Walmart Lobbies to Keep Factory Wages Under Two Cents
by Amanda Kloer October 14, 2010 02:00 PM (PT) Topics: Slave Labor.
Ever wonder how Walmart can afford to sell a pair of jeans for eight bucks? It's because workers at the factory in Bangladesh where the jeans are made earn a measly one-and-a-half cents for each pair they sew. To make matters worse, Walmart has been lobbying against a government-supported wage increase, which would bump the workers up to 35 cents an hour. It's time Walmart stopped exploiting the workers who make the clothes they sell.
The 2500 workers at the Anowara Apparels factory in Bangladesh spend all day sewing jeans, primarily for the Faded Glory brand of clothes sold at Walmart. They are 90% young women, some with families to support and others trying to simply scrape a living together. The women make between 11 and 17 cents an hour sewing jeans, and they're expected to produce at least ten pairs an hour. That means they make less than two pennies for each pair of jeans they sew. Recognizing the gross underpayment of these workers, the Bangladeshi government has suggested raising the minimum wage to 35 cents an hour. Walmart has responded by lobbying against Bangladesh's efforts to fairly compensate workers and decided to keep their staff living in abject poverty.
The employees of Anowara Apparels can't afford even basic living expenses on their salary of pennies an hour. They live in make-shift shacks, suffer from malnutrition, and have no source of heat other than burning wood. Dozens of workers and their families use a communal water pump for all their sanitation needs, from washing clothes and their bodies to drinking. The extra 17 cents per month would double these workers' salaries, and according to them, make a huge difference in their lives. Yet Walmart is trying to make sure that doesn't happen, so they can keep selling you $8.00 jeans at a high profit margin.
The story of Anowara Apparels is an example of the high price workers often pay for your discounts. Walmart isn't able to sell jeans for $8.00 because they're magical. They are able to sell jeans for $8.oo because they pay the women who make them less than two pennies a pair. So when you see a dirt cheap t-shirt, bargain basement shoes, or any other deal that's too good to be true, remember that it probably is. And what might be a great deal for you often ends up being a pretty raw one for someone else.
Tell Walmart that it's time to stop exploiting factory workers in Bangladesh and start paying them the minimum wage. Because some bargains come at far too high a human price.
Amanda Kloer has been a full-time abolitionist for six years. She currently develops trainings and educational materials for civil attorneys representing victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence.