Fighting against vendors that use Sweatshops and Child Labor

My Small Store against Sweatshops and Child Labor

In the last month, we "fired" 3 vendors for not following our "no Sweatshops" and "no Child Labor" policies. I am the owner of My Small Store and these 2 plagues repulse me to the highest point. As some know, I leaves in Africa and Middle East for 15 years, I have seen the horror of sweatshops - what you see on TV is nothing compared to the reality.

What is a sweatshop? Not a fitness club like we have here in Minnesota, a sweatshop is a factory, like in the clothing, electronics and food industries where workers are employed at extremely low wages, with long hours (10 to 12hours, 6 days a week) and under poor working conditions. Totally against labor laws and trade unions but unfortunately it's a current practice. 

In 2013, after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh that "hosted" 5 floors of sweatshops factories and killed over 1,100 people. The building wasn't up to any construction code. Big name US and European brands were customers of those sweatshops.  

Sweatshops are implicated in human trafficking by tricking workers into working without informed consent, later workers are kept at work through debt or psychological abuses, threats and other severe abuses. The workforce is based on children, uneducated rural poor and migrant workers. 

A good example, a poor rural family moves the the big town for better wage opportunities. Sweatshop "recruiters" offer them - until they get a job - free lodging in exchange of easy tasks to do. Paper that they can't read are signed and the entire family is slaved 10 hours a day, 7 days a week and can't get out of the "task" until the free lodging debt is paid for!

Imagine, you work at $30 an hour, your employer provides "free lodging" and "free food" for $10,000 a month, how many hours do you have to work to compensate for the"free stuff"? over 330 hours each month, that's about 10 hours a day, 7 days a week but the hourly rate is great :) 

Can you guess how people are forced in international modern slavery? 40.3 million in 2016.

Child labor is another horrible fact - do you know how many children between the age of 5 to 17 work? over 250 million! Let me type the whole number: over 250,000,000! We have the list of countries that use children illegally:

  • India has the largest number of children who are working illegally in various industrial industries. About 12 million in 2011. For example, a NGO found in the cotton city of Andhra Pradesh nearly 400,000 children, mostly girls between 7 and 14 years of age, working for 14-16 hours a day in cottonseed production.
  • Brazil has about 2.55 million 10-14 year old and about 375,000 5-9 year old were illegally working.
  • Africa, about 5 million children work in farms including 30 percent of children who are picking coffee year round - note that some of the coffee brands call themselves fair trade!
  • Cambodia 25% of children aged between 10 and 14 are economically active. Many of these children work long hours and approximately 65,000 children between the ages of 5 to 13 worked 25 hours a week and do not attend school.
  •  China has about 17 million of children aged from 10 to 15 working for at least 6.75 hours per day. Mostly in clothing sweatshops. 
  • USA, according to the Department of Labor, about 500,000 children are farmworkers. Many of these children start working as young as age 8, and work more than 10 hours per day! 
  • …I could continue from Latin America to any supply chain!

As many great organization like ILOIIECLSCL…fight to end child labor, many irresponsible manufacturers found new ways to clean up their horrors and be social correct. They do not use slaves and child labor directly, they simply outsource to obscure third parties who exist only temporarily to fulfill a specific order. 

One vendor agreed to our child labor policy but during a pre-order inspection, it was noted that the company was using a "contractor" to provide external labor which was 70% kids under the age of 16. We never and will never purchase from that company even with the 20% extra discount we were offered. 

At My Small Store we reject vendors with socially unacceptable working conditions and have no problem reporting and getting rid of them. If your favorite brand is no longer sold in our store, you can imagine why.



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