine-dollar shirt start, and whose hands created the clothes being featured in catalogues and commercials.

My name is Theresa and in my podcast, I will be discussing how it is possible for the clothes to be made at these low prices, and how the costs are affecting garment worker’s world wide.

Sweatshops are factories where workers work long hours for an average 24 cents an hour, adding up to roughly 38$ a month. They are forced to work in extremely poor conditions and if caught complaining or slacking, they will be abused ether physically or verbally. In other words, most clothing brands such as Victoria Secret, Joe Fresh, and even the Kardashian’s line are not bothered with violating Humans Rights if in the end, they have money in their pockets.

Looking at a recent garment factory incident on June 25 2014, garment works were sewing cries for help onto the tags of a Primark dress. These labels read “Forced to work exhausting hours, and degrading sweatshop conditions.

The last this story was discussed Primark promised to investigate this incident, stating they were sure these labels would turn out to be a hoax, and perhaps someone took a needle in the change room.

“This mountain of rubble is a monument to the 1100 lives lost here last April when this garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh.” (CBC News, 2014) Fifth estates, Mark Kelly, said this after travelling to Dhaka Bangladesh and witnessing the remains of the worlds largest garment factory disaster.

On April 24, 2013 Rana Plaza in Bangladesh went up in flames. Over 1000 people died and no one said a thing, said Sajeet Sennik, an ex designer for Walmart. (CBC News, 2014)

After the fire, said Sajeet, a meeting was held. No one discussed the lives lost, rather they discussed units and margins. Profits were put ahead of people.

(For more information on the incident in 2013)

Made in Bangledesh 

When was it that Humanity began to put wealth and success over lives and equality? Has this always been an issue? And will there ever be a change.

Canadians know about the hardships in the sweat shop industry, but continue to shop were clothes are cheap. I walked around York University and asked students where their favourite stores were?


Interviewees: I’m going to have to say H&M.

I like to shop at Forever 21.

I like to shop at Nike Outlet Store.

I shop at the Hudson Bay.

I shop around a lot, at different places in the mall but I enjoy going to places where I can purchase everything at once, so places like The Gap and Old Navy.

Theresa: Do prices play a role in your selection as to why this is your favourite store?

Interviewees: Yeah, the prices do play a factor in a role as to why this is my favourite store just cause, I’m on a student budget and I have no real income, so it makes more sense for a store like H&M where their clothing is cheap and decent quality instead of American eagle where, yeah it may be better quality but it has a bigger price tag.

Yeah, cost does affect when I like to buy things because I don't really want to buy things that are too expensive, I want something cheap and affordable.

Cost plays a role in buy Nike because I’m a student and funds are tight.

I would say price is a factor, like of course I consider price when I’m going shopping but I mean its less than a factor.

Theresa: The feed back I received was interesting but not shocking. The majority stated the cost comes before equality, and student budget is a huge factor in where people are choosing to shop.

Why is it however that nowadays every owns some sort of smart phone, a laptop, and flat screens, but no one is willing to pay a little more for clothes even though this could help people.

Similar to the Rana plaza incident, in November in 2012, Tanzarine fashion factory, a 9-story building located in Bangladesh went up in flames. This factory reportedly had no fire factory escapes and survivors have said that the majority of the doors were blocked by boxes and the windows were barred shut. Months before this the factories fire safety certificate had been revoked but workers were still forced to work there.

During the fire, workers were kicking the ventilation fan and were jumping out the building from 6 stories up. Most of the 114 victims that dies were burned alive. There was no escaping.

And this brings up the question, how many more lives must be lost until the fashion industry, and society realize enough is enough.

Theresa: Did you know about the fire that had broken out in the Tanzarine fashion factory in 2012 had no fire escapes and the windows were barred shut?

Interviewees: Oh, my gosh, no. I totally didn’t hear about that, that’s actually terrible. I can’t believe they had no fire escape and there was no way for them to get out. How is that even allowed that is kind of scary to think about.

No, I never heard about that. I feel like sometimes we don’t recognize the amount of malpractice that is involved in bring us everyday products for marginally less than if it was a regulated practice it’s a defining ethical issue over time.

