interrelated activities that comprise this lesson incorporate social
studies, English, geography, and math. They help participants make
connections between their own clothes and the people who make them.
They pose questions about our responsibilities and suggest research-based
In Part I a brief, interactive activity identifies where participants'
clothes were made and leads to an examination in Part II of the thousands
of Latin American children who harvest crops in the fields or manufacture
apparel in factories for export.
PART A: Where Did You Get Those Shoes? (30 minutes)
1. Ask for approximately 10 volunteers, with an even number of females
and males, to come to the front of the room.
2. Ask half of the volunteers to check the labels they can find on
all their clothing. The second group of volunteers will help to read
the labels and call out the countries where the clothes are made.
The facilitator or a volunteer makes a list of all the countries named
under the heading “WHERE.” Make a check for each multiple reference.
Include shoes, eyeglasses, and headgear. Note: This works well
as a homework assignment in which participants survey their closet
and drawers and record information about labels and countries where
apparel are made.
3. Once this list is completed, ask participants to analyze the results.
In almost every case, the majority of the garments will indicate that
they were made outside the USA.
Why do you think a small group of randomly picked people in the United
States is found to be wearing clothing from such diverse countries?
Were the brand names those of US companies? Why do US clothing companies
make their products abroad?
Who do you think made the fabric in your clothes? Made the buttons,
zippers, and other decorations? Sewed the buttonholes, set in the
collar and sleeves? Was it more likely to have been a male or a female
worker? An adult or a child? List these ideas under the heading “WHO.”
How much do you imagine that the workers who made these clothes were
paid? How much should they have been paid? For example, should the
workers have received pay that equals a quarter of the garment's retail
price? Half? List participants' ideas on the board under the heading
4. Ask participants what they have been paid as an hourly wage? List
the wages and type of work on the board under the heading “YOUR PAY.”
Ask them what the minimum wage is in this country and add this amount
to the list.
PART B: The Global Marketplace on Your Back (1 hour minimum)
1. Explain that this activity will link their clothes to the people
who made them and the global economy.
2. Define these terms for the group and ask them to supply examples:
LABOR: Work performed by children, often under hazardous or exploitative
conditions. This does not include all work done by kids—children everywhere,
for example, do chores to help their families. The 1989 UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child calls for protection “against economic
exploitation and against carrying out any job that might endanger
well-being or educational opportunities, or that might be harmful
to health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development”
A factory, often foreign-owned, that assembles goods for export. From
Spanish, the word is pronounced mah-kee-lah-DOH-rah. It is usually
shortened to maquila (mah-KEE-lah).
industrial area in which a country allows foreign companies to import
material for production and export finished goods without paying significant
taxes or duties (fees to the government). A free-trade zone thus decreases
a company's production costs.
3. Pass out Handout 1a, “Central American Free Trade Zone Exploits
Girls” and/or Handout 1b, “Kids in the Fields” or show
video entitled Zoned for Slavery.
PART F: Taking Action (Variable)
There are numerous opportunities for informed, value-based action.
Below are some approaches, including contacting web sites, monitoring
and affecting personal and institutional purchasing practices, and
influencing international companies and local stores.
1. Have the group discuss the Ladder of Labor Responsibility (below)
developed by Co-op America (See p. 29). It is a new tool for consumers
to determine the labor conditions behind the products they buy. As
of 1999, they have developed ladders for athletic shoes, tea, coffee,
hand-knotted Oriental carpets, and blue jeans.
Ladder of Labor Responsibility
a) Top Rung companies are green businesses and fair-trade organizations
that are models of how business can be done to respect people and
the planet. These companies sprang up as alternatives to business
b) Upper Rung companies have codes of conduct that are being
independently monitored and enforced, pay a living wage, and are also
engaged in development work in the communities where their workers
c) Lower and Middle Rung companies have corporate codes of
conduct to protect workers, but may or may not be enforcing them.
Some have enforced codes of conduct, but do not pay their workers
a living wage that provides for basic needs.
d) Bottom Rung companies have not yet adopted a code of conduct
or started to monitor and enforce the practices of their suppliers
and subcontractors. Bottom rung companies might also be flagrantly
violating their own codes of conduct.
