Tag Archives: Consumerism

Flash Back: Why I don’t Shop At Walmart

Below, in it’s entirety, is something I wrote a while back about why I don’t shop at Walmart. With all the CRM posts and everything I felt this was probably a pretty appropriate time to post this up again and hopefully garner further discussion on it. If your going to link to the article, please link to the original, Why I don’t Shop At Walmart:

This topic always draws a lot of feedback. The thing is from the moment someone starts to talk, or write, you usually have a good idea what side of the fence they are on (it’s the same as when you listen to someone talk about Kanye West’s statements and racism). I fear-and I’m speaking about myself too-that too often we are choosing what side of the fence we want to be on, and then just finding evidence to back it up. Maybe it’s cause you had a bunch of liberal friends, or you hung out with the grunge crowd, some external pressure just decided for you that you hated Walmart, and since then you’ve found all kinds of reasons why this is true. For others it’s their republican upbringing, their support of “Christian” values, or their love of low prices that swayed their decision and now they’ve found all kinds of reasons to support that choice. Honestly, I probably fall into one of those categories, but give me a minute to share with you why I personally avoid Walmart.

At some point in my movement towards maturity, I recognized the significance of personal responsibility. I realized that with any situation, regardless of the reasons behind it or circumstances concerning it, my involvement (or passive silence) would show my support for it. If something is against the rules, and I say nothing about it, I show my support for it. If my government, of which I am a part, makes a decision and I say nothing about it, I support it. I need to take responsibility for those things. If I am ever confronted on those things (and I have this strange feeling I might be), I will not be able to pass blame like Adam did, I will be held accountable for my decisions.

I’ve definitely made poor decisions in the past. I remember being in high school and seeing a sign posted above a drinking fountain in the hallway. Walmart and Sweatshops was the topic, and I passed it by without a second thought. Interesting that I can remember that now, but it had no bearing on me then. For a number of years I had been aware of this, and I did nothing.

At some point later, maybe after I had been exposed to some facts, seen some video, and been confronted a few more times, I realized that important lesson on personal responsibility. Suddenly, the weight of the responsibility was heavy on me. I never went through a research project of weighing the Pros and Cons of Walmart. To be honest most of this debate about whether Walmart is good or bad seems to miss the point for me. I’m not saying it doesn’t have significance, but it gets us into a balance game, and I’m not interested in that.

This is the one fact that disturbs me. Close your eyes. Think about the shirt you are wearing. Trace it back through the store you bought it from, back past being packaged, past being shipped, and to the place it was stitched and sewn together. I’m terrified when I do that and I see a small child, dirty and weary from 18 hours a day of labor, looking into my eyes and awaiting an explanation. What will I say to that little girl? What does taking responsibility mean for me there?

I cannot in good conscience buy from a store where I am aware that that is where the items came from. Does Walmart employ sweatshops? I’m not sure, but I’ve heard evidence of it, and the mere possibility scares me. Do other Stores employ sweatshops? Probably many other stores do, and as I become aware of them, my purchasing decisions and opportunities will become more and more difficult; But that in NO way allows me to disregard my responsibility. Do ALL stores employ sweatshops? I do not believe so. I know of a number of fair trade clothing stores whose goal and focus is to be sweatshop free.

I’m not advocating a boycott; I don’t know enough about economics, etc to make a strong decision on that. I do think that when a company like Walmart is in the news for bad practices, it should affect our spending habits. When Martha Stewart goes to jail our continued purchases send the message that we don’t care about her breaking the law. When we read that Coca-Cola has been polluting the water in India, our continued purchasing sends the message that we do not care. I long for someone with much more brilliance then I to come along and give me a plan for making choices and organizing in a way that will affect change for the good. Are you that person?

I leave you with this. As a friend, I want to admonish you. I am aware of some facts that might or might not be true about Walmart. Please stop shopping there until you have examined the facts.

Link to Original


Corporate Responsibility: For Clothing Meet Maggie

Corporate Responsibility Mondays

Corporate Responsibility Mondays continue as we turn toward clothing
companies. It’s something you and many generations before and after you
need, whether you like it or not. Ever since the fall there’s been a
market for us to cover ourselves, and a beautiful opportunity for us to
do so in a responsible way. What you wear is not just about fashion and
style, there is so much more to it, there are real people behind the

In cooperation with Josh, Corporate Responsibility Mondays are our chance to introduce you to both the troubling facts behind some of our big brands (thanks to Josh)
and to people and corporations that are doing business in a way you can
support and believe in. Today we are talking about the clothing
industry. Josh will talk about one of the big names in the business, and I’ll introduce you to a company that is doing business in a way I think we can all be excited about.

Maggie's Organics

The most common response I hear when I start talking about trying to
make purchases in a way that is just and fair, is “yeah, but I’m sure
every company has problems if you look for it.” In other words, people
justify their choices by convincing themselves that everyone’s corrupt
so there’s no real point. We’ll I’m proud to say that you can point all
the Cynic’s to Maggie’s Organics. From the plant to your foot, every step of the clothing production and process is something to be proud of.

Maggie’s purchases their merchandise from Nueva Vida Women’s Sewing
Cooperative (COMAMNUVI), the world’s first WORKER-OWNED Free Trade
Zone. This isn’t just a big corporation out to make money in the name
of social responsibility, this is a genuine business, where the power
rests in the hands of those that matter most, the workers.

