Fighting Sweatshops: Problems of Enforcing Global Labor Standards
In this paper we address the question of how sweatshop production can be opposed, given the globalization of the apparel industry and the dominance of retailers in its commodity chain. After briefly reviewing conditions in the industry, we discuss the role that consumer pressure might play. We discuss three different, but potentially complementary, approaches: agreements between nations, codes of conduct and monitoring, and worker empowerment. We conclude with an analysis of the Workers' Rights Consortium, a newly-created organization comprised of universities, students, and non-governmental organizations. We conclude that despite its limitations, a vibrant consumer-based movement is emerging which – when united with efforts to organize workers at the point of production – has the potential of reducing sweatshop production in this most globalized of industries.