In the Face of Accusations About Working Conditions, Where Should We Shop?

God save us if we vote to take his paltry few dollars and run. God save this country if that is truly the wave of the future. We will then have become a nation that makes nothing but hamburgers, creates nothing but lawyers, and sells nothing but tax shelters. And if we are at that point in this country, where we kill something because at the moment it’s worth more dead than alive — well, take a look around. Look at your neighbor. Look at your neighbor. You won’t kill him, will you? No. It’s called murder and it’s illegal.
Well, this too is murder — on a mass scale. Only on Wall Street, they call it “maximizing share-holder value” and they call it “legal.” And they substitute dollar bills where a conscience should be. Dammit! A business is worth more than the price of its stock. It’s the place where we earn our living, where we meet our friends, dream our dreams. It is, in every sense, the very fabric that binds our society together.
So let us now, at this meeting, say to every Garfield in the land, “Here, we build things. We don’t destroy them. Here, we care about more than the price of our stock! Here, we care about people.”
Andrew Jorgenson (Gregory Peck), CEO of the fictional New England Wire and Cable, from the movie Other People’s Money (transcript available from the wonderful site).


I am in a dilemma.  I am becoming an ever-more-committed on-line shopper.  I buy so many things on-line, and they just magically show up on my doorstep.  It saves gas, it saves money, it saves hassle.  I love it.

I now buy from an ever-growing array of “stores.” and Amazon are my two must frequent choices, but there are more.  And my wife, who now cares full time for her aging father in our home, has to shop on-line. It is her only option.

We both like it.

But….  I am also reading a few things that disturb me.  Ok, “disturb me” may not be a strong enough phrase.  About the working conditions in the places from which they ship these products.  The working conditions don’t quite sound like those as bad as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, but they don’t sound all that good.  We’ve all heard about the factories in China that make the iPhones and iPads that I personally use and love.  And now, here’s the latest article I read:  I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave:  My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine.

I don’t know that I need to give you all of the details.  And, yes, this particular article is in a “liberal” publication.  (I would love for a reader of this blog to point me to more encouraging articles about working conditions in such warehouse/shipping enterprises).   Suffice it to say that the working conditions are not conditions that most of us would want to experience day in and day out.

(And, as I read about these conditions, I feel a little less stressed about all that I have to get done this week, sitting in my comfortable home office, and speaking to wonderful people day in and day out).

I think that, as a consumer (a shopper), I have some responsibility to the workers who provide my goods and services.  I believe that working conditions should honor the need for the basic human rights of individual workers.  But, trust me, after reading these accounts, I suspect that none of these Warehouse/Shipping places will win the “best place to work” ranking in any business survey.

So – what do I do?  Do I give up the convenience of my on-line shopping experience?  Do I lobby for, advocate for, better working conditions?  What do I do?  What can I do?

Seriously, what do I do?  What should we all do?




One thought on “In the Face of Accusations About Working Conditions, Where Should We Shop?

  1. Justin Dixon

    I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this same issue myself, as I love my LG Phone but after seeing how Iphone manufacturers are treated I’m concerned about the origins of my beloved smart phone. Other than ordering from Etsy (which is awesome) The best thing I can think of is that people like us who see this problem need to possibly make a website that helps people find the cheapest product that has been fairly made.


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