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Caroline Jester
AP English III
24 November 2015
When American Humanitarianism Goes Wrong
Contrary to popular opinion, refusing to purchase items made in sweatshops is the
worst thing one can do to help those involved in these factories. An event somewhat
responsible for these boycotting strikes was a famous building collapse that occurred due
to the avoidance of safety regulations in a factory in Bangladesh two years ago
(McManus). Because of events like this, organizations such as Green America have been
formed dedicated to showing the American people how to avoid the use of products made
in sweatshops, all in protest determined to force these companies to withdraw from the
countries and discontinue production there. What many Americans refuse to understand is
the good in these factories, and the fact that these factories may be the best thing that ever
happened to these countries. If people insist on boycotting the items produced in foreign
sweatshops around the world, these countries could lose the only thing that could lead
them out of poverty and into a new era of development.
Because many can't see past the danger of these facilities, they don't see any of
the benefits, or that these jobs are the best option for citizens in these underdeveloped
nations. Factory jobs provide safer and higher paying jobs than that of others available in
countries like Bangladesh. Such jobs may include subsidence farming, stone-working,
janitorial work, and many times prostitution (Mejia-Zaccaro). According to Mejia

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Zaccaro's article "Sweatshops Benefit Poor...," Ben Powell of Dartmouth agrees "It is
important to keep in mind that a lot of the alternatives they face are worse than
sweatshops... These aren't the jobs that are jeopardizing the country, these are the good
jobs." As it turns out, not only are the jobs the best option for citizens in these countries,
they are also a big helping hand towards these countries' economies.
As human beings, people deny some risks and take on others, like when one
decides when the benefits outweigh the negatives. The same is true in Bangladesh, in that
they are much better with the factories than without them (Flows). By putting production
buildings in low-cost countries, American companies are providing major boosts in
economies all over the world by providing jobs (Autry). Another plus to economic
development is that it drives safety improvements, unlike legal mandates. According to
writer Capital Flows, safety regulations were highly ignored when put in place ahead of
industry development, and when productivity increased, so did wages, and workers were
confident enough to demand and receive more safety. By boycotting items and
discouraging production in these nations, American humanitarians could foil any
economic progress these countries make.
Many stop once they hear one example of any harm to workers or examples of
low pay. What they don't stop to realize is, these conditions are only bad if compared to
that of America's (Mejia-Zaccaro). What workers in Bangladesh make each day may not
seem like a lot, but it's a lot more than they would be making anywhere else. Many
people refer to these sweatshops with "bonded" labor as "new" or "modern slavery," but
it's not the type of slavery in which it is one person over another, it is that these people

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are slaves to the basic things they need to survive. It may seem that these workers in
places like Bangladesh aren't free because "free" for them would mean starvation. It's
these sweatshop jobs that are helping them get basic needs they get to survive. "In short,
they are dispossessed and can 'choose' to either labor or starve" (Free to Stitch...). When
writer Kenneth R. Weiss went to Bangladesh and interviewed some women working in
the factories, he got interestingly positive responses. One woman, Kanchi Hazi, who
works in a beauty garments factory in Bangladesh, is seen as a role model by the younger
girls in the village where her family lives. "I like it here [...] I make my own decisions. I
can earn money and help my family [...] I can do whatever I want. I can enjoy myself. I
have freedom" Hazi said (Weiss). What many see as slavery is actually a source of
freedom and survival for the people in this country.
Despite these facts, the popular opinion in the United States is that these so called
"sweatshops" are all bad, and in order to rid of them and provide relief for these nations,
everyone must boycott the items made until the companies are forced to remove
themselves. Organizations like Green America have whole websites and books dedicated
to guiding the American people into making sure they avoid all products of these
factories at all costs. However, this is the worst thing anyone could do for these countries,
because if they succeed and companies shut down the factories, hundreds of people in
that country would lose their jobs, and therefore would no longer be able to provide for
their families or themselves and the state of their lives could become fatal. "In one of the
world's poorest nations, sweatshops are paradoxically one of the bright spots in the
economy" (McManus). The places that attract sweatshops are those with bad

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governments, and to overcome their developmental trap, they need jobs. The real problem
is that the laws on conditions need to be enforced, and the solution is not to shut down
factories and leave the countries without jobs.
The harsh reality is that the fate of these countries is out of America's hands, and
it is the responsibility of that country's government to improve the economy enough that
they can afford to institute and enforce more safety laws. The only way Western countries
can help is to support them in their jobs by keeping these companies successful enough to
keep the factories there, and even expand to provide even more jobs. Activists should
face their attention onto more regulations on the safety requirements of factories, and not
to shut them down altogether.

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Works Cited
Autry, Chad, and Beth Davis-Sramek. "Sweatshops Hurt the Bottom Line." Wall
Street Journal Online. 17 Aug. 2015: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Nov.
Flows, Capital. "Sweatshops In Bangladesh Improve The Lives Of Their Workers,
And Boost Growth." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
"Free to Stitch, or Starve." 25 Feb. 2015: n.p. SIRS Issues
Researcher. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Kristof, Nicholas D. "Where Sweatshops Are a Dream." New York Times Upfront
(Vol. 141, No. 12). 06 Apr. 2009: 14-16. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Nov.
McManus, Doyle. "Dying for a Cheap Shirt." Los Angeles Times. 23 Apr. 2014:
A.13. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Mejia-Zaccaro, David. "Sweatshops Benefit Poor, Provide Employment;
American Humanitarianism Does More Harm than Good." The Collegian. The
Collegian, 02 May 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
"Sweatshops." Green America's Ending Program: What to Know. Green America,
n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
Weiss, Kenneth R. "Finding Liberty in Hard Labor." Los Angeles Times. 13 Mar.
2014: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.