Monday, January 6, 2014
Made in China
LUCY BURDETTE: Last month John and I were joining our little Key West church marching in the Key West hometown parade. Of course we needed Santa hats. Key West has many strong points, but shopping opportunities is not one of them. But it did manage to score these hats for $1.99 a piece. I checked the label as I almost always do--Made in China.
First, I'd so much rather buy things that are made in the USA. Then I would feel comfortable that the fabric won't be toxic, and the people sewing the items won't be hunkered down in horrendous, dangerous sweatshops, and that I'll be supporting OUR economy. But honestly, it can be very difficult to find things made in the USA. And the prices can be staggering.
Second thing, what must the Chinese seamstresses be thinking as they sew the Mile Zero baubles onto the Santa hats?
How about you Reds, how do you feel about made in the USA ?
HALLIE EPHRON: I'm not sure what I feel about this… but I know that more and more it's true of food as well as clothing. Fish from Thailand. Potatoes from Peru. As a nation we consume more than we produce, and it's trade that keeps the world afloat.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Companies do their manufacturing in China and other countries with frantic unemployment and no wage laws because it's so much cheaper. Until the US finds a way to keep those companies hiring and working in the US, that's what is going to happen. Outsourcing of everything--know who you're talking to on those customer service calls?--is the clash of commerce and capitalism versus compassion. And Lucy, I wonder about that too--or are they thinking "we're lucky to have a job"? Hard to imagine.
RHYS BOWEN: This is a tough moral decision and one I've often wrestled with. When I lived in Europe clothes were horribly expensive. Women had one or two good outfits. Now the aim of consumerism is to make shoppers rush out and buy more and more. We don't need one pair of jeans, we need ten. And it's hard not to be tempted by a hand knitted wool sweater for $25 when the yarn alone in the US would cost $100.
I do look at labels. I do try to buy US made, but in the case of electronics and clothing it's hard to resist. I draw the line at any kind of foodstuff or make-up. Not risking toxic substances on my face!
I'm sure many Chinese are happy to have a job, but I'm also sure there are terrible sweatshop conditions in some places. There are also poor conditions in Honduras, Guatamala, Bangladesh and many more. And my moral compass has changed as I've had more money to spend. If I were a young mom trying to clothe five kids, I'd go for the cheapest, no matter where it came from.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Wasn't there a woman who devoted an entire year trying to live without buying anything made in China? I think she wrote a book about it. It was--and would be-incredibly hard. The economy is going to become more and more global, it's just inevitable. But if we are going to buy goods made in countries like China and India, we could try to buy from manufacturers who make an effort to improve pay and conditions for their workers. I don't think any of the clothing manufacturers whose merchandise was made in the Bangladish factory have offered compensation to the families of those killed. And the treatment of the workers in Apple's factories in China continues to be horrible. Something to think about before you buy the latest iPhone... Are the people employed glad to have jobs? I'm sure they are. But so were the workers in the garment factory in New York, and the children in sweatshops in Victorian England... It took public awareness and moral backbone to change those conditions, and I'm not so sure we have the latter these days.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: We're lucky that even though we live in New York City, there are farmers' markets within walking distance three days a week. It's a great way to buy fresh, seasonal produce and support local farmers. (The doughnut and apple cider stand — hot in winter, cold in summer — doesn't hurt either.)
I really do try not to buy anything that's not made in the U.S.A. One website that I love is etsy.com. When I buy couch pillows on etsy, I love knowing they're made by Linda in Ohio. Or that my dishtowels and potholders are from Laura in L.A. It's a great way to support U.S. artists and entrepreneurs (many of whom are women). And generally the price is competitive with what you'd find elsewhere. I've been ordering from some of the same vendors for years, and we've really gotten to know and like one another!
so how about you Reds, opinions please?