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Posts Tagged ‘sweat shops’

Take it Personally

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

take_photo1Anita Roddick of The Body Shop fame has created a work of art with this book, putting images and phrases together, such as, fashion and victim which show us how we have lost perspective of the real world.

Roddick has always tried to conduct business in a personal way, but has found that the business world is dominated by the faceless, and relentless advance of globalisation. This is a world of secret, impersonal committees, who do not take their social responsibilities seriously. The focus is on profit. Without more openness and democracy, she says, the world will be unable to deal with the serious crisis brought on us by globalisation.

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Addictd 2 da fone

Monday, April 16th, 2007

by Anna Wu

Banglasdesh mobile If teeny bopping, Supre-toting girls in the city surprise you with their uber-pink phones, (what in the world do they need them for?) you may be more surprised to hear that Bangladesh has added almost 9 million cell phone users in a single year. Yet compared to other countries Bangladesh is just a small player, only ranked 8th among the top 10 Asian cell phone markets.

Being rich or poor as a country isn’t a factor in determining the extensive use of the cell phone. The glory of communication is widely available — data confirms new cell phone customers in Asia are of the middle-to-lower income bracket. But is there a sinister industry behind this fashionable and popular accessory?

THE GOOD

Text DumpingCell phones let us phone Mum to tell her we’ll be out for just a bit longer. Your brother might use it to call the AA while stranded on the side of a road somewhere or to break up with his girlfriend via txt. Increasingly mobiles are also being used for saving lives.

India was the first country to introduce a disaster warning cell phone system. In 30 seconds, the general public can be informed about natural disasters such as the Mumbai floods or epidemic outbreaks like cholera, through SMSs and voicemails. Similarly here in NZ, the Western Bay of Plenty have a free service to provide registered users with text alerts of Civil Defense emergencies in the region.

In the wake of the murder of German backpacker Birgit Brauer, Telecom and Vodafone launched the SAFE (7233) txt service for anyone to record their travel plans within NZ. Messages are stored and (hopefully not!) retrieved later by police to find out where the missing person’s supposed to be.

The cell phone has even emerged as a tool for fighting poverty. Last year a senior official of the United Nations World Food Programme in London received a text from a refugee in a drought-plagued camp in Kenya. It was a simple message; people are not receiving enough food “you must help.” You may wonder how someone who does not have access to enough food can afford a cell phone, but in Africa, where many nations lack public telecommunication systems, they are not a luxury but a necessity. They are cheap and are used by traders as the primary communication tool and for millions of others they are the thing that connects them to scattered communities and families. This text message was an effective way of a refugee in Kenya to access someone living in the comfort of the industralised world, where hunger is hard to imagine.

THE BAD

We already know cheap, affordable fast-fashion is to sweatshops what diamonds are to the notorious diamond mines. Similarly while cell phones have revolutionised communication, the materials that create them come at someone else’s expense.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) contains one third of the world’s cassiterite, 64 to 80 percent of the world’s colton, 10 percent of the world’s copper and 20 to 40 percent of the world’s cobalt — all of which form the components of our cell phones. U.K.-based organisation Global Witness documented “killing, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, intimidation, mutilation” by the Democratic Republic of Congo military and other armed groups “to gain control over either resource-rich areas or the ability to tax resources.” While below ground, according to the BBC, children as young as 8 yrs old “dig and sieve from dawn to dusk” in the Ruashi mine which employs 4000 miners.

AND THE [cell phone] GRAVE

The world now has over 3.5 billion cell phone users* and the environment appears to be paying a high cost.

GorillaColton is a mineral that is used to make tiny devices that store energy in cell phones and is responsible for the phones shrinking size, but endangered animals are paying the price for this pocket-sized convenience. In a DRC national park the mountain gorilla population has plunged by half, after mining of colton devastated the gorilla’s habitat.

The U.S. Geological Survey calculates the 500 million phones lying unused in the US contain 17 million pounds of copper, 6 million ounces of silver, 600,000 ounces of gold. 17 different metals can be reclaimed.

Fortunately as global citizens and responsible consumers, we can reduce some of the impact by choosing what we do with our “dead phones.”

TOP FIVE INTERESTING FACTS

MobileThe first hand held mobile phone to become commercially available was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X in 1983. It was 25 cms long and weighed over half a kilo!!

MobileIn 2004 Vodafone NZ’s recycling initiative “The Old, The Broke and The Ugly” prevented more than 6780kg of mobile phone equipment going to landfill, that’s 16,826 mobile phones!

MobileIn India the leading mobile service, has launched a new service, which allows customers to make their donations to temples via SMS.

MobileNew Zealand has over 3 million mobile customers who on average replace handsets for a newer, flashier one every 18 to 24 months. (This indicates their are going to be a lot more forsaken Oldies, Brokes and Uglies in the cell phone grave)

Mobile
In December 2006 people in the UK sent 4 billion texts.

TAKE ACTION

  • Use your old phone! Do you really need a new one?
  • If you really need a new phone, then recycle your old one.
  • - Drop by any Vodafone retail store with your unwanted mobiles and accessories like batteries and chargers. Your phone will go on to become things like traffic cones or copper pipes, or sent to a developing country instead to spread the joy of communication.
    - Organise a mobile recycling week at school, work or anyplace in your community by sending an email to recycling.nz@vodafone.com They’ll provide a bin as well as posters and leaflets to let people know all about it.

  • There are miners mining in conditions of virtual slavery in DRC to feed our demand for this technology and ironically mobile phones are being used to threaten those who try to draw attention to this. Visit www.amnesty.org.uk to read about the Congo appeal and send a letter online to the President telling him you support free speech.

LEARN MORE

Cell phones for civil engagement (*mobile user stat from this site)
Recycle mobiles in your community
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Read the full Guardian article “You Must Help”

Dressed to kill

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

By Hannah Newport

hangerExcited doesn’t begin to describe how Jimmy’s feeling right now. He’s holding those pants like their God’s greatest gift, and he aint lettin’ go. ‘Thanks Mum!’ he cries. ‘I mean, um, cheers… you can go now.’

Little Jimmy thinks that the snaz new pair of Dickies his adoring mother has just purchased is going to solve all his problems. He truly believes. Finally no more spit-ball sandwiches from those dastardly 6th formers. No more childish treatment from the aloof and awe-inspiring 7th formers and certainly no more sickening pity from the teachers. Who knows, the girl with the pretty pig tails from science class might even smile at him.

Jimmy may be deluding himself just a little, but how many of us do the same thing? How many of us feel our adolescent problems will be solved by the power of a logo or a look’? A bit of retail therapy will calm our self-conscious nerves! We’ll happily pay the price for a branded t-shirt if it’s going to help us fit in with the crowd. We’re hooked on sweet, sticky conformism, and boy does it taste good.

MannequinsBut while expensive items tailor our ‘personal look’ (to be like everyone else’s), and boost young Jimmy’s cred, what are your clothes saying about you? And what’s the true story behind the labels we love?

The reality is most clothes we buy were made in overseas factories, usually in developing countries where work is done in extremely foul conditions. Workers are often teenagers and women who are low paid and treated badly by employers. How ironic that some of the garments they make to survive are then bought by children and teenagers on a whim. We are all in danger of letting the right label or ‘look’ take over our own sense of identity or, even more frighteningly, our sense of morals.

Swaetshop workersMost Kiwi brands have stopped printing ‘Made In New Zealand’ on their labels, and now manufacture in China instead. It doesn’t take a genius to infer this is cost motivated. Profit wins out over supporting local products and concern about the transporting costs upon the environment.

But hidden among the wonderful sea of apathetic youth that we are, are the odd students who break the stereotype; they’re actually thinking about life, the universe, and clothes. They’re few and far between, but isn’t that always the way?

Susie Harcourt, has been working as a volunteer at Trade Aid for more than a year now.
‘I’d say teens are more materialistic than ever,’ she says. ‘And also there’s more material to be materialistic about. People have money, children have money, and the advertising is more than ever before.’

‘Most kids probably don’t know; don’t particularly want to know. Don’t really care. A lot of people are aware of it, but they sort of feel that it’s not their position to do anything about it.’

ShoesAnd often, it’s not even as clear cut as knowing about it, or not. There’s this whole other grey area, where un-conformist and ‘cool’ overlap. ‘Fashion isn’t just about clothes, it’s often about ideas. The fashion when I came to high school was to buy organic food, buy fair trade shoes, things like that. But then when it went out, suddenly a lot of people who cared about that stuff suddenly stopped caring about it, because it went out of fashion.’

‘People do have this thing on the surface, where they want to be seen as having a social conscience, want to be seen as standing up for things. They want to be seen to be ‘good people’, basically. But that doesn’t extend into the way they live their lives.’

So what can we do? Susie volunteers at Trade Aid. Others, like Steph Cairns vent their individuality on a sewing machine. ‘There’s lots of reason for making your own clothes. Number one is that it’s just cheaper. I’m a poor student, so it’s the best thing. And basically you’re not taking part in the whole capitalist machine. If you’re doing your own thing and making your own clothes then you’re not taking part in the cycle of exploitation. Some people don’t have an understanding of how much work goes into something. Maybe that’s why they don’t care so much about slave labour.’

ScissorsWhether it’s taking to fabric with a pair of scissors, or carving your own style through donating time to a cause, it’s about expressing yourself; stepping away from the clothes that ‘everyone’ wears and from what they represent.

Che TshirtAnd the ultimate example, both Susie and Stephanie agree, is the use of Che Guevara’s image in popular culture. ‘People think they’re being so revolutionary by wearing this image on this t-shirt, but they don’t even know what it means,’ agrees Stephanie. These clothes or items that are sold to us, in countries like NZ, have usually been made in sweatshops. ‘Che Guevara was working for a world where people weren’t oppressed like that, and didn’t have to work for someone else’s profit. It’s sort of like this phoney radicalism. Just the fact that they’re wearing it on a t-shirt; it’s the most hypocritical thing, and nobody realises.’

While the masses are dressed to kill, a few among us question why someone you have never met is making some very personal decisions for you, about the shoes on your feet and the way of the world. All in the name of profit.

But hasn’t it always just taken a few to lead the way to change?
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ Margaret Mead

Learn More:

Take Action:

  • Make your own clothes
  • Volunteer your time, eg at Trade Aid
  • Find out more about your own jeans brand, or Google where your t-shirt was made
  • Write to your favourite shop and tell them you love their stuff but want it to be fairly traded
  • Go op-shopping / buy second-hand stuff

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

Dressed to kill

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Hannah Newport

Excited doesn’t begin to describe how Jimmy’s feeling right now. He’s holding those pants like their God’s greatest gift, and he aint lettin’ go. “Thanks Mum!” he cries. “I mean, um, cheers… you can go now.”
clothes hanging
Little Jimmy thinks that the snaz new pair of Dickies his adoring mother has just purchased is going to solve all his problems. He truly believes. Finally no more spit-ball sandwiches from those dastardly 6th formers. No more childish treatment from the aloof and awe-inspiring 7th formers and certainly no more sickening pity from the teachers. Who knows, the girl with the pretty pig tails from science class might even smile at him.

Jimmy may be deluding himself just a little, but how many of us do the same thing? How many of us feel our adolescent problems solved by the power of a logo or a look’? A bit of retail therapy will calm our self-conscious nerves! We’ll happily pay the price for a branded t-shirt if it’s going to help us fit in with the crowd. We’re hooked on sweet, sticky conformism, and boy does it taste good.

But while expensive items tailor our “personal look” (to be like with everyone else’s), and boost young Jimmy’s cred, what do they really mean? Even those of us less creatively dressed are judged on our appearance. So what are your clothes saying about you? And what’s the true story behind the labels we love?

More often than one would like to believe, the clothes we buy in NZ were made in a factory where the conditions are hard and workers are not allowed to bargain collectively in unions. And many of the workers are teenagers. There’s a vague awareness of this among teenagers, but it’s just not a priority when it has no noticeably direct impact on our own lives.

So, things look rather unenthusiastic for the ethics of tomorrow. Or do they? Hidden among the wonderful sea of apathetic youth are the odd students who break the stereotype; they’re actually thinking about life, the universe, and clothes. They’re few and far between, but so are red M & M’s.
susie harcourt
“I’ve never wanted Chuck Tailors,” says one such rule-breaking individual. Susie Harcourt, a Wellington 7th former tells sweatshops where to go, on a regular basis. She’s been working as a volunteer at Trade Aid for more than a year now, and yes, she knows a thing or two about this and that.
trade aid logo
“I’d say teens are more materialistic than ever,” she says. “And also there’s more material to be materialistic about. People do have money, children do have money, and the advertising is more than ever before.”

“We see groups of 8 girls who have little variations, but mainly looked just the same. And with girls it’s more obvious, but then you look at boys as well; you think about it, and you look at it properly, and it’s like- you all look exactly the same!” Aha, so it’s about being part of the crowd. We are all in danger of letting the right label or “look” take over our own sense of identity or, even more frighteningly, our sense of morals.

