“We could put a special tag on each piece of clothing, saying: ‘From the happy workers of Bangladesh, with pleasure. Workers’ well-being guaranteed.’ When consumers saw that a well-known and trusted institution had taken responsibility to ensure both the present and the future of the workers who produced the garment, they wouldn’t mind paying 50 cents extra.Consumers would be proud to support the product and the company, rather than feeling guilty about wearing a product made under harsh working conditions.”
–In an op-ed piece for The Guardian this weekend, Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus sketched out a solution to the garment industry crisis that was brought to the world’s attention in the most jarring, tragic way when the collapse of Rana Plaza became the deadliest incident in the industry’s history…
Yunus points out that simply pulling production out of Bangladesh would actually harm the 3.6 million workers (mostly women) who depend on clothing production jobs to support their families. Instead, he suggests establishing an international minimum wage and a Garment Workers Welfare Trust in Bangladesh by adding a very small surcharge onto the price of clothing made in the country. ”All we have to do is to sell the item of clothing for $35.50 instead of $35,” he says. “A barely noticeable change to the price could work wonders.” The trust would fund safer work environments, healthcare, education, pensions, and childcare for Bangladeshi factory workers. Each garment that was made in these fair working conditions would be labeled with “a beautiful logo” to let consumers know their purchase was supporting an ethical production chain.
Instituting Yunus’ plan will take a lot of work–and a huge push from consumers–but it’s certainly refreshing to read and think about real solutions in the wake of Rana Plaza. Assuming this Workers Welfare Trust had proper oversight, I would absolutely be more likely to buy clothing that was clearly labeled as “ethically made”; in fact, I would go out of my way to seek out items labeled as such. Would a label like this affect your clothing purchasing decisions? Would you be willing to spend a bit more for the assurance that your clothes were made by safe, well-paid workers?
[Photo of clothing rack via Shutterstock]