Finding an Anti-Sweatshop Strategy That Works

Source: Jeff Ballinger, Dissent, Vol. 56 no. 3, Summer 2009
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That nearly twenty years of anti-sweatshop activism has come to naught is suggested by the cost breakdown of a $37.99 University of Connecticut hoodie that appeared in the Hartford Courant a couple of years ago: the workers received a mere 18 cents, while the university received $2.28 in licensing fees. (Mexican factory: profit, 70 cents; overhead, $2.12; material, $5.50–importer [Champion]: overhead, $5.10; profit, $1.75–retailer [UCONN Co-Op]: overhead, $14.49; profit, $4.50). Use of the logo was 80 cents, and the royalty to the National Collegiate Athletic Association was 57 cents. The workers’ share could hardly have been lower when the movement began.

Given the worldwide financial crisis, it is a safe bet that fighting sweatshop abuses here and abroad will not be a key policy undertaking for Barack Obama and his team. But this does not rule out a wide-ranging set of initiatives that would significantly empower workers.

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