Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Clothing manufacturers who DON'T use sweatshop labor? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Clothing manufacturers who DON'T use sweatshop labor?
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: mizkreant-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 18 Aug 2002 01:33 PDT
Expires: 17 Sep 2002 01:33 PDT
Question ID: 55824
I recently saw Michael Moore's excellent documentary film, "The Big
One" on cable television.  I found the segments focusing on Nike and
it's CEO especially interesting.  It started me thinking about my own
culpability as a consumer.  Is it feasible or even possible to buy
clothing in the United States from manufacturers who don't use
"sweatshop"* labor?  What I'm looking for as an answer to this
question would be sites that have extensive lists or compilations of
information regarding which companies do and which don't use sweatshop

Secondly, when confronted on this issue most convseratives and
classical enconomists I've heard will almost always respond by saying
that the workers employed by sweatshops are "better off" than if the
sweatshops didn't exist.  What are convincing counter arguments to

*Definition of "sweatshop" labor for the purposes of this question:  I
understand that "sweatshop" labor is kind of a nebulous and difficult
to define term.  American corporations who want to cut labor costs
significantly often manufacture their goods in "third world" countries
in order to circumvent U.S. labor laws.  That's the key element to me.
 If goods are manufactured in a locale where the wage paid is
significantly lower than U.S. minimum wage I would consider that
"sweatshop" labor.  If the employees would be considered "minors" and
subject to U.S. child labor laws if the factory were located in the
United States, I would consider sweatshop labor.  Finally, I would
consider using prisoners to produce goods as "sweatshop" labor.
Subject: Re: Clothing manufacturers who DON'T use sweatshop labor?
Answered By: robertskelton-ga on 18 Aug 2002 06:01 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi there,

Firstly, some pointers from Sweatshop Watch:

Sweatshops are commonplace in the USA.

"Sweatshops are continuously being discovered all over the world. In
the U.S., these conditions exist in many low wage industries that
employ immigrants, such as the garment industry. Recent studies
conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor found that 67% of Los
Angeles garment factories and 63% of New York garment factories
violate minimum wage and overtime laws. Ninety-eight percent of Los
Angeles garment factories have workplace health and safety problems
serious enough to lead to severe injuries or death. "

Definitive lists of companies that do or do not use sweatshop labor
are hard to create.

"Thousands of garment shops exist worldwide and assessing the working
conditions of each one would be close to impossible. While the
exploitive conditions of some well-known manufacturers & retailers
have been exposed, many other lesser-known clothing labels remain
questionable in terms of their labor practices... While some companies
claim to implement codes of conduct or use fair labor standards, many
do not disclose how these codes are enforced in their factories.
Information on wages, locations of garment shops, health and safety
standards, or worker complaints can be kept hidden from consumers and
human rights/anti-sweatshop organizations."

"Clothing containing a union label is one of the few ways of ensuring
that the garment was not made under sweatshop conditions."

The above quotes are all from Sweatshop Watch's FAQ page:

Global Exchange points out that buying a major clothing brand that
definitely doesn't use sweatshop labor is impossible:

"Sadly, there is not one major clothing company that has made a
commitment to completely eradicate abusive labor practices from its
garment factories. While we continue to pressure corporations to
become socially responsible, we as consumers can support the following
alternatives. "

As does NikeWages:

"Are there any companies that don’t use sweatshops?
At the moment there are no major brands producing clothing or footwear
that do not use sweatshops. 90-95% of all clothing and shoes you will
find in retail stores are made in conditions similar to the conditions
we documented during our time with Nike’s workers in Indonesia. One
reason that well-known corporations (Nike, Reebok, Calvin Klein, Old
Navy, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, etc.) have multimillion dollar advertising
budgets for billboards, TV commercials, magazine ads, radio ads, and
newspaper ads is because they pay workers what is considered a
"starvation wage"."


Here are some lists of clothing brands that definitely do not use
sweatshop labor:

Unite Union - Manufacturers

Fair Trade Federation - Retail stores

Fair Trade Federation - Wholesalers

Co-op America - Manufacturers

Sweat-Free T

Clean Clothes Shopping Guide 2001-2002
(requires Acrobat Reader)

If you come across this next list, I would suggest you ignore it - on
the surface it appears to be the type of list you are after, but the
criteria for linking to a clothing retailer is that it runs an
affiliate program (so they can make a profit from linking to them):

Clothing companies

"We have also attempted to include some merchants in each category who
provide positive social and environmental benefits through their
products. Inclusion of any merchant is not an endorsement of that
company's practices or products."

