Have I really been this sheltered?

Another hidden jem

Another hidden jem-I’m not kidding

Another successful meeting in a place that I would never walk into had I not known where I was going.

Once I passed the grate-like door, I entered the large open space – again, filthy windows with scraps of fabric tacked to the wall to create a makeshift curtain to shield eyes from the gorgeous sun. My first impression is that why can’t they make proper curtains? But that is the strong need for aesthetics in me talking. Clearly, the creation of a lovely and beautiful workspace is not the priority here. To each their own.

Walking carefully past the massive, industrial iron presses and steamers, I begin to see the actual workspace. Dozens of mostly women – although I’m surprised to see a couple of men – hovering over sewing machines, working quietly, quickly and efficiently on the projects at hand. Scraps of fabric and thread lay strewn on the floor as if it had not been swept in months. A problem suddenly occurs at one of the sewing machines and everyone stops to gather around that station, inspecting the potential error to ensure that it is avoided in the future. As I am watching this scene unfold around me, I would be lying if I didn’t feel a little uncomfortable over the conditions.

And then it hits me – if I feel this way here in Canada with all the employment standards and workers rights that exist – I don’t even want to imagine the conditions in countries such as China or Bangladesh.

Obviously factory/manufacturing type work is not my cup of tea to begin with so naturally I would see it as being unpleasant regardless. And don’t get me wrong – the staff appeared happy – no chains to their workstations and there is a makeshift lunch room in the corner; so clearly, there are scheduled breaks. But, watching the production occur and understanding the business pressures to have projects completed faster and cheaper than ever before, one could easily take advantage of these individuals should laws not exists for their benefit.

I left this particular meeting feeling a little low and discouraged at the industry that I am about to enter into. It left me pondering the selfishness of the consumer and their expectation to pay the absolute minimum on a pair of candy-coloured skinny jeans produced in the far east off the backs of countless individuals – and – in that very same breath, expect that those who produced said garment would be well-paid for their maximum 40 hour work week schedule with mandatory vacation pay and EI benefits. A blatant contradiction in expectations and, let’s face it, reality.

My business is not big enough for factories in the far east to even entertain my inquiries so there is no point in even trying. But even when that time comes, I’m not certain that my conscience could ever really handle it anyways.

Made in Canada it is.


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