Labor Day is the holiday we celebrate here in the United States in order to recognize the contributions of American workers. Work hard all year, and you ought to get at least one day to be appreciated and get some rest without the boss man exploiting you, after all American workers are what make the American economy great, right?
Apparently, that's not quite how a company called Dwacon sees it. Dwacon sells a t-shirt celebrating Labor Day, whichsounds nice, until you realize that the shirt is made overseas in a sweatshop by a company that exploits workers holding jobs that were outsourced from here in the United States. So, this shirt manages to be anti-worker evenas it claims to be pro-Labor Day. Slick, huh?
You see, this shirt is sold on CafePress, and there are two kinds of shirts sold on CafePress: Shirts made in the United States by American Apparel, and shirts made in outsourced factories in foreign countries that exploit their workers. The shirts that are made in the United States of America are clearly marked as such, but Dwacon has decided that it's more important to make a buck than to restrict its collection to shirts made in the USA.
Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident. There are plenty of shop owners who use CafePress to sell shirts with pro-labor messages, even though those shirts were actually made by exploited workers outside the United States. The shirt you see here to the right goes even further than the Dwacon example. It's a shirt for people to wear so that they can identify themselvesas labor activists. However, like the shirt sold by Dwacon, this so-called labor activist t-shirt was made in a foreign sweatshop under the supervision of a corporation that took jobs out of the United States because it didn't want to invest in American workers. What kind of labor activist would a shirt made by such a corporation? A fake labor activist.
My favorite among these poser pro-worker shirts is the one you see here. It's a black t-shirt sold on CafePress, and that's a dead giveaway. Although other places, like Goodstorm, provide black t-shirts made in the United States by American Apparel, CafePress does not. If it's black t-shirt sold on CafePress, you know that it's a shirt made in a sweatshop in a foreign country.
Look at the message on this t-shirt, though. It's a graphic symbolizing an abused worker, with the words, Stop Labor Abuse. Hold Corporations Accountable.
Oh, that's rich. The t-shirt seller asks us to hold corporations accountable for abusing workers, but the shirt itself is made by a corporation that exploits workers. It would be easy for the t-shirt seller to actually do somethingto hold corporations accountable for labor abuse: Stop selling this design on shirts made in sweatshops outside the United States.
There are many options for people who want to sell t-shirts online that don't show disrespect to American workers. For one thing, if they sell through CafePress, they can agree to sell only those CafePress shirts that are made in the USA by American Apparel. That's what we've done. Every single shirt that we sell through CafePress is made in the United States, ethically. We've even set up a Sweat Free Shirts shop dedicated to the idea. Also, as I mentioned, we sell shirts made in the USA through Goodstorm at our Irregular Progress shop.
Another possibility with great promise for the future is Skreened, a t-shirt printing service which is just leaving its beta testing in February of 2007. Skreened only sells shirts that are made in America by American Apparel, because the owner of Skreened wants to do what that CafePress shop owner only talks about. He wants to help stop labor abuse and stand up to corporations that facilitate it. We've interviewed Daniel Fox, the owner of Skreened, about his vision for his ethical business. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the interview to see where Skreened is coming from on the eve of its full version re-release.
A more ethical economy is not out of our reach. We only have to use our heads to make appropriate choices, and we can make it happen.