The US Dept of Labor suggest two ways of ensuring you purchase
non-sweatshop clothing:

1. Ask the retailer where and how the garments were made

2. Ask the retailer if they independently monitor garment
manufacturers to avoid buying from sweatshops - many retailers do this

Lists of clothing brands that do use sweatshop labor:

I couldn’t find any sites that produced a long list, possibly due to
the risks involved when accusing large corporations.  The major
anti-sweatshop organizations tend to target a few, high-profile
manufacturers, rather than a long list. The short lists of campaigns
can be found at:

Behind the Label: Names retailers Wal-Mart, Lord & Taylor, The Gap,
Ann Taylor, JC Penney, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew and Eddie Bauer
and Target

Sweatshop Files: Profiles on Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch, Eddie
Bauer, J. Crew and The Gap

National Labor Committee: Names Wal-Mart, Guess, Walt Disney Co.,
Nike, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Esprit, May Co. and Victoria’s Secret

Saipan Sweatshop Lawsuit: Names Levi Strauss, Calvin Klein, Brooks
Brothers, Abercrombie and Fitch & Talbots

Finally, you could also consider buying second-hand garments, getting
new ones made by a tailor, or simply not buying more clothes.

============================================ makes a good case of saying, No, they aren't:

You hear about a place - a factory that is hiring and is paying
slightly above the legal minimum wage. A minimum wage that the
Indonesian government has admitted will only meet 80% of one adult’s
food needs - but it doesn’t matter at this point because you NEED a
job. This seems like the best situation because you don’t have many
options and you can’t wait for "something better to come along in a
week", because you need to eat today. You are forced, out of
necessity, to take a job at a Nike factory because there might be NO
other opportunities for you. So you do. And here’s the reality of your
job at a Nike contract factory:

-You will work up to 15 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, sometimes two 24
hour shifts per week if the quota is high enough.
-It is going to be hot, smelly, and noisy in the factory. 
-You may breathe in toxic chemicals if you work on the glue lines. 
-Your manager might physically, verbally and sexually abuse you. 
-You may have to return sexual favors for this job you have just been
-You may work on the shoe-press machines where workers routinely lose
parts of their fingers.
-You may be forced to work overtime when quotas are high that far
exceed Indonesia’s 54 hour maximum workweek or even the 72 hour shifts
for factories that applied for exemption from Indonesian law.
-When you get your paycheck at the end of the month you do not have
enough money to meet your basic living needs, let alone have the
ability to save money or send money home.

They continue to say that although having a terrible job is better
than no job at all, having a job that allows you to meet all of your
basic needs, adequately provide for your family and maintain your
human dignity, would be reasonable and preferable for all human

Nike workers in Vietnam are not better off.

"Nike has a marketing budget of $560 million, some of which goes into
the hands of multi-millionaires like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
If Nike were to cut out only 2% of this marketing budget the report
shows, the daily salaries of 25,000 Vietnamese workers would raise
from a meager $1.60 to a decent $3.00 (the calculated living wage in
Vietnam according to the Vietnam Labor Watch)."

Some more hourly rates are at the National Labor Committee website

Compare the approximate Indonesian wage (10 cents an hour) with their
Costs of Basic Needs:

Keywords used:

list manufacturers sweatshop

Google Directory Category used:

I trust this answers your question. If any portion of my answer is
unclear, please ask for clarification.

Best wishes,

Request for Answer Clarification by mizkreant-ga on 18 Aug 2002 21:57 PDT
This answer seems very thorough and well researched.  I'll check out
all the links and resources you mentioned before rating it though. 
But don't worry, the rating will be quite high.

I guess from the information you gathered, it is possible, but
extremely difficult and tedious, to purchase a wardrobe that didn't at
some point originate in a sweatshop.

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 20 Aug 2002 15:24 PDT
Thank you. Glad to be of service.
mizkreant-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Overall a very well researched answer.  The arguments found against
sweatshop labor were fairly weak and would probably be easily picked
apart by conservatives, however.

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy