ONTD Political

What is Victoria's Secret? Child Labor

12:33 pm - 12/15/2011


Bloomberg Markets went to Burkina Faso, where Victoria's Secret usually buys up the entire fair trade and organic-certified cotton crop to make the lingerie it sells in the West. There, the magazine found children of 12 and 13, laboring in the fields on pain of being whipped with switches by their bosses the cotton farmers. Burkina Faso-grown cotton is shipped to India and Sri Lanka, where it is milled into cloth, cut, sewn and finished (Sri Lanka and India, it is worth pointing out, also have their issues with child labor in the garment industry). From there, finished underwear is shipped to the U.S., where it used to be sold by Victoria's Secret with hang-tags that read, "Pesticide-free, 100% rain-fed cotton. Good for women. Good for the children that depend on them." (The company has since dropped the "good for children" part.)



Bloomberg, which spent six weeks in the country, reports:

In Burkina Faso, where child labor is endemic to the production of its chief crop export, paying lucrative premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has perversely created fresh incentives for exploitation. The program has attracted subsistence farmers who say they don't have the resources to grow fair-trade cotton without violating a central principle of the movement: forcing other people's children into their fields.


Victoria's Secret's partners in cotton-sourcing, including the Swiss organization responsible for certifying the cotton and auditing producers, say they have raised concerns about child labor since 2008. Victoria's Secret says it never saw the relevant report. Cotton is produced thanks to forced and child labor in more countries than any commodity except for gold; the fair trade program is supposed to ensure fair labor standards are met. One of the children Bloomberg interviewed, a 13-year-old girl named Clarissa, took a reporter into the field where she works and demonstrated how she turns the soil with a hoe:


Bending at the waist, Clarisse buries the edge of the blade and starts scraping a deep row into the earth, taking small steps backward with each cut. "It's very, very hard," she says, "and he forces me to do it." Before long, her arms and hips ache. "It's painful," she says. When she strikes rocks beneath the soil, it sends the blade cutting into her bare toes. If she slows down from exhaustion, "he comes to beat me," she says. He whips her across the back with the tree branch and shouts at her. "I cry," she says, looking down as she speaks and rubbing the calluses on her hands.


As always, those $8.50 panties carry a high price.


Source

Original report. Long, but seriously worth a read.
rex_dart Mod note.15th-Dec-2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Can you add some tags, please?
the_glow_worm Re: Mod note.15th-Dec-2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
Done, Leo Jesus.
sesmo 16th-Dec-2011 12:09 am (UTC)
Do you know how much of that $8.50 for a pair of panties is actual labor cost? I have a feeling that if they paid living wages it'd go up by a whopping $0.25.
sihaya09 15th-Dec-2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
Oh man. I love VS's bras. I really hope this gets spread and things change, because it's terrible.
abee 15th-Dec-2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
GODFUCKINGDAMMIT.

Thanks, VS. I like your panties, so damn comfortable, and now they are made by children? FUCK YOU.

Seriously, is there ANY company that isn't dependent on child labor/denying employees' rights/etc?? Fuck, I don't wanna be a human being anymore.
roseofjuly 16th-Dec-2011 02:53 am (UTC)
Dude, this. You can't find a decent company that doesn't participate in the exploitation of people for labor - even the most expensive brands. If it's not using children and sweatshop labor, then they are screwing over their employees. And in the case of places like Wal-Mart, it's both.
redstar826 15th-Dec-2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
The vast majority of the goods we consume likely 'carry a high price'. I'm not saying that we shouldn't care and goodness knows if I had the time and the money I would be all about buying as many union made products as possible. But, for most of us, I think shopping is little more than a choice between various evils. Which is pretty damned depressing.
jwaneeta 15th-Dec-2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
Sucks for VS if they thought they were paying premium for Fair Trade and didn't find out until the report.
the_glow_worm 15th-Dec-2011 06:44 pm (UTC)
Victoria's Secret's partners in cotton-sourcing, including the Swiss organization responsible for certifying the cotton and auditing producers, say they have raised concerns about child labor since 2008.

It is now 2011.
kitanabychoice 15th-Dec-2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
I can't shop at VS because they don't carry my size, but this is awful and I'm glad I wasn't inadvertently supporting this in any way. I can't imagine doing even for one day what these children do every day.

