Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013



Bad news from Bangladesh.  The death toll is now 700+ in last week's horrific building collapse in Dhaka.  Five separate factories were all crowded together under one ridiculously large concrete roof.  A mere ten days prior, government inspectors had ordered the building shut down after the large cracks in the foundation had recently became even larger.  Greedy owners ignored the warning.  See...WalMart penalizes Bangladeshi sweat-shops big time for delivering their orders late.  (Yes...this very sweatshop in Dhaka sells directly to WalMarts in the USA!)

In response, bloggers worldwide are asking readers to think twice about where they purchase their clothes.  Remember: There is an alarming reason why those jeans are so cheap.  To make this easier, we have researched the seven largest clothing retailers in the USA and gave each a grade.  Here they are, ranked by earnings.

#1: WalMart (Bentonville, AR). Everything costs less at WalMart.  The ruthless retail giant scours the third world, looking for "factories" to produce their latest fashion lines.  Bangladesh is merely the most recent nation exploited by WalMart.  Last year, Thailand ordered WalMart-affiliated factories shut down for hiring 8-year old girls.  In 2010, it was Honduras and Samoa who trafficked kids into textile factories.  The list goes on and on...  Anyway you look at it, WalMart is bad news in the Karma Department...don't shop there.  Grade: F

#2 Target (Minneapolis, MN)  Based in a notoriously liberal Green State, Target tries very hard to promote itself as "environmentally friendly."  In 2007, they proudly proclaimed their stores to be "Free of PVC."  Consumer groups are skeptical, since the majority of their products come from China.  As far as clothing lines are concerned, Target holds its cards close to the vest and won't reveal if they bought clothes from a specific sweatshop in any county. For lack of transparency:  Grade: D+

#3  Sears  (Chicago, IL)  While most American retailers target the productive factories in the People's Republic of China, Sears prefers to exploit Mexico and Central America.  First, representatives sign contracts with large warehouses.  Next, the bosses pay off local officials.  They turn a blind eye to offences like 24-hour work shifts and mandatory pregnancy tests.  Another violation: Workers in at an El Salvador factory affiliated with Sears must earn bathroom trips and access to drinking water.  Wow! It takes a lot of shady stuff to get a $10 polo shirt.  Grade: D-

#4 Kohl's (Menomonnee Falls, WI)  Newsweek gave this expanding retail giant high marks in its recent "Green Rankings," noting the chain's commitment to solar power and reusable shopping bags.  However, they were named in the recent lawsuit in American Samoa, where hundreds of illegal Asian immigrants were being held against their will.  Also, the NAACP gave Kohl's an "F" for its treatment of people of color.  Grade: C

#5 Marshall's (Framingham, MA).  Also known as TJ MAX, this retail giant has been successful in not revealing the locations of factories for their large garment division.  In fact, shareholders continually demand more transparency in this department...and don't get it.  Specifically, they are concerned about the allegations from the group "No Dirty Gold." who allege their jewelry counters are stocked with blood diamonds.  Grade: D+

#6 J.C. Penney (Plano, TX).  After years of hardship, America's favorite store has re-branded itself and is back in the black.  Sadly, workers in India are the one paying the price.  In fact, three of them died from a mechanical accident in a Penney-affiliated sweatshop back in 2008.  This prompted a Indian government study which concluded sweatshop employees rarely break the cycle of poverty and become "modern slaves."  Grade: C-

#7 L.L. Bean (Freeport, ME).  Okay!  L.L. Bean is the not the 7th largest retailer.  They're actually 21st.  But...we wanted to close with a positive example for our readers.  So while you may not wear flannel shirts or Chino Pants, you gotta love L.L. Bean's policy.  They provide information on every product they sell: Where it was made, how it was constructed...all with a 100% guarantee.  While roughly half of their inventory comes from overseas, they make sure all of their products are from regulated factories. Grade: A+

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