Hey there Pr0nistas –
I’m going to take a break from my usual free-wheeling style to try to start an actual discussion about something that’s been on my mind.
As I was surfing through other WordPress blogs today, I started reading The Urban Landfill, which was filled with pretty pictures of shoes and handbags – my kinda blog. One of her posts was on Matt & Nat, a vegan handbag & shoe line I’ve seen before. I was familiar with their stuff and even liked what I saw, but hadn’t told friends about it – my stamp of approval for things I like.
What had stopped me from recommending this line was that all of it is made in China. What’s the problem with products made in China? Aren’t many products we buy made there? Many are unfortunately, so many it’s almost unavoidable.
The reason so many of our products are made in China is because it’s very inexpensive for companies to produce their items in China. There’s a minimum wage, but it’s not enforced; what few labor laws there are aren’t enforced; there are no unions, no sexual harassment laws, or Workers’ Compensation – all of these protections we have in the U.S. (and other industrialized nations) cost companies money. In an effort to keep costs down for us, the consumer, companies take their business overseas, frequently to China.
What are working conditions in China? According to the U.S. China Business Council, “… In practice, however, the rights of Chinese workers are routinely violated. Workers are often required to work far more than 40 hours a week, have few days off, are paid below the minimum wage, and are not paid required overtime. Improper deductions from wages are common. vSome Chinese workers must pay a … “deposit” to their employer, and … a “recruitment fee” in order to be hired… Physical abuse of workers, and dangerous working conditions, are also common. A New York Times article from January 2008 reports that “worker abuse is still commonplace in many of the Chinese factories that supply Western companies”
Now, I buy products made in China. I don’t like it, but I do it. So what’s my point? My point is that I’m not making any claims to be particularly cruelty-avoidant. A nice person maybe, but I digress. I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian. I won’t wear fur; I will wear leather, and I like my steaks cooked medium, please.
If you check out Matt & Nat’s blog, they say that their company is “a Montreal-based socially responsible hand bag line [and] is one of the most forward-thinking companies to date. And their bags (all vegan leather and environmentally friendly.)” An interview for The Montreal Mirror says, ” All their products are made in China, but … because their bigger buyers, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Dillard’s, insist on customers signing contracts that make sure no children were used in manufacturing, [Matt and Nat] uses the bigger, more ethically reliable Chinese factories to make their stuff. This keeps the company in line with their corporate philosophy.”
Talk to me pr0nistas: does this ride with you? Does it sit well? If there’s one thing that’s not pr0nish to me, it’s companies talking out of both sides of their mouths, and this leaves a bad taste in mine. In a country still a Communist regime for all intents, where there’s no freedom of speech or the press or religion, in a country where you can only have one child, and females are routinely aborted, abandoned or neglected, in a country where 20 years ago peaceful protesters were killed in public, in a country where people disappear, is it enough for a company calling itself “socially responsible” to say it’s okay to do business in a country simply because they’re not using sweatshops?
Clearly by now you know my opinion, but I’d like to hear yours – agree or disagree. What matters to you, pr0ners?