The truth behind the labels

By. Theresa Skubic


Illuminated Transcript

It’s so easy to swipe, insert or tap our debit cards, while purchasing a shirt from H&M, Joe Fresh, and Nike. But do you ever stop and think? Where did the journey of this nine-dollar shirt start, and who’s 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 clothes to be made at these low prices, and how the cost are affecting garment workers world-wide.

I should start with a bit of background on sweatshops, and explain the life of a worker.

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. 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.




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.

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 still 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.

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 it’s less than a factor than the quality of the clothing, if i enjoy the clothing, I won’t be bothered if it is more expensive.

Cost is only a little bit of a factor because my parents buy my clothes.

If the prices at these stores were more expensive would you still shop, there?

I don't really think i am in the position to make the right choice now because I don't know how much the prices would increase, would it be 3 5 10 dollars, if they only increased a little yeah, I would still shop there just because I am happy with the clothing I have there so far, and if they were to continue to increase the quality of it and increased the price I would continue to shop there. But if were talking the same prices as American Eagle I don't really see the benefit of shopping at H&M, maybe i might look at every store in the mall the same

I definitely would not shop at forever 21 if the prices weren't so low because that's the whole point of the store for me, it is a department store that has hundreds of clothes for cheap.

No I wouldn't continue to shop at Nike because the whole point of an outlet store is to get lower prices.

I probably would continue to shop there, I mean that is of course if they ridiculously increase their prices I probably switch where I am going, that's kind of why I enjoy those places its cause the prices are usually not that big of a deal, but yeah, I would say if it’s not a major increase I wouldn't mind.

Honestly, I already find shopping pretty difficult, just because things are already really expensive so I feel like if the prices were to go up at certain store I would just look for more outlets and other places where the price is smaller just because I am on student budget and just can’t afford expensive clothing right now. 

Yeah, the Hudson Bay is already pretty expensive so if they were to increase the price I would probably go to another place.

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 have to be lost until the fashion industry, and society realize enough is enough.

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?


Oh my Gosh no I totally didn't hear about that, that's actually terrible I can’t believe they would have no fire escape and there is no way for them to get out, how is that even allowed it’s kind of scary to think about

No I never heard about that, I feel like sometimes we don't recognize the malpractice that is involved in everyday products that are marginally less than is it was a regulated and practice and honestly is a defining ethical issue over time

yeah actually I do remember learning about the nine-story building that fell down in Bangladesh back when i was in year one here at York. We watch a documentary back in ADMS 1000, we were learning about work safety and the conditions of some 3rd world countries and how bad it is and how it compares to our country, you know it’s not even comparable. I remember looking around the class, it was almost as if no one really understood or realized the true realization of you know how bad their conditions are and tough life is for them. How you wake up every day, and you can go to work and a fire starts and you’re in bad conditions and you can’t escape from a fire its horrible I still remember it still impacts me today because learning about that coming to school first year this was one of the key points and reasons I actually ended up changing my major and going into HR, seeing how bad someone has their conditions over there I only thought it would be right if I could assure here in Canada our conditions stay up to date maybe I can influence change in other 3rd world countries possibly, You know any little change I could do would help.



Did you know Donald Trump was president?

yeah, I actually did know that I listen to the news everyday

Yeah, I actually read about that a couple weeks ago, in the newspaper

I did hear about that it was all over twitter and every social media

I actually watched the elections

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

Since 2006 500+ people have died in factory fires.


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 workers worldwide who are constantly being violated and stripped of their human rights in order to meet fashion industries deadlines.

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 a part of this problem.

The only question what can be done?



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

 "Passport York Login." Passport York Login. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.

"International Labor Rights Forum." American Eagle Joins Bangladesh Safety Accord | International Labor Rights Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

"Made in Bangladesh - the Fifth Estate - YouTube." YouTube. YouTube, 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.