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Child Labor And Sweatshops Are A Current Problem In The Fashion Industry

1590 words - 7 pages

Child Labor and Sweatshops are a Current Problem in the Fashion Industry

         Many societies face the much overlooked problem of child labor and sweatshops in the fashion industry. Recently, Americans were stunned to learn that their apple pie sweetheart, Kathie Lee Gifford was associated with the exploitation of underage workers in Honduras. Gifford's story began the resurgence of knowledge of the growing problem of sweatshops in today's society. Contrary to popular belief, sweatshops still exist across the world in both third world countries and super powers such as America. Sweatshops incorporate the inhumane exploitation of workers, many of whom are underage, by providing ...view middle of the document...

President Clinton created a Task Force and signed a conduct code to help assuage the situation of those entrapped in the sweatshops. The Congressional Mandate encourages a sense of 'social responsibility" in order to eliminate "hazardous conditions to the physical and mental health of the child" (The Apparel Industry and Codes of Conduct 2). However, according to David B. Wilson, a critic for Labor Alerts1, the Task Force fell short of the intended goals. Due to the stubbornness of the fashion industry, many of the terms agreed to are filled with loopholes. For example, the Congressional Mandate dictates that "Companies shall pay the local minimum wage or prevailing industry wage" (Wilson 1). However, third world countries often lack a minimum wage and those which do have a minimum wage are set well below the basic needs in order to attract investment by foreign companies. Realistically, the fashion industry merely complies with the substandard laws that have already been created. (Wilson 1) The Task Force Agreement and Congressional Mandate ultimately result in the legalization of the practices considered to be most inhumane, and they serve as a seal of approval for such practices. Although Congress demonstrated the need for legislation, the result proves the need for increased regulation and strict measures to ensure the fair and equal treatment of garment workers.

         The Conduct Code created by Congress lacks the ability to eliminate garment industry sweatshops because many of the policies were already implemented by certain companies such as Nike and Gap. Although these companies abide by the Code, their factories are still considered sweatshops due to inhumane standards. While the companies pay minimum wage, the allocated amount is not enough to support basic needs. In addition, the companies neglect to enforce child labor laws and many underage workers face a 60 hour work week which is considered too much by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937. This act "forbade child labor, guaranteed workers a minimum wage (at the time, 40 cents per hour), and set a maximum 40-hour workweek for businesses operating in interstate commerce" (Johnson 703). It is apparent that the newly implemented conduct code provides no real protection or compensation for workers.

         The Code of Conduct would be more effective if it followed the precedent set by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937. If the United States would simply follow the requirements set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies would be forced to pay at least the set minimum wage of 1937, which was 40 cents per hour, were they to do business across state lines. Now, however, apparel companies can continue to pay their workers 20 cents an hour for 'regular' 60-hour work weeks, push them to do unlimited hours of 'voluntary' overtime beyond that, monitor conditions via accounting firms which have no connections to the workers AND be rewarded for this behavior with a 'no...

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