people are animals, but animals are not people.

I complimented a girl in my art class on the jacket she was wearing.
"Oh; yeah, thanks."
It looks like an amazing vintage find.

"Where did you get it?"
"Forever 21. It was pretty inexpensive but has such a great biker look. And I was so happy that it wasn't really leather."
"Huh. Did you know about that civil rights case involving them?"
"No, I guess not."

I went on to explain what I knew about it. Let me save some time filling y'all in by inserting a clip from a 2001 LA Times article:

The lawsuit by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center named 19 workers who allegedly sewed, ironed or packed Forever 21 clothing six days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day, for far less than the minimum wage. The 19 worked for six different contractors who produced clothing for the company, the suit said, suggesting the problems were not isolated.

The suit also claimed contractors altered time cards to reduce hours, and later fired several workers when they complained to state investigators during a sweep.

(keep in mind, this all occurred in LA)

The girl with the jacket went on to explain that concern over sweatshops was just something she didn't know that much about and that she'd selected other issues to express active concern about.

Me: Obviously you're concerned with animal rights issues; but aren't people more important than animals? I feel like people are dying under the weight of america's demand for cheap goods.

Her: But I figure these people wouldn't have jobs otherwise. It gives them some source of income...

I would invite anyone who agrees with that argument to work in a nice sweat shop (aka Beehive Clothing) for just 8 hrs. Then imagine working double that length of time with no air conditioning, toxic chemicals wafting through the air, bad equipment, and insects. I feel like as people we've got to do better than this and cannot buy that as a sufficient excuse.

I wanted to say that maybe if she could see the skins of people who have died in sweatshop labor all tanned and stretched and made into shoes (and jackets), maybe she would feel differently.

Maybe the thing I'm most bothered by is that I think people tend to fight for issues that are trendy with their crowd.
I admittedly wouldn't care so much if I'd never worked in garment manufacturing.

(for the record, Forever 21 was forced to clean up their act.)


Marie said...

I agree with you that we let a lot of human rights abuses slip by in the name of cheap goods. I love you for being socially conscious and smart!

AllgauerJodler said...

Laura, I love your blog. Call me sometime-- I'd like to discuss this one particular post.

MiriamR said...

I always get irritated when people care more about animal rights than human rights. I can never agree with extreme animal rights groups because they put animals rights before humans. That girl didn't sound very intelligent or maybe she is extremely ignorant. Lucky I don't shop at forever 21

Carroll said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
laura said...

Ack! i accidentally posted a comment under my mom's name. this is what it said:
i do want to say that I like the girl in my class. she's never afraid to express her opinion on things and is often funny. i think she is ignorant about this issue, and i'm bothered that she didn't seem to care. i have heard that argument of, "well, they need SOME source of income" pretty frequently...and it disgusts me no matter who it is coming from.

mim said...

Well stated! Having some source of income doesn't justify the breaking of laws and abuse of humans ever anywhere, but it is particularly deplorable in the US. Although if that sort of thing was going to happen in the US, I would think LA was the 2nd most likely place....right after Atlanta, GA.

brighton quinn said...

i dont know you. but i like your blog. and i appreciate this post. and other ones too. thats all.

WHITNEY said...

how do people get away with this?

Mark said...

I'm not surprised this girl finds herself interested in less mind-taxing issues such as animal rights... Not that Animal rights isn't a subject to consider, but she doesn't have a clue about that either I'm sure...

w. leavitt said...

who's more important, animals or humans? well erase humans and no one will miss us. erase animals and we'll be in a really bad way, complaining more than ever. the simple disposability factor makes me believe we're pretty superfluous and unneeded on this here footstool.