Have Yourself a Guilt-Free Little Christmas

In Bangladesh and elsewhere, Wal-Mart and other major retailers have mechanisms to audit and approve factories to ensure that their suppliers obtain clothing from manufacturers that are safe and don't employ child labor…

Jahangir Alam, an officer for ethical sourcing at Wal-Mart's office in Dhaka until late last year, said controlling the supply chain to ensure compliance with ethical sourcing standards was a challenge. "With multiple subcontracts going on, it has become almost impossible for buyers to practice ethical sourcing in the true sense," he said.

--Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2012

Today's Wall Street Journal, quoted above, has a compelling follow-up story on the November 24 factory fire in Bangladesh that killed 112 workers ("Fire Warnings Went Unheard"). It's a sickening account. Fire escapes in the building apparently led to a ground floor "where burning balls of yarn blocked the way." Equally sickening: the buck-passing by suppliers, factory owners and retailers. No one's taking responsibility. One simple truth emerges through the smoke: We need to bring apparel manufacturing back to the USA.

The best, most ethical way to keep tabs on the inner workings of a factory is to run it here. Some might argue that clothing would cost more or that we wouldn't have enough workers or that no one wants to do this sort of work anymore. Not true. We excel at innovation, including state-of-the-art automation that reduces the number of workers needed. Think people wouldn't line up for a full-time factory job? Guess again. As I've written about in an earlier post, in 2011 Korean automaker Hyundai opened a plant in Tennessee. They received a whopping 100,000 applications for 2500 manual-labor jobs (including janitorial work). We can do this. If you build it, they--the workers, the consumers, the healthier economy--will come.

As we move onto Day Four of CAMJ's Twelve Days of Christmas, American Style, I want to share with you a company that actually manufactures its awesome apparel line a hop, skip and jump from my neck of the woods: Marine Layer on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. One of the company's slogans is "Made Here, Made Well." Sounds like the perfect antedote to BGS (Bangladesh Guilt Syndrome). I, for one, would rather send cash donations to the impoverished people of Bangladesh and buy my casual apparel from Marine Layer. From its website:

(Cue any of the 13 Toby Keith American Hero songs.) In a rare bit of good news, every step of our production process occurs in California. This minimizes our environmental footprint and supports 3 American factories that have been in business for over 25 years.

Marine Layer's apparel is made of super soft cotton. Feels wonderful from Day One. Casual t-shirts and polos for men, t-shirts, skirts, sweaters and scarves for women and t-shirts for kids. Check out this super adorable jersey scarf. Comes in a variety of colors. So have yourself a guilt-free little Christmas. Buy from Marine Layer!

Marine Layer Jersey Scarf ($44)