Merry Christmas from the people behind the scenes


From the garment workers of Bangladesh who died to give you those ‘everyday low prices’ you love so much at Walmart to the religious prisoners of China who made those holiday decorations you bought on Black Friday at Kmart, the slave laborers of the world wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, full of electronics assembled in for-profit American prisons by non-violent drug offenders being paid $1.25 an hour and high-end lingerie produced by children

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  1. Posted December 24, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to bum anyone out on Christmas Eve, but slavery is alive and well on the planet earth tonight.

  2. Dan Richardson
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    You just bummed me out.

  3. Mark Lee
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Permalink


  4. Elliott
    Posted December 25, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    We never abolished slavery in the United States. We just hid it.

  5. anonymous
    Posted December 25, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I don’t know how true it is but I read somewhere that there were more slaves in the world now that at any point in history, and that doesn’t even take into account prison labor or those making pennies an hour.

  6. Posted December 25, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink


    I can’t speak to individual cases of on the job safety or to whether wages at garment factories are in line with local prices.

    I can, however, point out that Bangladesh’s expansion of it’s garment sector have been transformative for the country.

    After decades of stagnation, Bangladesh has maintained consistent levels of economic growth since 1990, averaging 6% a year since the year 2000.

    GDP per capita (in constant dollars) has doubled since the 1990’s and also shown consistent increases.

    Wages in the manufacturing sector have also increased consistently, the largest gains in two decades being seen just last year.

    Bangladesh, though still a very poor country, has also seen increases in it’s HDI ranking, placing it above even African heavy hitters like Senegal and Nigeria, and now even above nearby Pakistan.

    Until the 1990’s, Bangladesh was one of the poorest and most hopeless parts of the world. In 1990, nearly 60% of the country lived in poverty. Now, that number is only 30%. Compared to 1990, Bangladeshis are more likely to be in or have gone to school, and can expect to live 6 years longer than they did before.

    It must be noted that unlike African resource economies, where (ex.) oil revenues flow directly to a small clique of individuals and rarely make it down to the bottom, Bangladesh’s emphasis on manufacturing has allowed money to go directly to families. This reduces volatility, allows consistent growth and reinvestment of monies into other sectors. This model is similar to how the United States grew in the early part of the 20th century and the Asian model which brought bottom of the barrel economies like Korea up to the top of the ladder.

    So, my point is, that while it is really very easy to become cynical about overseas manufacturing, there have been many, many positives and international reporting tends to focus only on the negatives (as you have).

    The historical status quo (particularly in Bangladesh) was worse than you’re imagining and Bangladesh’s development of its garment sector has been a great thing for the country (and has a fascinating history, it was actually spurred by American protectionism!). I will not try to minimize the need for occupational safety standards and fair wages, but it’s worth noting that “Rome was not built in a day” and transforming developing economies is no trivial task.

  7. anonymous
    Posted December 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    And the Triangle shirtwaist factory was good for America.

  8. Posted December 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Actually, in the end, it was. The horrific fire led to the strengthening of occupational safety and labor laws.

  9. Posted December 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    HATER! Just kidding…it really does suck. We were watching some bootleg version of the Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978. It sucks crotch BUT the 1978 commercials were included in the upload. Every single segment had a pro-union commercial, reminding us that if we pay our workers, they can pay taxes and buy stuff whereas if we buy stuff from overseas, our workers get screwed. Whirlpool had a nice commercial about how they are committed to quality and workers and such. And then there was an ad for TOBOR (robot spelled backwards!) that I actually owned so yay.

    But those ads made me nostalgic in more ways than one. I often argue that the 70s was the last awesome decade–before the mass, rampant consumerism, commercialism and greed really and truly took over. It was always there but it seems like it really took hold after the 80s. Or I’m just an aging Gen X’er who wonders where the time went.

  10. anonymous
    Posted December 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Most people would see the burning to death of nearly 150 immigrant women in a sweatshop a bad thing, Peter. I’m glad that you can look on the bright side.

  11. Posted December 25, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    It is a bad thing, but, in the end, it was good for all the other people who didn’t die later.

    While we would expect (hope) that policy would act before the worst occurs, we should note that it often doesn’t. Disasters often allow radical policy change through the galvanizing of public support, which otherwise wouldn’t exist.

    This, of course, isn’t always a good thing. The hysteria and poor policy making after 9/11 come to mind.

  12. Posted December 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    And while watching an episode of Raw Lock Up (DON’T JUDGE ME!!!), I saw in one commercial break *two* ads from corporations. One was from Exxon telling us how awesome their energy is and one from AIG telling us how awesome and caring they are. I think I have found out why I love the 70s so much and why it sucks so much now….

  13. Posted December 26, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Interesting. I have the opposite view. I hated the 70’s and 80’s. I’m much more excited about 2013.

    Perhaps it has something to do with 1) not living in a trailer and 2) not living with smokers.

    Imagine how the air quality in the Nostromo was. To me, that was the 70’s.

  14. jcp2
    Posted December 26, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    1970’s + unions = xenophobia. No thanks.

  15. wobblie
    Posted December 27, 2013 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    The 70’s under Jimmy Carter, the last time we were really free. No War, a militant labor movement that still believed in progress, (and actually struggled to achieve that progress) We all thought the commercialization of patriotism was a bad thing (ie. the bicentennial). Hell we felt so free in those days, that people would take off all their clothes and go streaking across the diag, or even down the street in the nude. Christian fundamentalism meant Jesus freaks, and televangelist were only on TV after midnight. No AIDS and the sexual revolution was in full flower. The late 70’s were a good time for America.

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  1. […] back, and explaining to other countries how we got rid of slavery 150 years ago, the truth is that we’re still the beneficiaries of slave labor. We just make sure that we don’t see […]

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