Voting With Your Money

So we’ve voted as a nation and elected our new president. Now how do you vote with your money?

This is something that I’ve struggled with for over a year now because deciding to act on this information is very difficult but I believe my faith calls me to action, especially in financial areas of my life no matter how uncomfortable. Essentially it boils down to this, the money you spend goes back to corporations and supports whatever practices they’re employing – thus your dollars ‘vote’ for those conditions to continue. This includes sweat shop labor, inhumane conditions, child labor, etc. I personally believe that I should not put my dollars towards companies that are mistreating people just to expand their bottom line. I am not ok with that.

I feel like Americans (and I’m sure other developed countries), just gloss over the working conditions in which that trendy item of clothing was created in because materialism is king here. The bottom line is more important than human lives. People will buy anything just because it is cheap without questioning WHY it is cheap. Why is it that you can buy a shirt for $0.99? Who made it? How? And in what conditions?

I want the money that I’m spending to bless someone, not empower mistreatment. I am willing to spend more money, less times, to make sure that I am not buying an item made by a child or a worker in poor conditions. This is difficult to know when the majority of items available to me are marked ‘Made in China/Bangladesh/Indonesia/Pakistan/[inset other country name here]’. I am hugely at fault in purchasing items without thinking about where they came from, because I ‘need’ those new pants/top/dress/skirt. I own tons of Gap Inc. products, Target products, etc, and those corporations don’t have the best track record with child labor and fair working conditions. I have read that Gap Inc. and Nike are both looking to change and have begun taking steps to do so. . . hopefully they will set a new standard in the industry.

This is a difficult thing to consider. There is no clear and easy answer. Many of these cheap products help provide for those that don’t make a lot of money. What do you do if you can’t afford to not buy an item and spend a bit more on ‘fair trade’ items?

I think the answer is to prayerfully consider the items you want to buy and do your research. To consider where your money is going and who it is supporting and whether you agree with those practices. I think you buy less and pay more to support businesses you agree with. Or you buy reused products. Then you are no longer supporting the initial business that provide the poor working conditions.

I think Green Daily’s advice is worth repeating to as far as purchases go (yes, because these concepts of voting with your money are also very green): Buy less, reduce, reuse, recycle, precycle, create a plan for high-spending times like the holidays and take a breather (sleep on it for as long as you can) before making purchases.

If you’re interested in doing some more research on your favorite companies and how they rank in social justice issues, check out these two website for more information:

Sweat Shop Watch
CorpWatch

I would love to know if any of you have thought about this before and if it has changed your spending habits. Thoughts?

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7 Comments

  1. Posted November 11, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is one of those things that is in the back of my mind as something I need to do, but haven’t actually taken action on yet. I agree on the importance of voting correctly with your money, so maybe it’s about time I start looking into it! Thanks for the great post, Beth!

  2. elliek
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is something that I have thought about quite a bit. It’s like you said, it just takes effort, but it is totally worth it.

  3. Posted November 11, 2008 at 3:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Do you know any clothing companies with GOOD track records? We had a half night of prayer last weekend and part of it was focused on global injustice. So that got me thinking about this stuff, but I don’t know which stores/brands do NOT use child/forced labor. But I want to know! Most things I read are about the places that get caught, not the ones who have good employment practices.

  4. Elizabeth
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Dar – The first company I think of is American Apparel but Sweat Shop Watch has a list of companies here as well as ways to shop with a conscience. Apparently shopping Union Made items ensures good practice and items labeled ‘fair trade’ are good as well.

    For me, part of it comes down to shopping locally and small businesses, where you can ask the owners face to face where their products came from. Usually there is a sense of pride in small companies and they won’t sell out to poor labor practices. I try to stay away from ‘big box’ retailers when I can because it’s harder to know where those items are coming from.

    Hope that helps!

  5. cooperella
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 1:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks so much for the heads-up on the Mint site! After I read your post I checked it out, and it is just TOO cool!

  6. Posted June 14, 2009 at 10:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    ok, so i know i’m waaaay late in commenting on this post. hope you don’t mind. :o) i’ve really enjoyed looking at all your recipes and book reviews. but i digress.

    in college i took a public relations class. we talked about sweatshop labor for part of it. what i came to realize is it’s not always the companies who are keeping conditions horrible. yes, they outsource labor, and yes, i don’t think a child should have to work like that. but the reality is that some of these countries will not improve the conditions for the workers, young or old.

    there was one company we looked at (can’t remember the name, so i guess my education dollars were well spent ;o]) that wanted to pay the workers well. pay them what they would earn if the shop were open in the states. but the country’s government said no. not our government, the government where the sweatshop was located. this company tried all ways they could think of to better the conditions of the workers, but the native government would not allow it. they were the ones keeping the conditions poor.

    another thing is you have to look at the culture. again, i do not believe in child labor, but in some countries you are no longer considered a child at the age of 13, or ten. even think back to some of the earlier days in our country. you were an “old maid” if you weren’t married by the age of 18. children were adults a lot earlier than they are now.

    there are definitely things companies can do to improve things, but sometimes they hit walls out of their control. it’s hard because what i don’t like about sweatshops, i wonder what these people will do if they aren’t working there. this is the only income some families have. this is the only way they can have food and clothes. and that’s the heartbreaking part to me. if we get rid of these jobs, what happens to them? hope that all makes sense.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted June 14, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Lots of interesting points that I hadn’t thought of! Thank you for sharing Katie! I wonder, in the case of the company with the good intentions and the country’s bad government, if the right thing for that company to do would have been to just stop conducting business with that country. There is always another country looking to make some money and employ it’s inhabitants, so if you take your business elsewhere where you can conduct it ethically. . . why not do that? It has the potential to make the country that is keeping the workers poor think twice about their actions and possibly change in the long run.

      I do understand that some countries consider an age of accountability younger than we do here in the states thereby allow children to work at a younger age, but that doesn’t pardon poor working conditions. I think that’s true for any age. Child labor is wrong, but regardless of age, safe working conditions are important.

      I completely understand the argument that these jobs, even if they are not being paid a fair wage, sometimes are the only source of income for some families. I still believe that I want to put my money towards companies that are ethical in their treatment of workers, no matter where they are working. I think it’s a matter of changing their jobs, not removing them and I think we can change the jobs available to these people if we support companies that are pushing for fair wages. If those companies prosper, then they can hire more people, open more factories, change the working conditions.

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