For my second book review I read The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy written by Pietra Rivoli published by Wiley copyright of Reed Business Information.( Isbn 041648493).
Pietra Rivoli has a PhD in Finance and International Economics and a BS in Finance. The only website I found for her was www.faculty.msb.edu/rivolip
The author begins this book by purchasing a t-shirt from a bin at a Walgreens in Florida. She decides to trace where it comes from, referring to much more than just the “made in” tag. She begins by phoning a company overseas that produced the t-shirt but upon speaking to someone there found out that the actual cotton to make the shirt was from the Unites States-Texas specifically.
She researches and finds out that America is consistently among the top 2-3 producers and exporters of cotton and questions why this is so. How are cotton farmers in Texas able to out-produce cotton over so many other countries that may have cheaper labor? How have they been able to maintain this lead given the advancements in many other countries? She is able to track this success back to the farmers figuring out how to assume little to no risk for their crops. Government subsidies (on cotton they are 5-10 times higher on cotton than on soy beans, and many other crops) and guarantees on pricing and more have given these farmers ways to be successful and eliminate the many risks involved with this type of farming. The risks of labor prices and being able to find labor when the crops needed harvesting were alleviated with the Bracero program (allowing Mexican citizens to cross the borders for work.). Developments in agriculture, equipment, fertilizers, and even GM seeds have increased output and eliminated the threats that once were very real for these types of farmers. Cotton farmers have also gained a lot of governmental sway or control which makes them even more secure and more monopolistic.
Next she followed the path of the cotton overseas to the factories where textiles, clothing and more are made. Seeing the types of conditions that the workers were subject to and their limited options for any sort of advancement made her see the freedoms that were being denied to generations of people who had little or no other options. Conditions were unsafe, the work was grueling and some people were forced to work 7 days a week.
Fast forward to some students at Georgetown hearing of these injustices and wanting to make a difference. They formed a committee and demanding that any University apparel must disclose where it was made and uphold societal standards. Once their goal was achieved she mentions that the meetings got boring-that once the change was made they needed to step forward and keep going.
The basic moral of the book, and view of the author is that we have control. Similar to the Hoodwinked book that I read for my first review the theme seems to be that small changes that we make are steps forward. As long as we keep stepping forward progress will happen.
If we think that cotton farmers shouldn’t receive such large subsidies and other perks we need to demand that it changes. American companies and consumers refusing to purchase goods from unethical companies and demanding regulations prohibiting child labor and unsafe working conditions will force others to follow suit. As much as it seems like these problems are out of our control it will be the small changes that individuals make that will be the change that the world needs.
The general consensus on the reviews that I have read for this book seem to agree with the author’s theme and thoughts on this matter. Some mentioned that she spent too much time on the subject and that the information is somewhat outdated even with her revisions. For the most part I agree with the author on her points, but agree that the book could be made shorter and the theme could have still been conveyed.
The biggest thing that I learned is how much the government really steps in, and was astounded by the amount of financial support that cotton farmers have available to them. It makes me wonder how many things like this we as consumers are unaware of.