Slaves in our Closets

The cotton pod pricks at his fingertips as the white clouds hold on tight to their captor.  He rubs his calloused palms against his pant leg to get feeling flowing back before starting again.  Sweat drips down his brow and his tongue rolls around like sandpaper in his dry mouth.  He looks over at his little sister’s sunburned cheeks and wonders when they will be able to go home and play.

One would think that picking cotton is a thing of the past, but it is a reality for many adults and children in South American and Asian countries.  Some children as young as 8 years old work making clothing or picking cotton.

uzbekistan-child-labor-cotton-1-537x402

Similar to food production, there are many different stages when producing clothing, so while one stage might involve trafficking another may not.  Even if a piece of clothing is made “fairly” in the United States, the textiles may have come from Argentina, where forced or child labor is common.  Free2work has put together a report that goes into detail on clothing production, which covers everything from wages to worker rights to policies of certain companies.  For example, companies like Disney, Good & Fair, and Timberland score high on the list for fair wages and worker rights while companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Forever 21, Lacoste, and Walmart scored low on the rating list.  Most companies scored low on the list when it came to raw materials like cotton.

cotton field in contrast with blue sky

What you can do:

Luckily, there is a way to find out if what you are buying meets your personal standards of production.  The free2work app allows you to see where your products are coming from and the conditions on which they are made while you are shopping.  You can scan the barcode of an item and instantly get information on the production process.

There are also many different websites that offer fair trade items.  One that I found that I like is Stop Traffick Fashion, which offers jobs to former sex trafficking victims making fair trade clothing and accessories.  There are a ton of different sites that sell fair trade clothing, which can be found with a simple Google search.

Jamie (Stop-It Intern)

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