“Fair Trade” Clothing Labels Expose Truth About Sweatshops

Canadian Fair Trade Network, Rethink Canada, workers rights, human rights, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, advertising campaign, fair trade, fair-trade clothing, fair-trade fashion


A yellow cabled sweater, for instance, outlines a day in the life of a Cambodian child laborer. The label reads:

“100% cotton. Made in Cambodia by Behnly, nine years old. He gets up at 5:00 am every morning to make his way to the garment factory where he works. It will be dark when he arrives and dark when he leaves. He dresses lightly because the temperature in the room he works reaches 30 degrees. The dust in the room fills his nose and mouth. He will make less than a dollar, for a day spent slowly suffocating. A mask would cost the company ten cents.

The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Another garment, a red hoodie, brings another story to life:

“100% cotton. Made in Sierra Leone by Tejan. The first few times he coughed up blood he hid it from his family. They couldn’t afford medical treatment and he couldn’t risk losing his long-time job at the cotton plantation. When he fell into a seizure one day it could no longer be ignored. The diagnosis was pesticide poisoning. The lack of proper protective clothing has left him with leukemia at the age of 34. He has two daughters. One of them starts work at the factory next year.

The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

The tag on a men’s blazer draws attention to Bangladesh’s numerous industrial accidents.

“100% cotton. Made in Bangladesh by Joya who left school at the age of twelve to help support her two brothers and newly widowed mother. Her father was killed when a fire ripped through the cotton factory where he works. She now works in the building across the street from the burned down factory. A constant reminder of the risk she takes everyday.

The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

As the labels note, the long hours and poverty wages are rarely the sum of a garment worker’s problems. Their environments are often riddled with fire, chemical, and structural hazards that threaten life and limb on a daily basis.

RELATED | Cambodia Fails to Protect Garment Workers, Says Human Rights Watch

“It’s time for change,” the ads continue. “Buying fair trade ensures workers are being compensated fairly and not exposed to unsafe work conditions.”

Ain’t that the truth.

+ Canadian Fair Trade Network

+ Rethink Canada

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