As the term was coming to a close, I was tasked with finishing my final paper. This particular assignment was for a grad course, Romanticism and Globalization. Our class focused on economic themes, reading Adam Smith to help guide our textual interpretations.
My final paper tackled the topic of people as commodity, specifically, individuals used in trade. Just as I was editing my paper, news surfaced of the factory collapse in Bangladesh. Although we are all vaguely aware of the horrible working conditions and poverty experienced in countries like Bangladesh, we aren’t often confronted with it in this way.
Since I am not immune to a bargain, I have purchased Joe Fresh products before. So when Galen Weston decided to make a statement concerning Joe Fresh’s involvement in the factory that collapsed, I decided to do a little more digging. I came across this article.
Interesting just how little workers are guaranteed as minimum wage (18 cents per hour), and how few rights they have. In Canada, we are often appalled at the minimum wage we are subject to (minimum wage in Ontario is $10.25), and how little financial stability it offers.
What I found particularly startling was that as I was writing my paper, I focused on the topic of people as commodity purely in the confines of the Romantic period. This was mainly because that was the focus of the course, but I had also naively bought into the idea that people are not treated as commodities today.
But if that were true, there wouldn’t be so little value placed on the lives of those who did not survive the factory collapse in Bangladesh, and more companies would be stepping forward to offer support and claim responsibility. I can’t help but wonder if the silence following such an awful incident has to do with the ease companies anticipate replacing the hundreds lost in the rubble of the collapse.
A frightening thought, but not unwarranted.