What is one way to think about sweatshops and child labour in the clothing industry and general working conditions in developing nations?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The recent fire at a Bangladesh sweatshop as well as other violations there in the garment industry have is something upon which reflection is warranted.  This past week, President Obama cut off longtime US trade benefits for Bangladesh as a response to what is happening in work settings there.  The President remarked on this:  "I have determined that it is appropriate to suspend Bangladesh ... because it is not taking steps to afford internationally recognise worker rights to workers in the country."  Terms such as a "the blood of workers" have been invoked to convey this sentiment. I think that any analysis of sweatshop conditions has to incorporate this most recent development that legislators are beginning to grasp, and something that workers in these factories and sweatshops have understood for some time now.  

When looking the issues in the Bangladesh Tazreen factory sweatshop fire of 2012, consider what employees had to confront on a daily basis:

The first alarm: Waved off by managers. An exit door: Locked. The fire extinguishers: Not working and apparently ‘meant just to impress’ inspectors and customers. That is the picture survivors paint of the garment-factory fire Saturday that killed 112 people who were trapped inside or jumped to their deaths in desperation.

The modern sweatshop is financed by the wealthiest of corporations.  In the Tazreen factory fire, clothing was produced for corporations such as Wal- Mart, Dickies, Sears, and Disney.  Workers were told to discard the fire alarms, and by the time that everyone realized what was happening, it was too late.  Over 100 people died in the Tazreen factory fire, making it the worst in Bangladesh's history.  

The collusion between capitalism at all costs, locals who manipulate the suffering of workers that have no other choice, corrupt government oversight, and consumers who don't care to voice their opinion by withholding their purchasing power results in the construction of the modern sweatshop in Bangladesh and all over the world.  In any entry about the sweatshop and the conditions that surround it, I would focus on these four elements and how they conspire with one another to make misery on the lives of millions around the world.

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