In looking through recent blogs, I found a nice piece that was written by Donna Seger in respect to labor day. She posted about what true labor was in the early 1900’s for young American children in factories. She stated that at this time “one in six children between the ages of five and ten worked in ‘gainful occupation'”. She went on to commend photographer Wickes Hine who used his pictures to spread the truth about child labor. While the blog and pictures were very moving, I couldn’t help but realize the overarching tone of the piece along with the comments. Readers were quick to praise Americans on how far we have come and reprimand those that allowed this to occur in the early 1900s. However, I drew a connection to the many articles I have read about factory workers in other countries who are spending their lives creating the products for our country. While we may have child labor laws in America, it has not stopped US corporations from outsourcing their manufacturing to other countries where the laws aren’t as regulated. Is this any better?
I feel that many readers were so quick to acknowledge how wrong it was for American children to be working in factories, but turned a blind eye to the issues at hand today. Yes, these issues are no longer occurring within our country, but our country still relies and engages with factories that do allow questionable labor practices. Is that still our problem? Would these practices occur regardless of our companies relationships with the factories? Probably. However that is not my point. Poor labor practices are still being practiced throughout the world. We should recognize that while we may have enforced laws in our own country, we are still involved with and rely on other countries that do not follow our regulations.
Maybe we could learn from Wickes Hine and use the power of photography to spread the issue of today’s labor practices around the world.