Fair Trade Labeling for Garment Manufacturers

Edinburgh   With the death count from the Bangladesh factory collapse now over 800,  many, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are calling for “fair-trade standards or labeling” for clothing produced around the world.  The argument for such standards and labeling would be to communicate directly to the potential consumer that there were safe and decent labor standards in the production of the clothes along with other potential criteria.  Interestingly, German manufacturers have also led the call for a willingness to invest in upgrading factory production in Bangladesh directly, which Walmart, Gap and others have resisted.

 The so-called Sustainable Apparel Coalition directed by these firms along with other giant buyers like J.C. Penney, Target, and others predictably are trying to both not make the investment and sidetrack the calls for reform by proposing self-certification systems, if anything.  They are talking about perhaps making public an internal index that they are now using in some circumstances.  Scott Nova, head of the Workers Rights Consortium was quoted in the International Herald Tribune saying correctly that self-regulation had already been proven ineffective.  He might have added that the proof is now “in blood.”

In an amazing quote from a Georgetown University professor, Neeru Paharia, about the way that both the companies and many consumers were hiding behind the complexity of the supply chain as an excuse to avoid demanding more company accountability, she said,

 “Most people probably would not hire a child, lock them in the basement, and have them make their clothes, but this system is so abstracted.”

It takes your breath away! 

             Surveys indicate though that consumers both want to know where their clothes are coming from and are willing to pay a premium for the facts and the security involved in the information.

             The Better Works program administered not by the industry but by a international publicly funded partnership of unions and businesses still seems the way to go, but demanding the information from sellers immediately is what has to be done.

Fair Trade Labeling Audio Blog

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Van Heerden Must Resign, Apple Must Replace Fair Labor Association

New Orleans   In the space of days the attempt by the giant Apple Computer company, that, let’s be honest, knows better, to scam consumers by foisting off a so-called monitoring outfit that it has bought and paid for, has gone from being controversial to being simply pathetic.  The news today has the Fair Labor Association’s president, Auret van Heerden, over in China auditioning for a role as “little Miss Mary Sunshine,” rather than even acting as if he is the head of monitoring combine that would know anything about workers’ industrial conditions and standards, much less care.  Two days into the job and weeks before the so-called report by FLA would be written he was spouting off to National Public Radio according to all reports essentially that the giant Apple supplier, Foxconn, was simply the bomb, declaring that Foxconn’s facilities are first-class” and that “Foxconn is really not a sweatshop.”

Van Heerden is clearly not simply a puppet, but a clown, and he must go.  Immediately!  Steven Greenhouse from the Times, caught his #2 Jorge Perez-Lopes for some comments, and the old #2, and future #1, pulled the rug out from under Van Heerden without hesitation saying, “The work we’re doing at Foxconn is not about first impressions…” and further, “the proof will be in the pie…when the report comes out.”

It will not be enough to simply pull Van Heerden’s foot out of his mouth and switch him for Perez-Lopez.  If there had been any question remaining anywhere about the ability of the Fair Labor Association to be anything other than a corporate shill, that is now laughably history.

Other monitoring outfits, Verite, and the Workers Rights Consortium, couldn’t restrain from putting a stake through the heart of FLA and this entire pretend investigation.

Apple is not stupid.  They must know that any attempt to hide behind an FLA “investigation” is now over and the whole show is now nothing more than farce.

As Van Heerden resigns from FLA, as surely he must, it will not be enough to change horses in the middle of this stream, FLA has to either be fired and removed by Apple, or they need to withdraw so that some outfit that actually knows how to monitor global suppliers and cares about workers and the conditions in which they labor, gets this job.  As it is now, anything that FLA touches won’t even provide the fig leaf that Apple needs to pretend that its products don’t have anything other than sweat and blood all over them, no matter how pretty they might look to teenagers and others.

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