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The Blue Jeans Business

Two young female factory workers pose with clothespins clipped to their eyelids; Two young female factory workers sleeping in the factory, one against a giant pile of blue jeans and another with her head on a table next to a sewing machine

Are you wearing jeans? Chances are, they were made in a sweatshop in China, Mexico or another country not subject to U.S. labor laws. As consumers, we are all implicated in contributing to substandard working conditions in garment factories worldwide.

In order to compete in the global economy, factory owners agree to produce goods at the low prices demanded by overseas clients. Factory elites and multinational corporations reap the profits, and shoppers around the world rejoice at the affordable prices. But the demand for low-priced goods in the United States has very real human repercussions.

Discount clothing brands are not the only ones that drive labor costs down. Despite common perceptions, consumers buying higher-priced jeans are not necessarily supporting higher salaries for workers. For example, while you might pay 50 dollars for a pair of jeans from a multinational brand, the cost of manufacturing the jeans in a Chinese factory is around five dollars. The total compensation for the labor of the workers who made the jeans? Often no more than one dollar, shared by the 20-25 people involved in making one pair of jeans. The rest of the money goes towards advertising, store rentals and back to the retail corporation and middle men.

Learn what goes on behind the making of your favorite brand of jeans >>


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