Alex Blumberg

December 10, 2013 - Alex Blumberg 12/10/2013 Views: 19,586

NPR's Alex Blumberg talks about the experience of following a T-shirt throughout the production process, from Mississippi to Indonesia to Bangladesh. (6:25)

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]>> Stephen: SO, WELCOME BACK

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS CO CREATOROF NPRs "PLANET MONEY" IT WAS

EARTH THE WHOLE TIME.

PLEASE WELCOME ALEX BLUMBERG.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]>> Stephen: ALEX, THANK YOU FOR

COMING ON.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Stephen: NICE TO HEAR YOURVOICE AND SEE YOUR FACE AT THE

SAME TIME.

>> YES.

Stephen: YOU'RE CO CREATOR OFNPRs "PLANET MONEY" CO CREATOR

OF "TEE SHIRT PROJECT."

>> YES.

Stephen: NOT A FAN OF THISPROJECT.

THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE ISSOMEPLACE WE EXPORT WORK TO HAVE

HAPPEN IN WHATEVER CONDITIONS WEWANT.

THE PRODUCTS COME BACK TO MECHEAP ENOUGH TO THROW AWAY

WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT IT.

THAT'S THE INVISIBLE HAND OF THEMARKET.

WHY DO YOU WANT TO MAKE THE HANDOF THE MARKET VISIBLE.

>> WE'RE ALL PARTICIPATING IN ITIF WE WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT OR

NOT.

OUR T SHIRTS.

WE MADE A TEE SHIRT.

>> Stephen: YOU MADE A TEE SHIRTFOR "PLANET MONEY."

IT HAS A SQUIRREL WITH AMARTINI.

WHY IS THE SQUIRREL DRINKINGBOOZE ON THE "PLANET MONEY" TEE

SHIRT.

>> IT'S HARDER THAN WE THOUGHTTO COME UP WITH A DESIGN FOR A

TEE SHIRT.

[LAUGHING]>> YA.

Stephen: OKAY.

OKAY.

>> WE WANTED TO DEAL WITH -- THEREASON WE WANTED TO MAKE THE TEE

SHIRT IS TO SEE THERE IS A WORLDBEHIND THE CLOTHES WE WEAR.

THIS TEE SHIRT WENT FROM COTTONMILLS IN MISSISSIPPI.

>> Stephen: THERE IS STILLENOUGH COTTON GROWN IN THE DEEP

SOUTH OF THE UNITED STATES.

>> IT TURNS OUT COTTON IS --UNITED STATES LEADS THE WORLD IN

EXPORTING COTTON.

NUMBER ONE COTTON EXPORTER INTHE WORLD.

>> Stephen: WHO IS PICKING THATCOTTON?

>> NO ONE.

IT'S ALL MACHINES.

ALMOST NOBODY ACTUALLY WORKINGON THE FARM.

LIKE 13 PEOPLE ON THE COTTONFARM IT PRODUCED ENOUGH COTTON

TO MAKE NINE MILLION T SHIRTS.

THIS ONE FARM IN MISSISSIPPI.

>> Stephen: WOW.

>> YES.

Stephen: OKAY.

SO, YOU HAVE ALL OF THIS COTTON.

WHERE DOES IT GO?

>> SO, IT GOES.

THEN IT GOES ON A GLOBALJOURNEY.

IT TRAVELS 20,000 MILES AS IT ISMADE INTO A TEE SHIRT.

SPINNING FACTORIES IN INDONESIA.

THEN GARMENT FACTORIES AND BACKTO YOU.

>> Stephen: SWEATSHOPS?

THIS IS NPR TEE SHIRT.

IS THIS MADE WITH SWEATSHOPHRAEUBER?

>>>> Don:

Stephen: REALLY.

IT'S MADE IN BANGLADESH.

THE ENTIRE COUNTRY IS SWEAT.

>> SO THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGSWE WANTED TO LOOK AT.

SO IN BANGLADESH THERE ISSOMETHING TO WHAT YOU SAY.

BASICALLY -->> Stephen: GENERALLY.

>> -- BECAUSE BANGLADESH IS AINCREDIBLY POOR COUNTRY.

