If you want to support places in the world that despite globalization are trying to ensure quality of living, look to Cambodia and clothing goods imported from there:
Got up, got into the shower, and turned on npr on the shower radio this morning to land midway through a very unusual issue of 'This American Life'. Unusual in that it was set in Cambodia.
Apparently from 1995 to 2005 Cambodia had a promise from the USA that if it installed first world labor rights it would get special favors on its imports. As a result in the last decade the country entered the garment industry in a big way. It went from zero economy and high instability to a land with 8 hour days, 41 days paid vacation per year, an average of three unions per factory, maternity leave, breaks for breastfeeding infants, and a host of other laws and changes designed to bring quality of life alongside economic development.
In 2005 it lost its favored status. When the agreement lapsed, guess who's administration didn't blink an eye?
They've still got their factories and protections, but they're losing ground and losing it fast as they struggle to find a way to compete against sweatshops in China, Vietnam, and so on. In effect, this newly liberalized company is being -disfavored- by the so called western liberal democracies over communist nations that provide cheaper labor.
So... buy Cambodian is my message of the day. You can find their goods in places like the Gap, Old Navy, and other chain stores that traditionally have been seen as 'the enemies of social stability in the third world'. They don't have much left in there anymore, but as recent as only a year ago 20% of the nation's entire business was going to Gap (or was it 20% of Gap's purchases were from there... I'm trying to remember what I heard this morning). I have to say that I was shocked to learn that it was the Gap that had been helping them over the last decade...
Supposedly they're also big on women's PJs - something the reporter and the Cambodian minister she interviewed thought a bit funny as he tried to explain it while also being shy over his knowledge of 'such clothing'... :)
They've got a blurb on the story here:
It's not up for podcast yet, but when it is I'll try to update this.
"Cambodia's the only poor country in the world that's agreed to follow strict labor practices in their clothing factories (eliminating sweatshops for workers like those pictured here). This makes their clothes more expensive. And since January 1, because of changing trade laws, they've had to compete against giants like China that produce clothes more cheaply. Can their experiment in treating workers fairly survive? Also: one of the oldest David and Goliath stories: big sister vs. little sister. Broadcast the weekend of December 2-4 in most places, or here via RealAudio next week."
These guys are the country that did it the way liberals often claim is the right way, and we need to show our countries and theirs that we recognize that, that we want to reward that.
I know I plan to deliberately seek out a 'made in Cambodia' label from now on when I shop. I hope I'll be able to find it. They came over to see the US administration in the summer of 2005, and while they got a lot of support for a Congressional bill to renew their status or give them some other tariff advantage, the mission failed from lack of enough support and no ability to see the administration or American media.
That says it will re-air at 10pm PST, and on that station you can listen online through that website here: http://www.kqed.org/radio/index.jsp .
Cross posted from actual_liberals.