While our children are all nestled in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing about, and they're looking forward to acquiring a whole slew of new stuff that they'll be talking about incessantly with their friends for weeks after winter break is over, it's an excellent time to encourage them to think critically about all that new stuff -- much of which quite possibly came from sweatshops.
Several websites address issues of sweatshops, child labor and fair trade. Here are a few that might be useful for helping youth explore these issues.
Co-op America’s Ending Sweatshops Program provides information about sweatshops, tips for avoiding sweatshop products, and a sweat-free products guide.
Global Exchange Sweatfree Communities offers information about sweatshop issues, resources and ideas. Their site also has a Sweatfree Toolkit for launching a sweatfree campaign in your community.
The focus of the National Labor Committee is “putting a human face on the global economy.” At their website you’ll find personal accounts, photos, news and information about worker conditions around the world.
The Smithsonian Institution currently has an online exhibit about the history of sweatshops in the U.S. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops, 1820 – present, provides a variety of information and perspectives.
If you’re interested in learning more about sweatshop issues and want to become active in promoting sweatshop-free products and communities, Sweatfree Communities has campaign materials and other information to help citizens create sweatfree communities, as well as a variety of educational resources. They also offer a “Shop with a Conscience Guide.”
Sweatfree also has announced its 2008 Sweatshop Hall of Shame, focusing on corporations that have “consistently flouted labor laws and basic worker protections.” This year’s “honorees” are American Eagle, Carrefour, Cintas, Dickies, Disney, Guess, Hanes, New Era, Speedo, Tommy Hilfiger, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart.
And, for those interested in taking up legislative action against sweatshops, the NLC has been tracking anti-sweatshop legislation in the U.S. Congress. If the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act passes, it would “prohibit the import, export or sale of sweatshop goods in the U.S.” The bill was first introduced at the beginning of 2007. So far, about 26 senators and 175 representatives have signed as co-sponsors to the legislation. Students and others are invited to write their representatives to ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor (or to thank them for being one), as well as to encourage other organizations to endorse this legislation.
And, of course, IHE has a variety of humane education activities related to human rights issues, such as Where in the World, which helps students (grades 9 & up) make connections between what they wear and the conditions under which it's made.
Image courtesy of cambodia4kidsorg.