There has been a lot of news in the press lately about the horrible factory collapse in Bangladesh. The images of the dead and injured garment workers were awful and shocking. These are the people who provide us with a lot of our clothing. What a sad price to pay for their $0.24/hour pay.
It got me to thinking about how when I was a kid in the 70”s, when all of our clothing and almost everything we had was labelled Made in Canada or Made in the U.S.A. I remember wearing Levis and North Star running shoes, all Made in the U.S.A. Our appliances, cars and household items also domestically made. They lasted forever so you could keep your avocado green fridge for 20 years ;)
After the early 90”s a Free Trade Agreement allowed manufacturers to produce in other countries with cheaper labour quite easily. We were able to buy more items for the same amount of money as it would cost to buy one item that is domestically made. We all know from experience though, that the quality is always worse which leads us to constantly having to replace what we bought.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Here we are today with high unemployment rates and sluggish local economy. I am a true advocate of keeping jobs at home. When everyone is employed, people have money to spend which keeps our economy strong.
I had a great experience over 9 years ago when my husband and I decided to have our next home built. We had the pleasure of meeting everyone who actually built the house! We were very excited about our new home so we visited the building site several times a week. Seeing a home built was different than I expected. It is not a big crew of tradesmen milling about. Sometimes there is only one worker on site. They take turns: first the Framers do their work, then the Brick layers come, then the Roofers, then the Electrician, followed by the Drywaller, etc. It was a great experience to talk with and get to know each tradesman.
The Drywaller was a very philosophical sort and loved to have spirited conversations with us. The team who laid the tiles was clearly led by the aged Mother of the family run business. She meticulously cleaned the grout off each tile while she told us in no uncertain terms not to return for at least 4 days since the tiles needed to settle and she didn’t want anyone walking on them. The painter, we see on a regular basis since he lives in the neighbourhood. We know each other by name. All of these people live in our mid-sized city and take great pride in their work. They were hand-picked by the Builder, a soft spoken man originally from Sault Saint Marie where he was a Carpenter by trade. He actually did all the baseboards and door jams himself in our home. Many people say that a new home is cookie cutter and has no personality, but ours actually contains the personalities of all of our fellow Londoners who took great pride in putting it together.
Domestically made products are definitely more costly. Our workers do not make only pennies an hour. I do think the benefits are something to reflect on though: the quality is better, our friends and neighbours have jobs and keep our economy strong, and we are not participating in manufacturing in a place where polluting the air is not a concern. I recently spoke with someone who visited Beijing. What a sight she said it was to see people walking around with surgical masks on since they were concerned about the extremely bad air quality and its effect on their health.
Back in the 60”s (OK that was before my time) they used to say “Vote with your dollars” . Consumers really do dictate what shows up on our store shelves.