Not in Our Backyard: The U.S.’s Ironic Stance on Sweatshops

Kaitlin Mahar

Over the years, corporations such as Gap, Apple, and Nike have come under fire for their use of sweatshops to make their products. However, despite this knowledge of the means by which we get our “must-have” products, you don’t see people without an iPod or iPhone or clothing and shoes containing the Gap and Nike logos. It’s amazing how sweatshops in the U.S. are a tragic mar on American history, but Americans are willing to use and abuse factory workers in third-world countries, as well as our own, without batting an eye.

According to, “In developing countries, an estimated 168 million children ages 5 to 14 are forced to work,” but in the case of inhumane conditions for undocumented workers, “many labor violations slip under the radar of the US Department of Labor.” In the U.S., 18 percent of workers were under sixteen-years-old in 1900. While reforms have been made in this country regarding child labor, this pertains more to citizens than illegal immigrants, and no one even considers the welfare of non-U.S. citizens, either here or in countries like China and Bangladesh, as they make an unlivable wage to ultimately stimulate our economy through our materialism.

Knox College psychology professor Dr. Tim Kasser said it best in the 2015 documentary The True Cost: “What America [needs is] a revolution of values, they [need] to stop treating people like things.” Americans need to stop worrying about taking care of our own in order to have more possessions to own.