Are they really an American product?

Levi Strauss, a company that prides itself in marketing itself as an American product. But the product isn’t even made in America!!!! Here I have attached a commercial campaign that Levi’s launched in 2009.

The campaign was called “Go Forth” and was meant to be a sign of optimism in a time that there was much pessimism in the United States. I believe Levi released this commercial to make them appear as if they were a truly American company looking to support the nation. In my opinion, they would have better served our nation by providing jobs and contributing to our fallen economy rather than releasing a commercial that portrays them to be something they are not.

At this point in the novel we find ourselves back in Cambodia, a country constantly being affected by mistreatment of laborers. In this portion of the novel Timmerman opens up the chapter with discussing how Cambodia is the producer of Levi’s, but they are not even allowed to be sold there. Timmerman describes Cambodia as the producer, while countries like America, England, and New Zealand are the consumers. In his time in Cambodia, Kelsey attempts to get a better feel for some of the business owners who run these garment shops. Many are Chinese and Taiwanese businessmen who Kelsey strives to learn more about. During one of his first encounters with these snobby businessman, they invite Kelsey to go to a nightclub. Timmerman describes to the reader that he is typically not the night club kind of guy, but is purely going to attempt to get to know the type of men running these businesses. Here at the club Timmerman is immediately confronted with show girls dressed in sparkling dresses, covered in make up, and even wearing numbers so the men can pay for dances. Some real classy business owners we got here. Here Timmerman learns more about the culture of the clubs and how it is a normalized thing to go out with hookers and one of the businessmen even describe them as “good people”. Timmerman finishes the chapter by coming full circle describing his evening as a time that the producer and consumer collide.

In the next chapter “Those Who Make Levi’s”, Timmerman moves into a report of the lifestyle of those who make Levi’s. He even provides an image of a mother bathing her son in the street prior to leaving for her shift at the garment factory later that day. To me this is wild to think that these workers are living in such poor conditions. It is sad that they are bathing their children in the street of all places. That can not be sanitary! These are the same people that are going to go assemble $30-40 jeans and get paid less than $1 an hour?!

Image result for child be bath in street in cambodia
Here we see a picture of a baby being bathed in a bucket in the streets of Cambodia. This is a similar image to what was the author describes.

As Timmerman does more digging in Cambodia he is finally able to make his was to the headquarters located in Phnom Penh’s Parkway Square. In this town square there was a lingerie store, a bowling alley, and a Lucky Burger. This factory locations differs from previous factory fronts because it appears to be located in a more central, urban environment and not pushed the outskirts of the city like most factories. Timmerman does more snooping and continues to search for someone who can speak to about merging the gap between producer and consumer until he finally meets a man named Pradip. Timmerman wastes no time and tells Pradip exactly who he is, what he is writing about, and the exact information he hopes to gain from his interview with him. As the conversation continues and Pradip gathers a further understanding of what Kelsey is attempting to accomplish, he realizes he will not have all the answers that our author is in search of. So he picks up the phone and calls their sourcing manager, Sreekanth. Timmerman truly exemplified his networking skills in this chapter because there is no better man he could have talked to besides Sreekanth and Pradip. Now Sreekanth is not as personable as Pradip, but he is still willing to help Timmerman’s cause. As the three men begin to converse, Pradip summarizes Kelsey’s ideas to Sreekanth. He then merely responds with a note from the tag of Kelsey’s pants. Following this note Sreekanth leaves the room. On this note Sreekanth has laid out a few financials that are beneficial to Timmerman’s research. With the help of Pradip’s translating skills he reads to Timmerman, ” Levi’s exports $90 million of merchandise per year, which retails for about $400 million. Only 5 percent of factories meet our standards (in Cambodia). We currently source from 13. Many of the big companies- GAP, JCPenny, Walmart, and Sears- source from Cambodia”. These numbers are staggering and what stood out to me was that only 5 percent meet factory standards. How can only 5 percent of companies meet standards and that organization as a whole still be functioning?! This is such a ridiculous statistic to me! Pradip and Timmerman then continue their discussion and finally are able to track the exact factory where the author’s jeans were made. Pradip regretfully informs the author that they were made at factory #890, but they no longer work with that company. Pradip continues to tell Kelsey about how this most likely was a result of the factory’s poor working conditions, inefficiency, or poor price. He then tells Timmerman that although this factory is closed, he has set up a visit for him to tour another factory.

Below is an article that further highlights the poor working conditions of the Cambodian workers.

This chapter then concludes with Timmerman’s final interaction with Nari, a garment worker he had met. He begins discussing how at lunch time the “mob” of workers escapes with urgency to either head for vendors or their apartments for lunch. Nari is amongst the group that heads home to make her own lunch. Here she makes lunch for younger garment workers who were forced to move to the city due to their inability to find work in the rural towns of Cambodia. What next saddens me is that Timmerman talks about how the girls Nari helped support actually have to send money back to their families even though they were not living together. One girl claimed to send $7.50 of her $45 per month. When I read this fact I was immediately humbled for two reasons. The first being the sacrifice this young girl was making to help support her family. She was literally sending home nearly 20% of her already minimal earnings. The second thing that stood out to me about this statistic was how little she was making and surviving on per month. I take for granted that I get paid $7.50 an hour for my on campus job and there are people being mistreated to make the same amount for their family over a month long span. This conversation and overall time Timmerman spent with Nari reminded me I have a lot to be thankful for in regards to what I do for my work and the compensation I receive. I think this interaction between Nari and Timmerman furthers the point the author makes about the financial mistreatment these workers are also facing.

In the middle we see the author Kelsey Timmerman surrounded by the garment workers he met in Cambodia. To his left (in the vertically striped shirt), Nari is pictured.

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