Decades ago now, many NZ stores, including Glassons and Hallensteins, stopped printing “Made In New Zealand” on their labels as they began to manufacture overseas instead. It doesn’t take a genius to work out this was cost motivated. Profit won out over supporting local products (and therefore employment) and ignored the environmental damage caused by international transportation.

Enter individual number two. When it comes to matters of an un-conformist nature, Stephanie Cairns (best known as the keyboardist from rock quest band “Cybersex on Mars”). has got an opinion all right.
stephanie cairns
“People are just lazy,” she says. “They’re easily brainwashed and they’re easily persuaded. When you see a cheap shirt that you like, you want to buy it, because it’s cheap.”

Most people avoid thinking about the conditions the clothes they buy were made in. “A lot of people are aware of it, but they sort of feel that it’s not their position to do anything about it.”

And often, it’s not even as clear cut as knowing about it or not. There’s this whole other grey area, where un-conformist and “cool” overlap. “Fashion isn’t just about clothes, it’s often about ideas. The fashion when I started a high school was to buy organic food, buy fair trade shoes, things like that. But then when it went out, suddenly a lot of people who cared about that stuff suddenly stopped caring about it because it went out of fashion.”
pile of clothes
“It’s sort of like when those wristbands that came out that said, “Make Poverty History” on them and they were made by sweatshop labour,” remembers Stephanie. “People do have this thing on the surface, where they want to be seen as having a social conscience, want to be seen as standing up for things. They want to be seen to be “good people”, basically. But that doesn’t extend into the way they live their lives.”
no sweat sneakers
It could be a little daunting, for a first-time freethinker: How do I show that I care, without showing that I want to show I care? Bit of a paradox. Perhaps the key is just playing a common-sense game of “match the pair”, between the issues that you care about, and the manner in which you support them. Is buying a candy cane from New World really going to help dentistry in the Middle East?

The ultimate hypocrisy, both young women agree, is the use of Guevara’s image in popular culture. “Have you seen my t-shirt that says, “Che Guevara is not a fashion accessory?” asks Stephanie.

“People think they’re being so revolutionary by wearing this image on this t-shirt, but they don’t even know what it means,” agrees Stephanie. These clothes or items that are sold to us, in countries like NZ, have been made in sweatshops.

“Che Guevara was working for a world where people weren’t oppressed like that, and didn’t have to work for someone else’s profit. It’s sort of like this phoney radicalism. Just the fact that they’re wearing it on a t-shirt; it’s the most hypocritical thing, and nobody realises.”

We’ve hit the nail on the head. Sure, it is ironic that in our efforts to “fit in” we’ve ended up looking like clone teens. But the ultimate irony can be found in the manufactured ideas, which we buy into with each purchase, then sell on again when the fad ends.

For a few though, it’s frustration at this hypocrisy that sparks alternative antics. Nothing drastic, just little variations to keep the sanity. For Susie, it’s her volunteer shift at Trade Aid. Steph, on the other hand, vents her individuality on a sewing machine. “There’s lots of reason for making your own clothes. Number one is that it’s just cheaper. Basically, I’m a poor student, so it’s the best thing. And another reason is basically you’re not taking part in the whole capitalist machine. If you’re doing your own thing and making your own clothes then you’re not taking part in the cycle of exploitation.”
sewing machine
Whether it’s taking to fabric with a pair of scissors, or carving your own style through donating time to a cause, it’s about expressing yourself; stepping away from the clothes that “everyone” wears and from what they represent.

And while the masses are dressed to kill, these individuals among us question. What they’re finding out is not altogether comforting; a profiteer you’ve never met has made some very personal decisions for you; decisions about the shoes on your feet and the way of the world. But after all, hasn’t it always just taken a few individuals to lead the way to change?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

LEARN MORE

Trade Aid
No Sweat Apparel American company No Sweat says it “defines the market for goods that support independent trade unions - the only historically proven solution to sweatshops”.
The Fair Trade Foundation (UK)
The Good Shopping Guide (UK)
www.ethicalconsumer.org
Make Poverty History in NZ
global issues magazine
Global Issues magazine 15 (July 2005) “Trade: A Fair Journey?”

fabric
An interesting article on the web about things being made in China called “A Life Without China” . It’s about New Zealand-based reporter Mandy Herrick who renounces Chinese-made goods for a month to reveal the depths of our growing dependence on the mega-factory of the world.