Thinking of some comments up-thread, I wonder how much more expensive my clothes would be if they weren't being made so cheaply? I mean, since I'm plus size I already pay upwards of $40 for every-day shirts, pants, and dresses (so not even anything fancy, just something to wear normally) and I complain that it's expensive. :|
hashishinahooka 16th-Dec-2011 11:33 am (UTC)
They don't carry my bra size either, and I was a victim of their "Let's tell a customer her bra size is smaller" ploy. Yeah, when she saw my tits coming out of every nook and cranny, she stopped.
snapesgirl34 15th-Dec-2011 06:57 pm (UTC)
The link to the original report doesn't seem to be working, jsyk.
the_glow_worm 15th-Dec-2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the heads up! It should be working now. Go read it, it's heartbreaking.
deathchibi 15th-Dec-2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
Oh god. I love VS's panties because they last longer and are comfy. Well, time to find another place to buy from... as long as I can afford it. I just wish I wasn't so damn poor and off-size.
tehjai 15th-Dec-2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
My boobs are too big for their bras, but still. Yeesh.
tehjai 15th-Dec-2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
hurp, I need to learn to read (panties, not bras), but the point likely still stands.
tabaqui 15th-Dec-2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
I'm getting so *very* tired of reading about these companies who do this shite. Is there *no* company that doesn't exploit, lie, and basically get rich off the misery of others?

I don't shop at VS 'cause they're expensive and i don't have a need for fancy bras or undies. I would love to buy products made by adult, American workers - but that's close to impossible. It's so *frustrating*.

celtic_thistle 15th-Dec-2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
Is there *no* company that doesn't exploit, lie, and basically get rich off the misery of others?

I highly doubt it. Welcome to capitalism :/ Profit above all else.
maynardsong 15th-Dec-2011 11:53 pm (UTC)
I mean, we can limit the amount of stuff we buy. Sometimes people have "Buy Nothing Day" - I don't see how holding more of those could hurt, right?
compost75 15th-Dec-2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
I hate to jump on a right-wing bandwagon here, but if you buy Made in the US, you do avoid some of this crap. At least the sweat shops here are populated by adults.
aiffe 15th-Dec-2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
I've already been boycotting underwear. /TMI

Though...what angers me most about this story is the way the workers were treated, not their age. No worker should ever be forced into labor, or beaten for being too slow or some shit. That's unacceptable.

I'm less sure about condemning them for having such young workers. It's a first world luxury to be able to extend childhood well through your teens. What exactly are teenagers in Burkino Faso supposed to do, sit on their thumbs while their family starves? It'd be nice if they had real education and career opportunities there, but clearly they do not. I think the idea that they have to be a burden to their families for an extra decade because teens in richer countries would be getting an education around that time is absurd.

I know I've got piles of first world privilege, but I know when I was twelve, having been evicted from my home the year before, and doing the Grand Couch Tour with my mom, what I really wanted was to work. School felt useless and pointless. I wanted to help my family. It was around that time that I started having real problems with school, leading to me dropping out at thirteen. I heard it was legal for 12/13-year-olds to do farm work, and I dearly wanted it, but apparently it has to be on a family farm or something, and I wasn't related to anyone. I got my working papers when I was fourteen, the earliest legal age in NY, but no one would hire me because of the prohibitive labor restrictions on 14/15-year-olds. I became discouraged and depressed. I felt useless. I couldn't help anyone, and I couldn't carry my own weight.

I honestly think that this first world idea that teenagers are children is infantilizing young adults. They don't need to be protected from paying jobs. What they do need to be protected from is exploitation and slave labor. They need to have decent working conditions, receive a fair wage, and be able to quit if they choose to for whatever reason.

And seriously, get those kids some boots and gloves. Christ.
maynardsong 15th-Dec-2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
So does my boyfriend. /TMI

It'd be nice if they had real education and career opportunities there, but clearly they do not. I think the idea that they have to be a burden to their families for an extra decade because teens in richer countries would be getting an education around that time is absurd.
Or, we could do something about the lack of education? I /come/ from India, and it's a /bad thing/ that teenagers are forced to work /instead/ of go to school. Adolescents have the right, I think, to go to school and not be forced to work.

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