We tend to think of sweatshops as a thing of the past, but they are still here, and they’re not going away on their own. They are common, even in America today. The U.S. Department of Labor defines a sweatshop as “a factory that violates two or more labor laws”. One of the most popular companies to still be guilty of sweatshop-like conditions is Walmart, where hundreds of thousands of people shop daily. They have been publicly exposed regarding the unethical treatment of their workers on a daily basis. They were accused of requiring 18 hour work days, denying bathroom breaks, and offering salaries 30% below minimum wage. Stores like the beloved Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters were found in 2010 to have sweatshop conditions in LA’s fashion district. The workers were getting paid significantly less than they should have been, and the factory bosses were falsifying their records, if they kept them at all. This is just in America, the abuses taking place world wide in places like Bangladesh are much more extreme.
Thankfully, some groups are dedicating themselves to fighting sweatshops and their unfair labor conditions. The International Labor Rights Forum says, “One of the most important criteria for meaningful and dignified work is that workers themselves have an effective, collective voice in determining their wages and working conditions.” As clothing manufacturers come to value these criteria more workers will be treated fairly and more products will be made
If it disgusts or disappoints you to think that your favorite shirt was made by mistreated workers, it should. You are not alone. 13 Bricks is committed to sustainability, to organic materials, and to American-made clothing. The designers aren’t being forced to work against their will, nor are they being denied basic benefits afforded to all workers. They’re doing something they love: creating artwork in the form of t-shirts and clothing.