How much pain does my new T-shirt cost?

11 Sep

One would like to think that slavery is the reality of the past. Well, the term itself may be dated but  slavery definitely still exists. The slaves used to build roads and pyramids, work on cotton fields, while today they build iPhones, make clothes and whatnot. No one would dare to call them slaves though, it is much too harsh a term and in the days of political correctness, definitely forbidden. The modern slaves are simply called workers. Workers who work anything from 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Children workers. Domestic slaves. Victorian era all over again. Paid starvation wages, they are not able to feed their families, let alone buy the products they make. They are beaten, bullied, forbidden to go to the loo when they need. The people behind the labels such as ‘Made in China’.


image by Zdena

Let’s talk about Tian Yu. A seventeen year old girl was producing iPhones and iPads. For a month, she was working 12 hours long shifts, 6 days a week and still, she was not paid because of some administrative mistake. Her monthly salary was £140. She jumped from the fourth floor of the dormitory where she lived but survived, half paralysed.

Surely, the company with trillions of dollars revenue would be able to pay what they owned her.

Let’s talk about Julie. She bought a Halloween decoration from Kmart inside of which was a letter from the labour camp pleading for help. A person who wrote it said they worked 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, making $ 1.61 a month. They were tortured, bullied and beaten.

Sears Holdings, the owner of Kmart, told The New York Times that an internal investigation prompted by the letter found “no violations of company rules that bar the use of forced labor.”
Let’s talk about Amazon. It doesn’t pay taxes, why should it, it creates jobs after all. Call me a stupid crazy anti-corporatist hippie who doesn’t understand the way Economics work; but I work, make money, pay taxes. Even The Queen pays taxes. Amazon is a business, makes huge profits, pays meagre taxes after being found out.

I am not happy with this division of responsibilities for the world’s economic progress.

Corporations take their factories to the poorest countries of the world to save on overheads. They took away the jobs that we would really appreciate, especially in today’s economic climate. Instead, they lock the workers in the production lines and after they squeeze more than there is to squeeze out of them, they move their sweatshops somewhere else, somewhere fresh, leaving the people worse off than they were before, treating some other poor nation as if the human rights did not apply to them. And claim ignorance, they are good at it. Meanwhile, we are stupefied with trash. Somebody makes sure that we don’t question where the bling bling comes from, who produces it, in what conditions and for what pay. The sheep needs cheap (or not so cheap) sh*t. How else could you define the advertisements, if not as propaganda.

Let’s see in these the short videos how the workers are treated. In Amazon, the workers are on zero-hours contracts, with every minute of their working time monitored. Disney pays pittance, in Bangladesh, people work in horrific conditions, as young as 12 years of age, dying in flames when producing x, y, z for Walmart who here operates as Asda. Walmart is not the only one.

Does this knowledge make it immoral to buy the newest whatever? Who is guilty? The profit greedy corporations? Us, the commoners entrapped in consumerism? Can we stop slavery? I hope we can. It’s people like us, the women, the girls who work there. Help support the organisations, such as Clean Clothes Campaign and Sumofus who try to improve conditions of the workers. Let’s make sure that we learn about the poverty from Dickens’ novels only and not from news and documents. My small contribution to the collapse of this oppressive regime is educating myself on the problem, boycotting the guilty parties (I have cancelled my Amazon account for example), spreading the word, joining the campaigns. If I have to shop, I spend my money in charity shops.

If you have more ideas on how to try to make this world a fairer place, please, share them with me. I would be grateful.

About the Writer: Zdena comes from Slovakia but has made Wales her second home, that is when she is not travelling, which she can’t live without. Two important things in her life are books and Scrabble and she also loves world cinema.


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