What's The True Cost Of Cheap Clothing?
13 deaths in India are another reminder of the human price of unethically produced fashion.
BY SCOTT CHRISTIAN | Nov 16, 2016 | Fashion
People are dying so that we can wear cheap clothes. Are you okay with that? Because it's happening. It's happening a lot, actually. So you have to ask yourself: is it worth a human life to make sure we have the latest fashion trends in our closet? I think most people would say no, but here we are, with 13 dead and three injured in a garment factory fire in Ghaziabad, India.
The blaze broke out early last Friday morning in a jacket manufacturing unit of the (apparently illegal) factory, where Rexine (an artificial leather) and foam used in jackets quickly caught fire and produced clouds of toxic smoke. According to local authorities, the flames initially erupted because of an electrical short circuit. Of the 13 casualties, 11 were under the age of 26. One of them was Late Salman, 25. That's his family you see grieving in the photo at the top of this story.
Though the owners of the factory were arrested and charged with "causing death under negligence," this is becoming an all too familiar story. Factories cut corners in order to manufacture clothing cheaply, people suffer and occasionally die. All so that we can pay five bucks for a T-shirt.
Keep in mind: This isn't just a story about India or Bangladesh or China. It's a story about us. It's because of our insatiable demand for low-cost, disposable clothing that garment factory workers are being treated appallingly all over the world. Like in Turkey, where, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Syrian refugees, many of whom are children, work for pennies in dangerous conditions.
Of course there is the now-famous Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, where in 2013 more than 1,100 factory workers died after a building collapsed. Probably the most lethal day in the history of garment manufacturing. And, most shockingly perhaps, are the conditions right here at home. In a 2015 survey of Los Angeles garment workers, 21 percent said they'd experienced physical or verbal violence on the job, and 6 percent reported sexual harassment.
There's also the 80 percent who received no health and safety training, and nearly half who had no access to first aid at work. Many of these workers regularly clock 10-plus hour days, at an illegal wage of USD5 per hour, all with no paid overtime. These are sweatshops, and they are here, right inside our borders.
So what do we do? We demand transparency. If brands like Everlane, Leonard & Church, and Patagonia can do it, then so can everyone else. But we need more than transparency on the part of the clothing brands. We, ourselves, need to take responsibility, as consumers, and stop buying clothes we don't need when we don't know where they came from, or how they were produced—no matter how good the deal. The only real power in this fight is the power of the dollar, and those dollars need to go to companies who give a damn about basic human rights.
We all have the ability to stop these tragedies, like the one that happened in India, from happening. It's time we start exercising that power. Because affordable clothing shouldn't take precedence over a human life.
From: Esquire US