What’s On My Mind
by Pierre Bastien

January 26, 2014

Why, sweatshop labor of course! Sorry to get all serious for a second here, but let me explain.

I’m now entering my third year running a squash equipment blog, and just recently, in between  posting the latest products and ooh-ing and aaah-ing over them, I’ve starting to wonder where these things are made.

I just recently bought a pair of shoes made by Salming, a relatively new brand. As I recall from the shoebox, they were made in China. I’ve got a box of new Dunlop balls here, and it says they were made in the Philippines. Were either of these products, or any of the hundreds or thousands of other products used by squash players, made in a sweatshop?

By sweatshop, I mean a place where workers, typically young women, are lured into working in an unsafe place, for paltry wages and long hours, then told they better not complain, or the jobs will be taken away or moved elsewhere. Yeah, those sweatshops, like say the infamous one that collapsed in Bangladesh at Rana Plaza.

The truth is, probably ALL of the equipment we wore the last time any of us played squash were made in some form of sweatshop. Maybe not as bad as described above, but probably someplace that cuts as many corners as possible in the name of producing cheap goods. (If you know of any sweatshop-free squash brands, please email me, so I can feature those items on my site.)

Not that this is a problem particular to squash -- most clothing is made in the same manner. There’s usually a company that manages the brand, and they sub-contract the production of the actual item to someone else. Often, to someone who then sub-sub-contracts the production to someone else. In the end, you never quite know who makes your stuff. Some of these brands have made strides developing codes of conduct for their supply chain, but it’s difficult to assess how closely these are being followed, in part because of the sub-sub-contracting nature of the business model. The problem seems so daunting, it’s tempting to just throw up your hands.

Of course, throwing up hands is exactly what I’m tempted to do myself. If I’m a squash equipment blogger and I can’t name a single sweatshop-free brand for you to buy, then what am I supposed to tell you to do -- stop playing squash? Stop wearing clothes altogether?

Right now all I’d say is be aware. Be aware that most clothes are made this way. Be willing to pay more for stuff made in an ethical manner, and be on the lookout for places to buy that type of product. Maybe even read No Logo, which is a bestselling and highly readable dissection of the current state of the brands and their business model.

Remember: squash is a global sport. You saw the squash Olympic bid video, right? Squash players have a special obligation to think about the global picture. We should become conscious of what’s going on, even if we don’t yet have a solution to the problem.

Pierre Bastien
is 37, lives in Philadelphia, and runs a squash equipment blog called Squash Source.

What's On My Mind is a column by rotating authors.
Contact: DailySquashReport@gmail.com

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