Thursday, April 25, 2013

Simple Suggestion #161... Boycott bad business and support the common good

This morning I woke up to the cries and screams of my sisters and brothers at a Bangladesh clothing factory (on the radio). More than 230 of 2000 employees died on Wednesday because the factory bosses ignored an order to close an unsafe eight-storey building with major building code violations that caused huge cracks in its walls. Less than five months ago, another clothing factory caught fire, killing 112 people who were unable to escape because of poor fire code regulations. Survivors say that the doors were locked to keep workers in.

With all the bad news in the world, it's too easy to listen to a radio or tv report, shake our heads, and continue living our lives. After all, Bangladesh is so far away, and what does it really have to do with me? I'm afraid that's what I did after the Tazreen factory fire on November 24th, 2012. I forgot that the people in that fire were my sisters and brothers. I forgot to take it personally.

How many garments do you own with the Made in Bangladesh label? Do you know if those items were made in factories with high safety standards and decent wages for workers? I don't know the answer to either of those questions in my own life, but I know these are issues to which I'm going to be paying a lot more attention. I have the power to create positive change for my brothers and sisters in the clothing industry. So do you. As consumers, we have the ability to vote with our wallets and boycott Bangladesh until proper regulations are put in place and enforced. It also wouldn't hurt to boycott our big North American companies who buy cheap clothes until they actually insist that the workers be paid more than $1.25 per day. I don't know about you, but I don't need an eight dollar t-shirt so desperately that people need to die for it... and I'm willing to pay more so that they can have a living wage.

And it's not just Bangladesh, and not just the clothing industry. There are all sorts of consumer goods being sold for ridiculously low prices by our big box stores... who rely on cheap, overseas labour (often with poor safety regulations and no worker benefits) so that they can undersell local businesses that ask fair prices for locally produced goods. I refuse to darken the door of a Walmart, and my support of local businesses and second-hand stores is on the increase all the time because I just can't stomach the injustices built into our consumer culture. I can, however, do some research and act justly -- to support the common good.

How about you? What would happen if everyone took these things personally?

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

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