Consumers of the world unite: A market-based response to sweatshops

Monica Prasad, Howard Kimeldorf, Rachel Meyer, Ian Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Sweatshops are re-emerging across the globe. In the current neoliberal environment-which has unions, government protec tion of worker rights, and fair trade policies on the defensive-we propose a market-based strategy that relies on "conscientious con sumers" to slow the global race to the bottom. To assess whether the consumer market in the United States could provide the added revenues needed to lift workers in the southern hemisphere up and out of poverty, we conducted an experiment in a department store in a working-class community in southeast Michigan to determine whether consumers would pay more for products certified as not made in sweatshops. Consumers were presented with two separate displays of ordinary athletic socks that were identical except for a label indicating that the socks in one display were produced under "good working conditions." After incrementing the price of the labeled socks over the course of several months, we found that most consumers preferred to pay less for the unlabeled socks, but nearly one in four was willing to pay up to 40 percent more for the labeled socks. Having documented the contours of this niche market for conscience consumption, we conclude by discussing the promises and challenges that face such a market-based strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-79
Number of pages23
JournalLabor Studies Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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