Child Labor today, Clothes in America tomorrow


By Lauren Cortez
Pulse Staff Reporter

1865 was the year America ratified the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery,  but more than 150 years later, Americans still support slavery.

Over 200 million children in the world are child laborers, most of whom work in dangerous conditions for little to no pay. Twenty-eight companies that we buy from, such as H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Hershey’s, FOREVER 21, Walmart, Gap and Apple, use child labor.

Peter Myers, associate professor of History at Palo Alto College, decided to create an assignment for his HIST 1302 classes to explore this issue.

He got the idea from going on TJ Maxx trips with his wife. Most clothes he found did not come from the western world.

“Industrialized countries aren’t the clothing industry anymore. The industry is now shipped out to other places,” said Myers.

Since 2015, more than 300,000 jobs have been outsourced annually from the U.S. In the assignment, Myers asked his students to look at the clothes they wore for that day, research what countries they were made in and what their child labor laws were.

He asked his students to ponder the questions that most people don’t think about. What can be done to prevent the abuses of child labor, and what will you do?

Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child was passed in 1989 by the United Nations, child labor is still a global issue.

Dominique Martinez, a 23-year old Human Resource Management major, said, “It did not inspire me to buy clothing from the U.S. only, but it did help raise concern for me to try and make a difference in this epidemic. Even if that’s just mentioning it to my coworkers or friends.”

Twenty-two thousand children are killed at work every year, while injuries and illnesses are unknown. By serving in the Peace Corps, Myers was able to see first hand how bad the conditions are in these countries.

“Haiti’s really bad. It’s such a poor country, and just to have a job, they aren’t thinking about how old you are, just to be able to help out your family,” said Myers.

The latest global poverty data from 2013 estimates that 767 million people live below the international poverty line.

Myers created the assignment to bring awareness and plant a seed in his students to spread the knowledge to others.

“I don’t want students to go out there and say, ‘Oh gosh, I didn’t know.’ And, well, we’re in college and school to learn, and to make these companies aware that we can make decisions to make this world better,” said Myers.

Countries like Vietnam are already starting to implement programs and laws. They have started a program to reduce child labor from 2016-2020 in hopes of preventing and minimizing it.

India has become one of the largest growing economies, and about one-third of its workers are under 15 years of age. This makes India one of the highest concentrations of child workers in the world.

The other top five countries with high concentrations of child labor besides India are Bangladesh, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

“I do not want to support any country or anyone who mistreats children. It is very important to be aware of what is going on in this world. If more people were aware of the injustice done to children, I am positive they would make a change,” said Antonia Alfaro a 52- year old Social Work major.