I am an avid Planet Money podcast listener. I have also read Pietra Rivoli's excellent "The travels of a T-shirt in the global economy".
So I was excited when earlier this year, using Kickstarter, Planet Money finally worked out a way to make t-shirts and follow their travels in the global economy. I signed up for the Kickstarter project to support their effort, despite the quite sizable international shipping charge.
Knowing we are receiving the end result, the podcasts about the t-shirts have been fascinating. Then came the most recent talking to workers in Bangladesh - who made the men's shirt and in Colombia - who made the women's one.
The Colombian one, particularly affected me because the women working here were on better wages and working in better conditions. Admittedly they are not great but at least it is better than other places. But then the bomb shell - the women they had spoken to may not have jobs past February. Jockey are pulling out of using the factory because labour is cheaper elsewhere.
Our t-shirts are due to arrive in the next week or so and I am not sure how I will feel putting on a top, knowing the women who sewed it may be out of work. The podcasts and the t-shirt purchase really connected me, the end user, with those making the product in way even reading the book did not.
Life is a complicated thing but hearing the voices and a little bit of the lives, you couldn't help but take the women's side in the situation. Shareholders would get a little less, the Jockey guy might not get as big a bonus for saving money but these women would have at least some money to keep their families going.
Over breakfast explaining this to eight year old Lucy she was shocked. She was shocked workers in Bangladesh earned $3/day and even in the better conditions in Colombia the wages were $13/day.
She couldn't understand if the person, who was in charge of shifting the manufacturing away from Colombia to another poorer nation, was also sad about it - why they were doing it anyway?
She immediately checked all the labels on her clothes and wanted to start a charity for clothing workers.
If it seems so wrong and crazy to an eight year old, why do we all shake our heads so often in defeat at where we have got to with the global economy?
I spend so much of my time explaining to the kids to share nicely and not to be greedy and yet the examples every day show them what hypocrites us adults are.
Meanwhile Tristan is just excited his underpants have days of the week on them.
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