PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: Dangerous workplaces hit home

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Really nice bed sheets are my new vice. Years ago, I didn’t give them a thought. But now that I know the difference, they matter – for myself and visitors at my house.
It’s far from an obsession, it’s just important that the sheets have that silky quality cotton can take on when the thread count is high. But really nice sheets can be expensive, so I’m watchful.
My nice-sheet acquisition has been deliberate, as I’ve “standardized” to queen-size beds. All the new sheets and pillow cases are white so that they can be used throughout with a minimum of worry about which is which, if that kind of thing matters to you. (This is what happens when you live alone.)
Herein lies the ethical dilemma: Many of today’s nice bed sheets and towels are made in third-world countries, which have come onto the radar because these goods are made in dangerous factories.
Just recently, the collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh killed hundreds of workers. Days before, an inspector deemed the facility unsafe when huge cracks developed in the walls, but its owner paid little heed and demanded his workers return.
America and Europe are the target markets for these goods. Western consumers drive fashion-label companies and others to seek cheaper and cheaper labor to allow them to keep their prices low.
Minimum wage in Bangladesh is something like $38 a month. We consumers bear some responsibility because we continue to buy.
I am drawing a line in my Tupelo mud – I will closely examine where my clothing and other wares are coming from. I strongly decline to support sweat shops, collapsed buildings and callous employers.
Oh, sure, sure, you’re saying. Fat chance anybody cares about what she will or won’t do with her small spending. True, but if a lot of other people feel the same way, company behavior will change.
This isn’t my first rodeo, you know.
Years and years ago, my mother and I stopped buying coffee to protest a massive price hike in Brazil. We went to tea and my newsroom disposition improved tremendously, although we found non-Brazilian Java later on.
I have yet to darken a certain brand of station since the Valdez spill in pristine Alaskan waters. And don’t get me started on the Gulf oil spill.
Do I sound like some kind of cause-hugger? Maybe.
But my meager spending money is hard won.
It also matters to me that poor people all over the world have little choice in how they get their daily bread.
So, here it is, Big Corporations: Stop tolerating inhumane conditions by your overseas suppliers.
We wouldn’t put up with this in the Good Ole U.S. of A. and we shouldn’t put up with it somewhere else just because we can get a low price. Somebody else’s life has gone into this bargain.
And those really nice bedsheets? I bet I can find some made more ethically, if I just take my time and shop around.
If small protest turns out to be more difficult than I thought, maybe Big Corporations need to hear from more folks than me.
You, too, can make your mark. Think about being a wiser shopper and help improve working conditions for folks who sorely need it.
PATSY R. BRUMFIELD writes a Thursday column. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or follow her on Twitter @realnewsqueen.

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