Although sweatshop labor seems like a far away problem, Rajeev Ravisankar’s article, “Sweatshop Oppression,” reveals how relevant it is to American consumerism and how many American people (including college students) unwittingly contribute to the dilemma. As Ravisankar notes, “Many of us are familiar with the term sweatshop, but have difficulty really understanding how abhorrent the hours, wages and conditions are” (Ravisankar) for those foreign workers in the developing world that American companies employ under a “continual decline of wages and working conditions” (Ravisankar).
Sweatshop workers must endure deplorable, inhumane and downright cruel working conditions, such as “70-80 hours” work-weeks with little or no breaks, heat “upward of 90 degrees,” non-paid, mandatory overtime and unsanitary environments for “pennies per hour” (Ravisankar). These conditions are repulsive and oppressive to many Americans, and yet, little do most people know that whenever they shop at a bargain retail store such as Walmart or The Gap, they are directly contributing to the problem. Fortunately, there are some simple measures we all can take to stop participating in this unacceptable labor industry.
Some Americans may feel that they have little reason to care about how workers are treated in far away countries. But as Ravisankar’s article reveals, the oppression that defines sweatshop labor is both unethical and amoral because it is “total disregard for human well-being” (Ravisankar). Furthermore, one of the biggest things Americans can do to help alleviate sweatshop oppression is also one of the easiest. All we need to do is simply “pay a little bit more” (Ravisankar) for our clothing items at retailers that do not rely on sweatshop manufacturing. If Americans would stop patronizing stores that are known to perpetuate sweatshop labor, it would drive production down, minimizing the amount of workers subjected to such labor conditions. The loss of money would also put pressure on the companies to “to provide living wages and reasonable conditions for workers” (Ravisankar).
Another practical thing Americans can do to alleviate sweatshop oppression is to support the “number of organizations” that exist to eliminate sweatshop labor (Ravisankar). One such organization that is easy for college students to support is the University Students Against Sweatshops. As Ravisankar notes, “USAS seeks to make universities source their apparel in factories that respect for worker's rights, especially the right to freely form unions” (Ravisankar). People can support organizations like these in a variety of practical ways that include monetary donations or even spreading organization literature around to help raise awareness of the importance of this sad problem. Even something as minute as writing a letter of complaint to a company known for relying on sweatshop workers can make a difference.
In conclusion, sweatshop oppression must be eliminated because no human deserves to be subjected to such amoral, unethical working conditions. Americans can do a lot to help alleviate the problem, such as shopping at other retail stores, supporting anti-sweatshop organizations, or voicing their disproval to the companies that utilize sweatshop manufacturing. At the end of the day, American consumerism is a large part of the problem, which is why American consumers are morally charged with making a difference in this issue. All it takes is a small change in our shopping habits to change sweatshop oppression.
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