WE INTERVIEWED A PERSON, THE CEOOF A GARMENT MANUFACTURING

COMPANY.

HE SAYS OUR GOVERNMENT TPO +LGFOLLOWS POVERTY.

IT GOES TO THE POOREST COUNTRYIN THE WORLD OF HRAEUB TORE MAKE

THE SHIRTS.

>> Stephen: IT'S NOT ASWEATSHOP.

WHAT IS YOUR STANDARD FORSWEATSHOPS.

>> WHEN YOU HAVE A COUNTRY LIKEBANGLADESH WHERE YOU HAVE

MILLIONS IN ABJECT POVERTY.

YOU HAVE A BIG CORPORATION, THEYCAN BE EXPLOITED.

ON THE OTHER SIDE THERE AREMILLIONS OF PEOPLE LIVING IN

POVERTY AND THE GARMENT INDUSTRYIS SMALL BUT A SIGNIFICANT STEP

ABOVE -->> Stephen: BY EXPORTING OUR

GARMENT WORK TO BANGLADESH AREWE HELPING THESE PEOPLE OR

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE PEOPLE?

>> IT'S A REALLY FINE LINE.

SOMETIMES WE'RE TAKING ADVANTAGEOF THEM.

SOMETIMES WE'RE HELPING THEM.

THE PEOPLE IN BANGLADESH, MOSTPEOPLE, THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.

FOUR MILLION PEOPLE WORKING INTHE GARMENT INDUSTRY OF

BANGLADESH.

THEY'RE CONSIDERED GOOD JOBS.

IF YOU'RE NOT WORKING IN AGARMENT FACTORY YOU PROBABLY

WANT A JOB IN ONE.

>> Stephen: CONDITIONS OR PAYINCREASE.

>> YES.

THE CONDITIONS -- THE MINIMUMWAGE ALMOST DOUBLED IN THE MONTH

AFTER WE GOT BACK FROM $39 AMONTH TO THE $60 A MONTH.

>> Stephen: SO MUCH WORK IS SENTTHERE THEY CAN ASK FOR HIGHER

WAGES.

>> AND I THINK THE WORLD ISPAYING ATTENTION NOW TO

BANGLADESH.

>> Stephen: ARE THEY NOT POORENOUGH FOR US TO TAKE ADVANTAGE

OF THEM ANYMORE?

CAN WE MOVE TO THE FOURTH WORLDAT THIS POINT.

DO WE MOVE TO ANTARCTICA ANDTEACH THE PENGUINS TO SEW?

>> THIS IS INTERESTING.

OUR GARMENTS HAVE GOTTEN CHEAPERAND CHEAPER.

THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PLACE TOGO TO PAY WORKERS LESS.

>> Stephen: THERE IS NOTHINGLESS THAN A TEE SHIRT.

WE FIRE THEM OUT OF AN ONS ATDRUNK PEOPLE.

>> WE INTERVIEWED A GUY WHOBOUGHT T SHIRTS BECAUSE HE

DIDN'T WANT TO DO LAUNDRY.

>> Stephen: HE'S BURNING HISCLOTHES.

>> YES, THAT'S HOW CHEAP OURCLOTHES ARE.

I THINK THE TREND IS AT AN ENDNOW.

IT SEEMS THAT BANGLADESH IS THECHEAPEST PLACE.

>> Stephen: THERE ISN'T ACHEAPER PLACE?

I THOUGHT THEY HAD FACTORY SHIPSTHAT PULLED UP TO A PORT IN A

CITY AND SAID COME ON YOUDESPERATE PEOPLE MAKE OUR

CLOTHES.

IF YOU ASK FOR HIGHER WAGES WEWILL TAKE THE SHIP SOMEWHERE

ELSEWHERE THEY WON'T ASK.

>> I WOULDN'T PUT IT PAST PEOPLEFROM DOING THAT.

>> Stephen: DID I JUST COME UPWITH THE GREATEST IDEA EVER.

IF SO I WANT A PIECE IT HAD.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME.

>> THANK YOU.

Stephen: ALEX BLUMBERG.

HOW MUCH FOR THE SHIRT.

>> $30.

Stephen: $30 FOR THE SHIRT.