TAKE ACTION!

  • Make your own clothes
  • Volunteer your time, eg at Trade Aid
  • Find out more about your own jeans brand, or Google where your t-shirt was made
  • Write to your favourite shop and tell them you love their stuff but want it to be fairly traded
  • Go op-shopping / buy second-hand stuff

Photos of Susie and Stpehanie by Hannah Newport.

My school the corporation

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Omar Hamed coke

As I walked up the tree lined driveway to school one morning I was confronted by an interesting juxtaposition. A large Document Destruction Service truck pulled up next to the schools offices. What was the DDS doing outside Senior Management’s offices? Were they getting rid of unfavourable Education Review Office reports or the expenses lists for the Principals recent excursion to Wellington? The answer will doubtless remain a mystery thanks to a tax-payer funded document destruction. The truck drove away and suddenly the ironic site of the DDS outside an education institution was gone.

I suppose my judgement is unfair. As one Senior Manager of my school casually remarked to me the other day, “the school is basically a company”. Companies must protect their financial secrets at all costs and my school, which is “basically a company” seemed to be no exception. Companies are also designed to make money, lots of money. My school again seems to be no exception. The school in order to increase its revenue has even let some large multi-national American corporations use it wall space for advertising.

The school owned tuckshop proudly displays an advertisement for Coca-Cola opposite where hungry and thirsty students queue for overpriced junk food. A student can not help but notice this advert. The school is openly endorsing the products of Coca-Cola, actively encouraging students to buy from a corporation guilty of, “Complicity in the murder and torture of workers in Colombia” and “Depriving communities of water, poisoning land and water and selling poisoned drinks in India”. (Killercoke.org)

In response to Coca-Cola’s labour violations and the presence of pesticides in their products six Universities in the United States have dropped contracts with Coke. In Auckland, New Zealand, my high school, oblivious to the concerns of independent human rights organisations continues to sell the products of a corporation which sponsored the murder of eight union leaders.

The school which is you remember “basically a company” has to make money somehow and these days student donations just wont make ends meet. You just cant afford the swanky “achievers breakfasts” and a glossy prospectus that students need these days without selling at least some of your walls as billboard space for fast-food giant McDonalds. As the schools conservation committee meets to discuss environmental issues the logo of a corporation that uses over a million tonnes of unnecessary plastic waste each year shines over the school. McDonalds, a company with a track record of working to undermine unions and one which has sued (unsuccessfully) people in England who distributed information about the health, environmental and social effects of McDonalds is given advertising space by my school.

Another example of a company advertised at my school is Compaq, a multinational computer producer whose large red billboard is attached to the wall in the library. Compaq uses American prison labour to make computers. “For private business prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. “ says Linda Evans, a prisoner in California.

Compaq uses what has been described as “the next best thing to slavery” to produce computers. It does not have to worry about maintaining decent standards for health or safety and the workforce can be beaten when they refuse to work, Lee Swepston, Senior Adviser for Human Rights to a United Nations organisation commented that these prison factories fall outside international law and are therefore open to exploitation of inmates. (Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex by Angela Y. Davis)

So the three corporations that endorse themselves through my school are in fact corporations with histories of murder, bullying and questionable ethics. These companies are designed to make money and inevitably put profits above human lives and dignity. My school as a public institution can refuse the in school advertisements of those who use forced labour or aggressive advertising practices. That’s the difference between corporations and public institutions, one is accountable to its members the other is not. Then again why would the school refuse money because if it is “basically a company’ it should basically not care?

We however should.

For more information about corporate crimes check out Corpwatch.

Rage for the machine — the corporatisation of youth

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

I see two major problems with the corporatisation of youth — the effect it has on youth, and how it reduces the potential of youth rebellion to create real change.

Corporations target the teenage market
Corporations target teenagers to sell products. This is no surprise: in the year 2000 teenagers spent 100 billion dollars — a huge amount of money.(1) The scrabble to sell to teenagers has corporatised youth - brands and labels often sell identities or attitudes rather than products. Corporations spend big money trying to keep up with trends - some people have full time work figuring out what’s cool! (such as 18tracker, which is a youth market research company)

There is nowhere that advertisers cannot get you. One high school in America once held “Coke Day”. Coke were offering prizes for being the most effective school at promoting Coke.(2)

Anti-corporate rebellion has even been sold! The (now dissolved) rock band Rage Against The Machine advertised T-shirts for sale in the lyric sheets of their albums! Pictures of Argentinian guerilla revolutionary Che Guevara have sold everything from T-Shirts to soap powder.

