An idea popped into my head a few days ago. It’s rare that I will buy new clothing, mostly what I buy is new hiking gear. I love thrift stores and that’s where I get most of my clothes. A lot of people do buy new clothing though and many of them (including myself most of the time) simply don’t know where it’s coming from. Since there seems to be an app for just about anything, why not an app that allows you to scan the bar code of clothing to see what country it came from? Did it come from a sweatshop? Slave labor parading as a wage? Just scan it.
I was reading a book about an older couple’s travels to Bolivia. They lived with a Bolivian family for a few months, trying to learn Spanish. They learned of factory’s nearby and were able to actually take a tour inside of one that made cowboy hats. The owner was thrilled to give a tour but the factory turned out to be despicable, and as is usually the case, also paid abysmal wages. Why not start a social networking system that shares this information openly. If you scan a shirt and it says it came from Bolivia it might not have any information on the particular factory it came from. In this case, any other information on factories in Bolivia can come up. Important info like average worker wages compared to profit for company, working conditions, safety issues, etc. Then this person can decide for themselves whether it is worth buying this article of clothing.
It would be like an online whistleblowing campaign. At some point it might be able to expand to more than just clothing; electronics, vegetables, furniture, hiking gear etc. I think people would be shocked, not just by the abysmal pay and conditions in poorer nation’s factories, but by the slave wages in our own backyard. I’ve had jobs in America where the working conditions were absolutely horrible. I had to dump 50lb bags of medicated horse feed all day long into a chute, breathing in the medication. I worked for the state of California doing conservation work and helping out at floods and fires while getting paid $8 an hour. Most American’s know what it’s like to work too goddam hard for too goddam little. I also think most would be sympathetic and thus avoid clothing whose very fabric is enmeshed in injustice and servitude. I don’t think raising awareness can ever be a bad thing.