Their website says it all:

In Nicaragua there are many free trade zones where mainly women work in “sweat shops”, producing clothing under unacceptable labor conditions, long hours and low pay. In a cooperative,
the workers are the owners. We are working together to create
sustainable employment in the community so that we can support
ourselves and our families.

If your even more interested in how the cooperative came to be, I’d
encourage you to check out their video, Ants that Move Mountains, which
I made available on youtube (Ants 1 and 2).

Maggie’s Organics
is a great distributer and has most of the basics that everyone needs,
from socks to simple t-shirts. The neat thing is that there prices are
fairly reasonable too. You can buy t-shirts from $13 and score them on closeout for $10. Socks are more expensive then the sweatshop made ones, but I think the trade off is worth it.

When compared to companies with practices like Josh describes, a fair
trade cooperative, is clearly the best option out there. An interview
of a local worker at a major factory (possibly one operated by the company Josh discussed) and one at the coop shows some of the differences (pdf).
Everything from working conditions and wages, to paid time off and
vested interest in the product and company, it’s apparent that Maggie’s
Organics and the Nicaraguan Cooperative are doing some amazing things.

When it comes to the clothing industry I don’t think we can make
excuses about not doing what’s right. I see two options… Either buy
your clothing second-hand or buy it new from a fair trade company like Maggie’s Organics.

Fair Trade Interview with Eric Odier-Fink of The Justice Clothing Company

I had the wonderful opportunity this morning of interviewing Eric Odier-Fink of The Justice Clothing Company. Eric graciously gave me a bit of his time to answer some questions about Justice Clothing, Sweatshops, Unions and Fair Trade.

or Download the Podcast Here.

Show Notes:

00:24 Why did you start The Justice Clothing Company?

  • “It really started out of Frustration.”
  • The idea for the Justice Clothing Company was born around 1996 when we met and, among other things, began shopping together. (from the website)

  • “The US is predominately sweatshop in it’s apperal production.”
  • 1998- Received Catalogs from Union companies (King Louie clothing, Nemisis and Windjammers)
  • “Is there Anywhere in the United States for me to buy your gear?”
  • “These where companies that where absolutely clean.”

03:15 Working with Union Companies

  • “We only work with Union Companies”
  • Tried to work with Non-Union (ended well before they began selling their gear).
  • Ben and Jerry’s as a Non-Union example
  • Non-Union companies weren’t willing to meet their conditions

06:30 Talking about American Apparel

  • Discussed working with American-Apparel (It didn’t work out, and it was clearly for the best)
  • American-Apperal’s Ugly Union busting Article
  • AA’s Sexist ads and Sexual Harrasment
  • American Apparel makes clothes, Justice Clothing sells clothes (that union companies make).

11:00 The importance of Unions

  • “Unions are the only thing responsible for prosperity in the United States.”
  • “Unions bring together workers who, individually, don’t really have any power.”
  • “The only power a worker has, is to stop the work that they do.”
  • Eric tells the story of his grandfather being almost “worked to death.”
  • Why Unions improve companies and the quality of products.

14:45 Justice Clothing becoming a Cooperative

  • No longer “Employer, employees.”
  • Expanding to others outside the business
  • A few “not really for the radio” details about the Co-op.

18:15 Dealing with your overwhelming closet full of sweatshop clothing

22:45 What’s your take on Thrift Stores

  • Usually fronts for organizations that feed and cloth people
  • It’s Recycling!
  • It’s not contributing to the sweatshop industry
  • The Balance is that people need to work and somethings will need to be bought new, That’s where Justice Clothing comes in.

26:00 Why pay more Money for fair trade clothing?

  • Sustainable economies
  • Why Not to Contribute to Walmart (articles 1, 2)

29:45 An appeal to people of Faith

  • “Buying sweatshop stuff is against my religion”
  • “You know your buying stuff that is moral”

* Want to Read some more about this? Eric Suggests:

one I will point out is a magazine-size booklet published by the Progressive Jewish Alliance called “No Schvitz”– it’s a great primer on the history and current situation with sweatshops, with a focus on Jewish involvement (on all sides).

Is “Socially Responsible” catching on?

When you see the term on a McDonalds brochure you know something is up. I don’t frequent the golden arches much, but I was in there a couple weeks ago and I saw this brochure.
“We Share One Community: Socially Responsible Neighbors”
Brochure from McDonalds- We Share One Community

I’m not posting to bash on McD’s (that’s what you’d expect from me though isn’t it?). I think it’s great to see a company like this and others (Walmart, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, etc) put out Press Release and make statements in the direction of Social Responsibility. I applaud those efforts, but I want to caution us as well. I think we’ve seen countless times (look into statements from companies about stopping sweatshops) that just because they make a statement or give their word does not mean a change has happened. There are times when all we can do is take their word for it, but let’s also be all the more aware when the news reveals that they have not been keeping their commitments.
When Social Responsibility becomes the buzz word everyone will jump on board, at least in word, not necessarily in deed. You see being Social Responsibility cost your company money. Paying garment workers more cost more. Treating animals humanely cost more. All these things our money lost from the company and any good economist knows that money is the bottom line. Let’s just be aware.

On that note here is an exciting company, Maggie’s Organic that looks like they are doing things right. Watch the Video.