If you have questions about a product, contact the manufactorer and
demand facts about the production. If you don't like what you hear,
don't buy the product.
That way, at least, you'll force them to make an effort to hide the fact
if the doors at the factory can't be opened from the inside.
I agree with you that we as consumers have a moral duty to demand that
goods which we buy are produced ethically. So I decided to test out
your idea and contact the manufacturers of my unicycles. I own a Savage
giraffe, a 20"Torker, and a 28"Sun. All are cheap unicycles probably
manufactured in China or in Tiawan with parts from China. After a quick
google search, I was unable to find any information about how to contact
Savage. I'm sure that there must be a way, but there was no easy web
site that I found which gave this information. Nor did this imformation
come with the unicycle when I bought it from Ace Cycles, although a
sticker on my giraffe says "Made in Tiawan."
Next I googled for Torker. After poking around the www.torkerusa.com
site, I was unable to find a telephone number to call nor is there any
information about where they are made (not even in what country).
However, there is a snail mail address and an email address so I will
try that and see what they say. My Torker has a "Made in China"
Finally I googled for Sun Unicycles. The closest that I came up with
was www.sunbicycles.com, but they didn't have any unicycles in their
product list, so I am not sure that they are the manufacturer (or brand
adfixer) of Sun unicycles. Their links to contact them and to order are
broken. My Sun has no sticker telling me what country it was made in,
although that information might have been on the box when I bought it
Now I am sure that someone who works in bike store could find someway to
contact these companies, but it isn't easy for the average consumer like
me. Even if I do manage to contact them, will they tell me where the
unicycles were manufactured and whether they are produced under a fair
wage or even the legal minimum wage? I don't know in the case of
unicycles, but I don't hold out much hope if they are anything like
Unfortunately it can be extremely difficult to find out any information
about many manufacturers because they hide behind a web of
subcontractors. Disney is famous for doing these sort of shady
practices whereby they claim that they have no responsibility for what a
subcontractor does. Many companies won't reveal the locations of the
factories where their goods are made, so it is very difficult to
investigate whether there are labor violations. If goods are made in
Latin America, there is some chance of obtaining this sort of
information, but it is almost impossible to obtain this sort of
information from a Chinese subcontractor.
I am involved with a student group at Indiana University that demands
that any clothes which bears my university's logo has to be produced
under certain conditions. The manufacturer signs a contract to abide by
the minimum wage laws of his country, comply with that nation's labor
laws, and post the legal rights of workers for that country on the walls
of the factory, ...etc. We aren't even asking that manufacturers pay a
living wage, just abide by their countries' laws. If a manufacturer
signs the contract but doesn't comply, we have the legal right to yank
his contract. We have done it a couple of times, but it takes good
organization and a number of universities working together in a
consortium for changes to be made. One university working alone can not
usually force a manufacturer to change its practices.
Althought the unicycle market is certainly different from the university
clothing market, I think some of the same principles apply. One
unicycling enthusiast who calls and asks questions about labor
conditions won't have much impact, although it might send a message that
someone cares what is going on. I don't believe that one consumer can
force a change, but if 1% of unicycle consumers raise a ruckus, we might
be able to improve conditions for the people who make our lovely toys.
From what I have seen from the anti-sweatshop movement in other areas,
the most important thing is organized opposition.
All that being said, I have seen almost no successes in the
anti-sweatshop movement when dealing with Chinese subcontractors. They
are protected by their own government from outside investigation of
their labor abuses. This is why I ask if it is ethical to buy anything
from China. I have less problems buying something made in Mexico, since
there are some means of protesting what is happening in a Mexican
factory and working in solidarity with workers who are collectively
organizing for their rights.
So what can I do as a average consumer? If I have lots of money, I can
buy expensive unicycles which are assembled domestically with most parts
made domestically. Nowadays, I doubt anyone can find a unicycle which
has every single part made in the USA, Canada, England, Germany,
Australia, New Zealand, or any other developed nation.
If that strategy is outside of my budget (I am a grad student after all)
I can write a quick email to the seller (unicycle.com) and the
manufacturer (Torker) and express my concerns.
In addition, I can also try to buy stuff which is made abroad under
better conditions than in China. In this case, I might try to buy
things which are made in Tiawan rather than in China. This stategy
only works if I am sure that the Tiawanese company isn't subcontracting
out to China. Most likely, a unicycle like my Savage was probably
assembled in Tiawan, using Chinese parts. This is better than my Torker
which is probably 100% Chinese made.
So my plea is for anyone who knows how to contact unicycle companies, to
post that information on this thread. And let us know if you find out
anything about where and how unicycles are made.
Amos_And_Ego's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/4987
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/29272