Building branded youth stereotypes
Labels and cosmetic companies exploit teenagers deepest fears and insecurities to sell products. Perhaps you have heard this on Clearasil adverts. “your skin’s so unpredictable, if it was a guy, you’d dump him” and “you want the girl, but you have oily skin, so you can’t get the girl”. Huge sections of NZ youth live in poverty, yet spend ridiculous amounts of money on labels and cosmetics. If they don’t, they face exclusion and bullying.

The ugly side of branding

As far as I’m concerned, this is, plainly and simply, a form of terrorism. It isn’t hard to imagine how this type of marketing contributes to teenage suicide and depression. We all know how corporate-funded supermodels — used to sell labels — cause low self esteem which can lead to anorexia, bulimia and other health problems. Corporations terrify teenagers into going to insane lengths to conform to fashions and body images, and then sell them the products to do it with.

Cool T-ShirtRebellion as fashion
Even youth rebellion has become a fashion trend. Think of all the products you own which have a rebellious image. It could be a T-Shirt, or a CD, or a haircut or anything. Now, ask yourself the question “How really rebellious is this?” There’s a reasonable chance some of these rebellious pieces of clothing were produced in sweatshops. Many musicians are choked and controlled by their record labels — remember how Shihad had to change their name for America because it sounded like Jihad? Buying commercial rebellious’ CDs does little to help independent voices. Rebellion is more about the sale of an attitude than global justice.

Keeping rebellion about the real issues

One of the most intensely covered protest movements I read about on an independent news site(3) was J-Day (A.K.A international marijuana day). In the midst of huge global issues, why did protestors and independent journalists care so much about cannabis and pot smoking?

Rebellion is often a trend and subculture, not a push for change. Lets use George Bush as an example. Bush and America are fun to ridicule(4) — but how many anti-Bush’ people really care about anything more than a laugh? One person at an anti-war protest had leaflets supporting Iraqi insurgents.(5) O.K, Bush is bad. So is war. However, supporting terrorists that blow up civilians, threaten democratic elections and support a dictatorship is just as stupid. Another person yelled “hooray for us!” This suggests a group of people out for an event and a laugh, and to look rebellious — not a group genuinely fighting for global peace and justice.

Taking the power back
But how can consumerism be fought when rebellion is a product for sale? I don’t know, but here’s an idea: teenagers spent approximately $150 billion in 2001 - about twice the GDP of New Zealand! (6) This power of the consumer is power over corporations in the fight for global justice. Imagine the impact if, for instance, a multibillion dollar demographic suddenly decided to boycott everything that wasn’t fair trade

As to how to rebel authentically, I don’t know. However, shouldn’t there be some actual push for change involved? It shouldn’t just be about smoking pot, and certainly not about buying into a corporate terror state.

When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use” — Joseph Stalin

***Or am I completely wrong? Please feel free to disagree with and discuss everything I say in the forum.

References:
(1) Transcript of documentary about similar topic
(2) This story is from the book Stupid White Men, by Michael Moore.
(3)Indymedia , Independent news site which is very informative about lots of things
(4) This is a good example of anti-Bush /America comedy.
(5) Article in student magazine about contemporary Anti-Americanism
(6) Global stats site. Teen $150 billion spending stat from reference (2)

LEARN MORE

Article about market researching teens in New Zealand

TAKE ACTION!

Ethical Consumer
- Good advice on boycotting

Otherwise, be creative.
This illustration was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

Illustrator: Rebecca Ter Borg
Photographer Eva Lawrence

Delicious Dilemma - The Issue with Coffee

Monday, August 8th, 2005

CoffeeGraham Smout

Mmmmm! That smooth Espresso taste, but where does it come from and what hardships do people go through to give you the coffee that you know and love?

Coffee is produced in Latin America, the Caribbean, in Asia and in Africa. The main producer is Brazil which produces about a quarter of the world’s coffee.

Since the early 1950’s, these countries have been persuaded by buyers to give up farming more traditional crops in favour to producing coffee. This has lead to overproduction, plummeting market prices and sweatshop working conditions.

Coffee prices in 2003 were at an all time low. The market price for 500g of coffee was NZD $0.80 but the same amount of coffee sold for about NZD $15.00 in the shops!

Despite the incredibly harsh working conditions, producers receive none of this massive profit margin.