Um, yeah, I actually did hear about the nine-story building that fell down in Bangladesh back when I was in year one here at York. We watched a documentary back in ADMS 1000, we were learning about work safety and the conditions of some third world countries and how bad it is and how it compares to our country. It is not even comparable. I remember looking around the class, it was almost as if no one really understood or realized the true realization of how bad their conditions are and how tough their lives are and how you wake up every single day, it could be you go to work and a fire start, you could have bad work conditions and you can’t escape from the fire. It is horrible, and it still remember it. It still impacts me today. Learning about that coming into school first year…Yeah, this is one of the key points and main reasons I switched my major and went into HR here at York seeing how bad someone has their conditions over there, I only thought it would be right to ensure here in Canada our work conditions stay up to date. Maybe, I could influence change in another country. Anything, anything little thing I can do for change, I could do to help.     

Theresa: Did you know Donald Trump was president?

Interviewee: Uhu yeah, I did know that. I listen to the news and I heard that

Uhu yeah, I act read about that a couple weeks ago, in the news paper

Yeah, actually I did hear about that it was all over twitter and every form of social media

Yeah, I actually watched the elections

Theresa: Why is it that news that affects one country makes national headlines, but news that affects a country that is caused by other countries is swept under the rug?

“Tragedy to tragedy, year to year, and no one seems to realize” Sajeet Senik states (CBC News, 2014)

Since 2006 500+ people have died in factory fires.

In India, between 5% – 30% of the 340 million children under the age of 16 are estimated to fall under the definition of child labor. (Gaille, 2015)

Has our society completely turned their backs to issues that they feel don’t affect them, or they can’t do anything about.

Are we too far gone, and is it too late to help people?

Why is it that I can construct so many problems and questions, but can’t seem to think of one answer or solution?

Today there is an estimated 4 million Garment worker’s world wide who are constantly being violated and stripped of their human rights in order to meet fashion industries dead lines.

It is evident that one voice can't change the opinion of many, but it is time for a change.

We cannot continue to sit back and say these problems aren’t our problems because they are, everyone who shops, is apart of this problem.

The only question what can be done?



Other Resources:

Aulakh, Raveena. "I Got Hired at a Bangladesh Sweatshop. Meet My 9-year-old Boss | Toronto Star." Thestar.com. N.p., 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

"Global Sweatshops, Solidarity and the Bangladesh Breakthrough." Public Seminar. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Bain, Marc. "Most of H&M’s “best” Factories in Bangladesh Still Don’t Have Working Fire Exits." Quartz. N.p., 03 Oct. 2015. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

North, Andrew. "The Dark Underworld of Bangladesh's Clothes Industry." BBC News. N.p., 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.

"CBS News Goes Undercover in a Bangladesh Clothing Factory." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.

Harvey-Jenner, Catriona. "This Woman Believes She Decoded a Cry for Help Note from Sweatshop Workers in Her Primark Underwear." Cosmopolitan. N.p., 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Bajaj, Vikas. "Fatal Fire in Bangladesh Highlights the Dangers Facing Garment Workers." The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

"In Bangladesh, the Sham of Shams Factory." Al Jazeera America. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Cadwell, A. (2016, October 3). 35 fair trade & ethical clothing brands betting against fast fashion. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-clothing

Cool-Organic-Clothing. (2008). Sweatshop free clothing is the ethical choice of fashion. Retrieved December 22, 2016, from http://www.cool-organic-clothing.com/sweatshop-free.html

Works Cited

CBC News (2014, October 3). Made in Bangladesh - the fifth estate Retrieved from https://youtu.be/onD5UOP5z_c

Gaille, B. (2015, August 11). 36 shocking sweatshop statistics. Retrieved December 01, 2016, from http://brandongaille.com/36-shocking-sweatshop-statistics/

Mailonline, Isabel Hunter For. "Crammed into Squalid Factories to Produce Clothes for the West on Just 20p a Day, the Children Forced to Work in Horrific Unregulated Workshops of Bangladesh ." Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 01 Dec. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

"Sweatshops in Bangladesh." War On Want. N.p., 23 June 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

"Factory Collapse in Bangladesh." Www.globallabourrights.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.