Did you see the recent episode of Independent Lens entitled “China Blue” on PBS? It is the undercover story of real Chinese garment workers who make blue jeans for the American and other markets. The workers make pennies to make our clothing while their bosses, the distributors and the marketers grow rich. Paid $100 for designer jeans? Chances are that all the line workers combined made less than a dollar. And the sorry state is that nearly all clothing bought in the US today has a similar backstory.
But there are alternatives: union-made clothing from the United States and other countries where workers have the right to organize. Better yet, workers can own their business and share in the decisions and profits. Some of these union goods are expensive — but cost is no guarantee that the workers are well-treated: some sweatshop goods are quite costly. And some union and worker-cooperative goods are quite reasonable.
Over the next few months I’ll feature these as I replace parts of my well-warn wardrobe.
Right now, I’m wearing my US-made Union Line jeans. I wrote about them about a year ago and I love them. The khakis which I gave grudging approval then are now my favorites in part because the cloth is so robust. They support a perma-crease that makes them look fresher longer, and thus need washing less often (which in turn makes them last longer.) A pair of old Dockers feel like a diaper by contrast.