I went to the deliberation “Whose Sweat is in Your Sweatshirt”. When I got there I didn’t know if I was in the right place at the right time because there was no indication that the group was Deliberation Nation and no one greeted us at the door. The group began by distributing the issue guide, but they didn’t really give us enough time to familiarize ourselves with the material, but they did a good job of modifying the questions they asked to get more participation. At times, the members of the group were too controlling over the conversation by not always looking for volunteers to speak their opinions and mainly speaking their own ideas, but for the most part they got the group to discuss the topic in depth and make valid arguments.
The debate was about what should be done about sweatshops in foreign countries, suggesting solutions such as prioritizing fair trade sourcing, endorsing and expanding domestic production, and advising and enforcing ethical labor laws.
For the first approach of prioritizing fair trade sourcing in which retailers such as Macy’s, Walmart, or Target only buy from manufacturers who have been approved by fair trade to pay their workers fair wages. This solution brought out the problem that fair trade goods are much more expensive than those made in sweatshops, and these sweatshops will continue to find new costumers, whether it be other giant superstores or smaller mom and pop shops. Also, this will more often hurt the workers more than the business itself, if a massive factory notices a dip in its sales they will most likely lay off workers who need the money rather than switch to a more expensive fair trade. Along with that, no worker chooses to work in poor conditions, they work there because it is their last option, so any money they can earn is money that can go towards food and shelter. By asking factories to give fair wages, less people will be employed and there will be an everlasting effect on the population not just of those workers, but the entire community, and quite possibly disrupt the entire balance of trade.
Another solution paired with this approach was for consumer to only buy from retailers who sell fair trade goods. This made sense, but again fair trade goods are more expensive and it is unlikely consumers would be willing to buy everything at higher prices. One idea was for celebrities like the Kardashians to wear fair trade goods and encourage everyone to buy the same way, or to create a line of all fair trade goods, it would become a national trend.This being said, there would be knock-off brands of these fair trade goods, as Skechers created Bob’s inspired by Tom’s which although go towards a similar cause, are made in the same factories the rest of the shoes are created in.
The final solution for this approach was for citizens to lobby retailers and shoppers through government intervention. In my opinion, this was the most outlandish solution of the approach. This would suggest a national boycott of factory made goods, which would not be able to last long since America is no longer a producer of goods. Americans do not like being told what to do, and I think it would be detrimental to many families to be forced to pay more for clothing as they already can’t afford the factory-made goods.
The second approach was the idea to endorse and expand domestic production. In this solution, the government would provide incentives for manufacturers to relocate to the United States where they could enforce labor laws in factories. This solution made absolutely no sense to me because by taking factories out of third world nations where factory jobs may be a family’s way of survival, it is no longer our place to take these job opportunities away from these people. There is also no guarantee that there would be enough Americans who would want to fill these jobs for the move to be effective, if not a total waste of resources. Another thought was the idea that industry is behind us as we are moving towards becoming a completely service-oriented nation. We do not produce material goods anymore: Uber, Google, Pandora; these companies do not industrially create anything. By bringing factory production back to the United States we would almost be taking a step backwards.
The second solution for this approach was for retailers and consumers to only buy and sell US-made items, which in the 18th century was a great idea to start a war with Britain but in the 21st century it would be almost impossible to mobilize the monstrosity that is the American population.
The final solution for this approach was for citizens to lobby the government and retailers to make these changes which may work on a very small scale, but it would not produce the change they want.
The third approach was to revise and enforce ethical labor laws by way of United States intervention whereby the US would institute and enforce policies to bridge gap between foreign and American labor standards. This might possibly be the worst solution of all of them. The entire world is tired of the United States acting as the worldwide police force, my restricting and changing how a foreign country makes and trades their goods, we are completely infringing on a foreign nation’s financial operations. We should not have any say in how a country protects their workers, it is like when one mother criticizes how another mother is raising their kids: who are we to say how labor laws should work? And every country is different in how their people will react to these laws and the effects would be much different than the creation of labor laws in the United States in the early 20th century. If we look back on American history, we remember that after the second Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, American labor laws were nowhere near where they are today. Through domestic labor strife, workers won their rights and we have become a more progressive and more democratic through these changes. Each industrializing nation needs to go through this adolescence on their own, they cannot be pushed into adulthood through threat.
The second solution was for the government to enforce laws that make sure United States companies are buying from fair trade sources. All I’m going to say is free market not command economy because I am over the word count already, but absolutely not. If I know anything about Americans, it’s that we hate being told what to do, what to buy, what to say or where to go. This idea would never work, I cannot imagine being forced to pay more money for clothing. Americans do not want to be told how to pay for their own health care why in God’s name would they pay more for clothes if they do not absolutely need to.
This completely reminded me of Senator Paul Ryan’s address to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, blaming the government for forcing him to buy low-flush toilets and light bulbs. He explains it is not the place of the government to say what he can and cannot buy. Here’s the link.