the dust of their labors

I saw the BCC follow-up story on the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh. It stirred up a fire of anger that has been smoldering inside my gut for a long time. I was angry that it happened, of course, but I was even angrier that the international community who benefits from the shoddy construction and cheap labor of factories in developing countries are not responding with help for the victims and their families.

Maybe this fanned my guilt over how I benefit from corporations taking production to third world countries. I don’t pay as much for all those things that I buy that I probably don’t need while the workers can’t afford the basics. I met with my financial planner this morning and my retirement accounts are doing well, because company profit margins are good – at the expense of those teen-age girls who were killed and maimed because they didn’t have a choice – they needed that paltry salary to stay alive.

I’m not bearing the guilt alone, however. I am sharing it with everyone who engages in greedy consumerism. I am sharing it with large corporations who lack a conscience and CEO’s who draw huge salaries and bonuses at the expense of their workers who produce their products.

I find it unconscionable that after so many people fought and lost their lives to make the workplace in developed countries safer and fairer, that jobs are shipped overseas where there isn’t governmental protection. All people who are screaming for less government control in the US should consider whether they would want their children or grandchildren working in a third-world sweat shop over their summer vacation.

I am reblogging Jamie Dedes’ post because she gives a very moving history of garment workers. Thank you, Jamie, for increasing our understanding of this problem in a way that is a little calmer and gentler than my outburst. I really appreciate your concern for justice.

4 thoughts on “the dust of their labors

  1. I agree with much of what you say. I have been trying to find ethical investments. It isn’t easy and the returns are much lower than the others. But in all conscience, how can I turn a blind eye to where my future income when I retire comes from when I have been a member of Amnesty International all my adult life, and more recently, Friends of the Earth.
    It isn’t just cheap products from abroad where buyers are careful not to delve too deeply into factory conditions. Farmers are paid a pittance for their produce for supermarkets; animals are kept in dire conditions to produce cheap meat, dairy products and eggs.
    Until we expect and demand better conditions for workers and animals everywhere, these abuses will continue. Our weapon is to boycott companies we know are continuing to use exploitative practices.


  2. In part I think my guilt comes from your observation that we don’t know how to be responsible with our purchasing power. Corporations use the argument that they are providing employment and better wages then they would get if the corporation wasn’t outsourcing this work. I think it is a smoke screen for corporate greed. One of the best answers to this problem is the few companies I have heard of who tie CEO salaries to the lowest paid worker – say no more than 10 times.
    You are very welcome. I feel it is an honor to join voices with you for the cause of justice and peace.


  3. Thank you, Pat, for your consciencious contribution to building awareness.There is such a thing as righteous anger.

    Among the things I resent is being put in the position of: no matter what I do, I’m wrong. If I buy I buy into an abusive system that is not sustainable. If I don’t buy then these folks have no income. How do we win this one? The ony way is to fight the status quo.

    Further, I think this is not at all about guilt. No. This is about responsibility.

    Bravo, dear Pat, for having the kindness and the courage to speak out.


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