Buy fair trade
As a consumer you have a choice. You can either buy “free trade coffee” for a cheaper price, and which has been produced under sweat shop conditions, or you can pay a little more and buy “fair trade coffee”.

Fair trade coffee allows farmers to receive enough money from their crops for them to survive and not fall into poverty.

A recent survey has shown that around half of the coffee producers in Guatemala only receive about NZD $6.00 a day for picking about 45 kilograms of coffee!

Fair trade requires that all producers earn at least NZD $5.00 for every kilo of coffee produced.

So next time you decide to grab a quick espresso or mochachino, think of those poverty stricken farmers and buy “fair trade coffee!”

LEARN MORE

Global Exchange: Fair Trade Coffee
Trade Aid: Fair Trade

TAKE ACTION!

  • Find Fair Trade suppliers in your area :Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand: Fair Trade Product Finder and
    Trade Aid: Where to buy fair trade
  • Next time you drink coffee, make sure it’s fair trade. If they don’t have it in your local cafe… ask that they start serving it. Do the same in your supermarket — ask the management to stock fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate for starters.
  • Buy a bar of Fair Trade chocolate as a present.
  • Show your support for Fair Trade by encouraging friends and family to buy Fair Trade products.
  • Fair Trade is more than coffee and cocoa. Many products are being made under fair working conditions. Check out more of our articles on fair trade.

This article was written as part of Global Focus, a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

Photographer: Eva Lawrence

NZ Sweatshops Inc.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

Cameron Walker

So your brand new, highly expensive, major brand jacket actually cost less than two bucks to make in a Thai sweatshop. How cool is that?! Not very. Leading sportswear companies continue to make huge profits from unethical sweatshop labour.

Earlier this year Sripai Nonsee, a trade unionist and former sweatshop worker from Thailand, visited New Zealand to speak about the terrible conditions facing clothing workers in Thailand. At the age of 17 Sripai left her rural home to find work in the Thai capital, Bangkok. She got a job at a firm called Par Garment, producing clothing for big brand sportswear companies, such as Nike, Adidas, GAP, Old Navy and Fila. These clothing brands are very expensive in shops in more developed countries such as New Zealand, but the workers who produce them are treated very badly. The sportswear companies use sweatshop labour because it brings down the amount of money they have to spend on production, which means they make more profit.

Vulnerable to abuse
Conditions in the factory where Sripai worked were very poor. The workers, mainly teenage girls and young women, were forced to work three hours unpaid overtime. During this time they were locked in the factory and not allowed out. The factory was hot and dusty and had no first aid room. Sexual abuse was frequent and any worker who refused to submit to the sexual demands of the personnel officer would be threatened with the loss of their job. Many of those employed in sweatshops are vulnerable to abuse because they are young, desperate for work and from rural parts of Thailand, away from their families.

Working to improve conditions
The workers became sick of their treatment so they set up a trade union. At the age of 20 Sripai became the head of the union at her factory. Six years later she was fired when she tried to help workers set up a union at another Par Garment factory. In New Zealand forming a union is considered a basic right for workers. Thailand has not approved the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions on the rights of workers to organize unions. This makes it easier for factory owners to get away with poor work conditions. Today Sripai works with organizations which aim to improve conditions for Thai clothing workers.

78 cents!
During her time in New Zealand, Sripai visited a sports store in Christchurch. She found a selection of jackets that she used to make in Thailand. Each of the jackets took less than two hours to make, for which the worker was paid 78 cents an hour. But in New Zealand they were being sold for $159.99 each. Sripai calculated it would take 205 hours, or eight and a half days and nights, for workers in her factory to earn enough money to buy just ONE of the jackets.

Ripped off
Last year the company which owns that particular store made a profit of $23.6 million. Some sportswear companies, such as Nike, make profits in the billions. These companies are growing very rich off the sweat of workers, like Sripai, in Thailand. Is it really worth spending huge amounts of money on clothing which is made by virtual slaves? We’re getting ripped off and so are Thai workers!

GLOSSARY

  • Sweatshop: A factory where workers are forced to work long hours, for low pay and with poor conditions. The factory Sripai worked in was a sweatshop.
  • Trade Union: An organized association of workers which aims to protect and improve pay and workplace conditions. Sripai is a clothing workers trade unionist.
  • International Labour Organisation (ILO): An agency of the United Nations which aims to promote fair conditions in the workplace and the abolition of forced labour. The ILO researches and creates rules for governments to put in place to ensure workplaces always have fair pay and conditions.

