Harrison County students urge clothing companies to improve conditions for garment workers

Harrison County students urge clothing companies to improve conditions for garment workers
Photo Source: WLOX News
Photo Source: WLOX News

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They are issuing a challenge to some of their favorite clothing companies, and they're only 12 or 13 years old. This week, some Harrison County students are trying to persuade certain companies to stop what they call "inhumane working conditions in overseas sweatshops".

"Thousands of garment workers have died over the past few years," one student read from her letter.

They have been digging into the background of some popular clothing companies. Many students couldn't believe what they've read.

"Several factories have beatings, uncleanliness, and up to 17 hour work shifts with little to no pay," another student read from his letter.

"It was horrible. I wouldn't be able to think about working like that," said seventh grader Ashlyn Baker.

"I was shocked that stuff like this happens in other countries," said seventh grader Nicholas Urbati.

So this week, 65-seventh graders at West Wortham Middle School are writing letters to the corporate offices of well-known clothing giants. Some of the letters encourage certain companies to take steps to bring about safer working conditions and fair wages. Many of their letters actually praise companies that have made positive moves to improve the working environments for millions of workers in overseas factories.

"I want to teach them that we all have an obligation to help out those who are less fortunate than us, like people in developing countries and third world countries," said West Wortham Middle School Teacher Megan Geist. "I want them to know that they can make a change and make a difference."

"I promise you they will send you a letter back," Geist told her class.

The students believe their young voices will be heard. That's because they say, at their age, they're building brand loyalty and can influence their parents' shopping habits.

"I'm their future shopper and buyer. I'm going to buy their clothes when I get older," said Ashlyn.

"I'm their future customer. If I had kids, then those kids won't be going there, and if you take all of those kids overall, that's hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of customers that you're going to be missing out and going to different companies, losing business," said Nicholas.

The lesson has given them a deeper appreciation for the clothes they wear and the people who made them.

"Did they get injured? Did they not get food to get these clothes? Were they punished, humiliated? It's taught me that I shouldn't be taking stuff for granted anymore," said Nicholas.

Geist said the lesson also introduces students to what she believes is a dying art. That's because most of the students have never written a letter before. The letters will be mailed on Friday.

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