The NLC would like to slap you in the face

This video produced by the National Labor Committee has some pretty powerful images, including young Bangladeshi women sleeping with their faces smooshed against the side of their sewing machines.

I’m all for people knowing where and who make their clothes, but I think this video has some faults. The narration is a bit extreme and completely dismisses the context in which the workers live.

The narrator says that the factories reach 100-degrees in the summertime and that the worker’s clothes are covered in sweat as if the workers have a place to escape the heat. They don’t. If they weren’t at the factory, they would be sitting in 100-degree heat in their home. Granted, workers coloring cloth, using irons, or presses work in areas painfully hot year-round.

Is a woman who is allowed eight seconds to sew on a button, and who does this time and time again, any different than any factory worker anywhere in the world that puts the same widget in the same place day-in and day-out? A factory is a factory. Doing a repetitive job efficiently is factory work. I know people in Ohio who have spent most of their lives doing the same thing.

The narrator also mentions that the workers don’t have pensions or health care plans. Few people do in Bangladesh. To say it as if the workers don’t get it like everybody else in the country is misleading.

The narrator makes broad generalizations as if all of the women workers’ families are falling apart and all the supervisors beat the workers.

Without a doubt the video is shocking – somewhat misleading but shocking. Maybe that’s what people need. Personally, I want the whole story and this video is not the whole story. But maybe I saw a video like this years ago and it planted the idea for this quest. This video could be the that kernel for someone else.

Maybe we need a little slap in the face before we actually think about something.

Add a comment
Steve says:

It’s tough. You’ve got one group telling you that globalization is the devil and the other preaching it as our salvation. There’s an awful lot of middle ground in between.

Kelsey says:

Steve, There is a lot of middle ground. I’m not saying that the NLC is at the extreme left of things, but it appears that they are more than just a little to the left.

One of the books I read researching my quest was Pietra Rivoli’s Travel of a T-shirt in the Global Marketplace. Rivoli comes at things from an economist’s (more conservative), free market way of looking at things, but through her research she starts to see what all of the fuss is about on the other side. She ends up in the middle. I’m coming from a more liberal persuasion and through my research it looks like I’m moving to the middle on this issue, too.

Madhu says:

I think there needs to be a middle path. The companies that benefit have a moral responsibility to bring some change in the living conditions. In fact if they paid little more than the normal average wage they might have more loyalty.

I think its the moral vs legal responsibility a US or foreign company has. I guess its an ethical responsibility for companies to make things better…they bring jobs to poor countries but with those jobs they should bring the much needed change in Human rights across the globe. Apply the higher standards of the US to their NON US operations as well. If not all..some.

Kelsey says:

I’m of the thought that money moves faster than ethics.

As for buying loyalty with better wages…which comes first the hardworking employee shows his loyalty and gets rewarded or an employer pays an employee more to win their loyalty?

Let your voice be heard!