LEARN MORE

Sweatshops:

sweatshopwatch.org
Corpwatch.org
Aworldconnected.org
Feminist.org

    Fair trade in New Zealand and Australia:

    Trade Aid
    Fair Trade Association
    Scoop Article

      This article was originally written for the Global Focus project (link to explanation?), a collaborative effort between Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It has been reproduced here with the permission of the good folk at Tearaway. This article appeared in the December 2004 issue of Tearaway.

      Don’t Sweat It

      Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

      Cameron Walker

      Sweat WorkersSo it turns out the new hoodie that was going to make you feel good and like you fit in (finally) for just the small price of $149.95 was actually made by an under-paid, over-worked young woman in Asia. Yeah. Still feeling good?

      In the 1980’s and 1990’s U.S. and European clothing corporations closed down factories at home so they could focus on building their brand names. Companies like Dickies, Adidas, Gap, Nike and Converse (now owned by Nike) searched the world for the cheapest contractors to produce their gear.

      Unfortunately for the workers, the cheapest contractors were often so well-priced because their workers were paid terrible wages and had to put up with appalling working conditions.
      Meanwhile, the governments of some developing nations, such as Mexico, Indonesia, El Salvador, the Philippines, Thailand and China, set up large factory areas — as big as whole suburbs — known as Export Processing Zones (EPZs) to attract investment from corporations like Nike and Dickies.

      EPZs are dedicated to making goods for the Western market. The corporations who use EPZs are not required to pay tax, so public services normally funded by taxes are often unavailable. So no public transport or street lights, for example.

      NO smiling
      Unions — the organisations which make sure workers are getting what they’re entitled to — have fewer rights and almost no bargaining power, shifts are long and wages are usually not enough to buy basic necessities.

      Workers at a factory in the Philippines, which made GAP, Old Navy and Guess gear, told journalist Naomi Klein that sometimes they had to resort to urinating in plastic bags under their desks because they were not given toilet breaks.

      In one Filipino factory there is a rule against smiling. In a certain factory in an Indonesian EPZ, which produces GAP and Nike clothing, workers have to do long shifts — 36 hours without going home!

      In the Maquiladoras of El Salvador workers are paid $151 US a month, but the price of basic food (rice, beans, corn) for two to three people costs $250 a month. If you add the price of power bills, water and education for the workers’ children it costs at least $550 a month to live. It’s not hard to see that some are going without. Meanwhile, at a local shop I found Dickies Double Knee Workpants, made in Maquiladoras, for $115.

      No Sweat ShoesGo on, be ethical
      No Sweat Apparel and other fair trade producers are getting more popular as people become aware of the exploitation used to make some of their favourite clothes.

      Fair Trade and No Sweat
      Under fair trade, workers are paid a decent wage, the environment is not exploitative and conditions are checked by the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT).
      No Sweat Apparel, the ones who have just released those awesome new shoes (pictured), use an Indonesian factory where workers are unionised, paid 25 percent more than the regional minimum wage, and receive a rice allowance and health insurance that covers them and their family members.

      You can get No Sweat sneakers from Trade Aid stores around New Zealand, and you can hunt around on the net for other fair trade producers.

      nosweatapparel
      ethicalconsumer

      Buy NZ Made
      Because New Zealand’s got pretty tough worker safety and rights laws, you’re almost guaranteed New Zealand-made clothing is made ethically.
      Be careful though, because more and more NZ-owned companies are outsourcing their work to Asia and the Pacific. So even if they’re a New Zealand label, they might still be using the same sweatshop labour as everyone else.

      Do your own research
      We’d like to give you a list of your favourite labels and rate them according to how ethically or unethically their stuff’s made. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Big labels are usually part of a greater clothing and apparel group named something completely unrelated. They contract out their work to people in far-flung nations who then contract equally anonymous sweatshops. They don’t want to make it easy for you to find out. The best you can do is research. There are reports scattered around the net on particular clothing labels, so have a hunt around.

      Tell the companies
      Let the labels know there is a demand out there for ethically made clothing — write a letter or email to the company asking about their practices, or ask a shop assistant if it’s made ethically. This kind of pressure can do more than you think. Nike, for instance, as a direct result of public pressure to clean up their practices in Vietnam, made an effort to improve conditions in their Vietnam factories.

      This article was written as part of the Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

      Illustrator: Rebecca Ter Borg