This week marks the 103rd anniversary of New York’s Triangle Factory Fire, a tragic event that brought to light the dangers of child labor and unsafe working conditions in 1911. The majority of the victims were girls, the youngest just 14. It is important to remember this event and talk to our kids about work, careers and the everyday products we use.
Popular movements to buy local food or support small business aren’t just about economics. They’re about knowing where your products and food come from and whether the people who build, grow or produce them work in fair and safe conditions. Some industries such as chocolate, coffee and gemstones still employ children in factories around the world to keep their prices down. Large consumer products companies often purchase the goods for their products, if not the outright products themselves, from overseas where they employ child labor. Would you pay more to purchase something that is not the result of child labor? It may seem like a difficult concept to explore, but now there is an app that can help you buy your products more thoughtfully.
The aVoid browser plug-in uses data from the Active Against Child Labour campaign, and helps you find products that aren’t linked to the exploitation of children. The U.S. Department of Labor has a “List of Shame,” that helps steer consumers away from bad working practices. The Green Pages also provide a list of socially responsible companies and businesses. Basic laws of supply and demand tell us that the power lies with consumers. When we demand fair pay, safe working conditions and to stop the exploitation of children, perhaps the anniversary of the Triangle fire will feel more like the ancient past and not serve as a reminder that not all of the kids of our world are yet safe.