2. As a group, identify those sporting goods and clothing apparel
that your school district or recreation department purchases (e.g.
balls, t-shirts, uniforms, sports shoes, and band uniforms) or relevant
purchases made by the fire and police departments and janitorial services.
Conduct research into the labor practices (wages, conditions of employment)
of the companies that manufacture these products. Based on findings,
have participants develop a plan to promote fair, humane purchasing
practices by the school and municipality.
3. Ask participants to consider the personal actions to end sweatshops
suggested below. Discuss the pros and cons of each of these. Have
participants role play these actions to help them become more effective
agents of change.
Choose one product that you buy often (coffee, gifts, clothing) and
purchase it only from a green business or a fair-trade organization.
Raise awareness. Ask one retail store each month if its products were
manufactured without exploiting anyone and how they know.
Write, call, or e-mail one manufacturer each month from which you
regularly make purchases. Ask them where they are on the Ladder of
Labor Responsibility and urge them to take the next step. Be sure
to note how frequently you purchase their products. Request a reply.
Select an action campaign and become involved. (See addresses below.)
Whenever possible, buy products that you know are produced by companies
that enforce fair labor practices and respect the Earth. Buy from
Remember to monitor investments. Make sure your (or your parents')
financial planner is screening for labor issues.
Adapted from www.sweatshops.org
Simple Steps to End Sweatshops.
Resources, Campaigns, and Companies
a. Books, Government Publications, Educational Guides
Sweat and Toil of Children, Department of Labor, Bureau of International
Labor Affairs, Child Labor Division, Room S-5202, Washington, DC 20210,
Tel: (202) 208-4843, www.dol.gov/dol/iab/publicmediareports/childnew.htm.
Labor is Not Cheap, a three-lesson curriculum for youths through
adults, Resource Center for the Americas, 317-17th Ave SE, Minneapolis,
MN 55314-2077, Tel: (612) 627-0445.
Guide to Fairly Traded Products, Fair Trade Federation, P.O. Box
126. Barre, MA 01005, Tel: (508) 355-0284.
Sweatshop Curriculum Packet for 4th through 12th graders, Campaign
for Labor Rights, 1247 E. Street SE, Washington, DC 20003, Tel: (541)
in China: Behind the Label, National Labor Committee, 275 7th
Avenue, New York, NY 10001, Tel: (212) 242-3002, www.nlcet.org.
The Department of Labor's Employment Standards Agency, Wage and Hour
Division, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210, Tel: (212)
for a Better World, Council on Economic Priorities, 30 Irving
Place, New York, NY 10003, Tel: (212) 420-1133, www.realaudio.com/CEP/horne.html.
b. Campaigns for Fair Labor Practices
Campaign for Labor Rights, 1247 E Street SE, Washington, DC 20003,
Tel: (541) 344-5410, www.summersault.com/~agj/clr.
Publishes newsletter with up-to-date information on all sweatshop
campaigns and analysis of current labor-rights issues.
Co-op America, 1612 K St. NW, #600, Washington, DC 20006, Tel: (202)
Conducts anti-sweatshop campaigns targeting Disney, publishes National
Green Pages, <www.greenpages.org>, and sponsors <www.sweatshops.org>.
Fair Trade Federation, P.O. Box 126, Barre, MA 01005, Tel: (508) 355-0284,
Promotes fair-trade products and businesses.
National Labor Committee, 275 7th Avenue, 15th Fl., New York, NY 10001,
Tel: (212) 242-3002, www.nlcnet.org.
Coordinates Disney, Wal-Mart, K-mart, and many other campaigns.
Sweatshop Watch, 310 8th St., Ste. 309, Oakland, CA 94607, Tel: (510)
A coalition of organizations committed to eliminating sweatshops.
c. Some Companies to Contact
Disney 500 S. Buena Vista St. Burbank, CA 91521 818-846-7319 (FAX)
Esprit 900 Minnesota St. San Francisco, CA 94107
GAP INC. 1 Harrison St. San Francisco, CA 94105 415-952-4400 415-495-2922
Guess? 1444 S. Alameda St. Los Angeles, CA 90021
J.C. Penney 100 Commercial Rd. Leominster, MA 01453
RESEARCH AND ACTION PLAN: ECONOMIC
AND SOCIAL RIGHTS