Difference is Possible, by: Ruth Zuniga

Clothes are a necessity. It does not matter what part of the planet we go to, we need to buy clothes. As we go about our lives, we never really take the time to stop and think about where our shirts, jeans, sweaters, and even socks come from. It has become very simple to buy an outfit at a local Forever 21, Hollister, or H&M and never think about who made it or how it got to the United States. Nevertheless, there is a story behind where these clothes come from. Many of the clothes we wear today are made in third world countries, by young kids or adults who are working in factories where their rights are not respected and working conditions are poor. They work in a way that they never imagined when they applied for the job. Many corporations are using sweatshops as a means to create the clothes that most Americans are wearing today. Sweatshops, according to The US Department of Labor, are factories that violate two or more labor laws. Many corporations try and justify themselves by arguing that if they where to pay workers the minimum wage and give them better conditions to work in, then the consumer would have to pay more for the products. They believe that they are making our lives easier by providing what we need for a lower price while hurting people and our planet. However, there is one clothing company that has made it possible, and that is American Apparel.

Not only has American Apparel proven it is possible to become sweatshop free, but they contribute to many other great new methods of manufacturing, and distribute in 19 countries. One very important aspect of the company is the way they treat their employees. Right off the American Apparel website one can find the difference between the sweatshop environment and a sweatshop free factory like the one where the American Apparel items are made.

“The average sewer with experience at American Apparel is making about $25,000/yr, or $12 an hour, almost twice the federal minimum. This can be higher in some cases. We also offer parking, subsidized public transport, subsidized lunches, free onsite massages, a bike lending program, a program of paid days off, ESL classes and much more. Most importantly we guarantee job security and full-time employment; this is an anomaly in the garment industry, which has historically been dominated by seasonal work.”

Besides these great programs, employees together with their families are provided with health care, which is one of the many things that employees in sweatshops do not have. Many companies that do not provide these type of resources for their employees believe that it is better to have cheaper clothing for the consumers than actually treat people like human beings with needs. Not only is American Apparel making a difference by treating employees the right way; but they are also taking care of our planet.

The start of their organic line is the start of a new way of taking care of our planet. They are

making an impact in people’s lives, as well as in the environment. They use organic cotton and

dye the fabric with a low-impact dying process with eliminates chemical waste. The company

has bought around 30,000 pounds of cleaner cotton as well as joining the Cleaner Cotton

Campaign, which offers farmers with tips on how to cultivate cleaner, more organic cotton. The

organic material is only part of what they do for our environment. Fifteen percent of the

company’s energy comes from a system that generates 150 kilowatts of   renewable energy.

They also recycle, and in 2005 started lending out bicycles to employees as transportation with

helmets and locks. Catalogs are made in 100% recyclable paper and they will be starting a bamboo and recycled polyester line as well. How can companies say that sweatshops are the best answer when American Apparel is treating their employees in an ethical manner as well as making a difference in the environment? Not only has American Apparel grown, but they are selling.

There is one fact that many people can agree on, their clothes are expensive. A simple t-shirt

can costs from 15-28 dollars each. However, the company is still very popular and many people

in over 19 countries are buying from them. There are over 260 stores worldwide. Why is it that people are willing to pay so much for their clothes? The answer is simple. A sweatshop free

environment attracts attention.

Consumers realize that stores like American Apparel are making a positive difference.

They can see that not only are they helping people have good jobs, but they are helping our

environment by providing new ways of making products. The consumers can see that American

Apparel stands for many different varieties of issues and this makes consumers want to be a part

of such of positive change by buying the products.

More and more people can see that American Apparel’s method is for the better and that companies using sweatshops really have no more excuses. Not only can the clothes in a non-sweatshop factory be affordable but they can be comfortable, flashy, and buyable.  It is possible to create a better environment for workers and for our planet. It is possible for a company to be sweatshop free and still be successful. Many just need to realize that standing up for what is right can be rewarding at the end.

Works Cited

1)      Advertisement. American Apparel / About Us/ Learn More. American Apparel Inc., 2009.          Web. 13 May 2010. <http://www.americanapparel.net/contact/&gt;.

2)      Green America Come Together. National Green Pages, 2004-2009. Web. 13 May 2010. <http://www.greenamericatoday.org/programs/sweatshops/whattoknow.cfm&gt;.

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