Unfortunately, the history of the textile or garment industry, which includes the “fashion” sector within that broad category, is not pretty. In fact, the pejorative phrase “sweatshop” has its origins in the dismal working conditions to which employees of the garment industry were routinely subjected—conditions that can often still be...
Unfortunately, the history of the textile or garment industry, which includes the “fashion” sector within that broad category, is not pretty. In fact, the pejorative phrase “sweatshop” has its origins in the dismal working conditions to which employees of the garment industry were routinely subjected—conditions that can often still be found today in factories in less-developed countries producing goods for the American market. For this reason, government officials, with prodding from organized labor, imposed a series of regulations on the garment industry intended to improve those working conditions. Consequently, regulations that prohibited child labor, required safe working conditions, limited hours, and made overtime pay mandatory were implemented during the early twentieth century. These regulations did succeed in improving working conditions, but increased production costs, which convinced many business owners to relocate their factories to countries with less stringent or even nonexistent regulations.
In addition to regulating the working conditions in the garment industry, government regulations also extend to product labeling. The federal government requires garment manufacturers to label every item of clothing, and the label must list the nation in which it was produced. This “nation of origin” labeling requirement is intended to ensure that the government can track the quantity and value of imports into the United States from specific foreign countries while informing the public where its clothing was produced.
With respect to retail outlets, government regulations pertaining to product labeling also affect such businesses. Human rights and political activists seeking to shed light on a particular retail outlet’s questionable business practices use country of origin labeling to target those businesses that sell products manufactured in countries with poor regulatory systems and records of human rights abuses. Additionally, import tariffs or taxes on imports from certain countries affect retail outlets by increasing costs to consumers who purchase items from targeted countries. Outlets, therefore, might sell fewer items of clothing, which decreases revenue.