Buying Sweatshop-Free in the USA

In the last issue of the Green American, we looked at labor abuses in the US. We’d found that the Made in the USA label doesn’t necessarily mean the product was made under decent (or even legal) working conditions. US workers are often subjected to sweatshop-like conditions, sexual violence, prison-like working conditions, and other forms of exploitation.

Fortunately, there are green companies out there doing things right. Here are four ways that green companies are making products in the USA, and doing it under fair labor conditions:

1. They’re Democratically Owned and Operated!sweatshop free

Alvarado Street Bakery makes delicious organic breads in a holistically green manner. In addition to being organic, powered by renewable, and avid recyclers, they are run by their workers.

“We are a worker-owned cooperative owned and managed entirely by the people who work here,” Michael Girkout of Alvarado Street Bakery told us last January. “Our democratic workplace follows the “one person = one vote” principle, and we share our profits equally with all of our workers.”

fair labor2. They Create Fair Manufacturing Jobs!

RocknSocks not only sources their yarn from pre-consumer scraps, they also pay a premium to keep decent-paying manufacturing jobs here in the US.

“It can be done cheaper in other countries,” owner Misty Reily told us last week, “but we stay true to made-in-the-USA values, our growing to the size to utilize several mills has served to help control manufacturing costs.”

fair trade

3. They Source From Unions!

Unions have brought us a number of wonderful things throughout the years — from weekends to medical leave, and fought to end child labor in the US.

Companies that source from unions support unions’ ongoing activism for worker rights.

Justice Clothing has been selling union-made, sweatshop-free apparel from the US and Canada since 2003,” Eric Odier-Fink told us. “When our first employee reached 6 months employment, we re-formed into a coop to guarantee an egalitarian work environment, and that was when we joined Green America, then known as Co-op America.”

4. They Lift Up Vulnerable Workers!

Esperanza Threads takes the role of a socially responsible employer to another level, going beyond fair wages and safe working conditions. Although they make 100% organic cotton products, they say that social justice is the “leading force” behind their existence. cooperatives

“As a project of the Grassroots Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice of Ohio, Esperanza Threads works to train people with barriers to employment,” said Esperanza’s Sister Mary Eileen Boyle. “We work with the under- and unemployed, as well as recently incarcerated women and political refugees (from Burma and Bhutan) to teach them a trade and create good green jobs in our area.”

To learn more about companies creating opportunities for vulnerable populations, click here.

Make Sure Your Purchases are Ethical:

In order to make sure the products you’re spending your money on reflect your values, it’s important to look beyond the organic label and the Made in the USA label.

Purchasing from companies listed in the National Green Pages is a good way to make sure that when you vote with your dollars, you’re voting for both environmental responsibility and social justice — companies listed in the National Green Pages are screened in both these areas.

You can also check out — a website that rates individual products on their social and environmental impacts, taking into account the conditions of workers. Finally, make sure to read through the latest issue of the magazine for more tips on how to buy ethically products made in the USA.


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