The Way Clothing Should Be

The garment industry makes up a major part of international trade and commerce. The problem is that many third-world countries remain poor and under-developed due to the low income produced by the manufacturers in this industry. The challenge comes from the thousands of workers a factory needs in order to mass produce clothing for the world’s retailers – especially the corporate giants.

In one SE Asian country, workers at one garment factory were able to secure a union of sorts which helped to negotiate benefits for them. How much did they benefit from it? Let’s look at this as a case in point.

Before we get into this though: There has been a great movement towards ethical clothing In Australia there is a organic and ethical clothing which is focused on selling clothes which are both ethical and organic. You can learn more about them on the

The factory had approximately 5000 workers. The base salary was $45 per MONTH. An incredibly small amount. What were the workers trying to negotiate for? All they wanted was $5 more per month each to help cover the cost or soaring food and fuel prices. In fact over a 10 year period, their wages had not increased at all, despite the surge in daily living costs. Working at the factory 12 hours a day, 6 days a week was almost worthless to them. $5 a month extra would help with some of the food and medicine costs.

Now before we tell you the final result of the strike and union action, let’s see how our factory workers are constantly in a vicious cycle of disadvantage.

98% of the factory workers in this country come from the provinces. The factories are all in the capital city. The country has many national holidays, which the workers do get paid for. However, these holidays are the only times that the factory workers can return to the provinces to visit their family. Each public holiday there are thousands upon thousands that join in the mass exodus to the provinces. This is when everything doubles, triples, or quadruples in price. A bottle of water goes from .12c to .50c. The taxi ride from the city to the province which usually costs $5 now costs $10 or more. Food goes up too. By the time they get home, they have little or no money to give their aging parents who are fully dependent on their children. No welfare here. Life is really tough for these factory workers.

Back to the strike now – did the factory agree? Nope. 5000 x $5 is $250, 000 per year – more than the entire foreign management staff is worth. They were given the ultimatum to keep their jobs or leave. There were thousands of others ready to take their place. Who would complain? Where are all these billions of dollars? The answer is simple – it’s all about scale. Billions of dollars are made by the retailers, not the factories. And billions of pieces of clothing are made by millions of factory workers around the world who are being used like machines.

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