Before Barack Obama and his team act on their talk about ‘labor standards,’ I’d like to offer them a tour of the vast garbage dump here in Phnom Penh. The miasma of toxic stink leaves you gasping, breezes batter you with filth, and even the rats look forlorn. . . . Many families actually live in shacks on this smoking garbage. [For families living in the dump,] a job in a sweatshop is a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty. . . . The central challenge in the poorest countries, is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist, 2009
If the children employed in these mills would, otherwise, be living in decent homes, going to school, eating sufficient and wholesome food, getting some sort of moral, mental and manual training, then, without question, mill-work for children deserves to be decried as a flagrant social evil. As a matter of fact, however, the alternative presented to these particular children is to live in dilapidated houses, wear wretched clothing and eat food which is inadequate in quantity and abominable in quality.
Julia Magruder, novelist, 1907
Both observations are quoted by Ken Silverstein in last month's Harper's, in "Shopping for Sweat: the human cost of a two-dollar t-shirt".
Silverstein writes: "Kristof’s speakers’ bureau, American Program Bureau, says his typical fee is approximately $30,000 for an hour, during which he offers 'a compassionate glimpse' into global poverty and gives a 'voice to the voiceless.'"
Excerpts from this stellar article coming soon.