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Panel discussion on March 30 will look at the cost of clothing

ISSUED: 19 March 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — “The Cost of Our Cheap Clothes” is the title of an upcoming panel discussion at Shepherd University sponsored by the Journalism and Women’s Studies programs. The discussion will take place Monday, March 30, at 4 p.m. in the Student Center Rumsey Room.

Joyce Barrett, adjunct journalism instructor and advisor to the student newspaper “The Picket,” and Dr. Aart Holtslag, assistant professor of political science, will talk about clothing that is manufactured in Asia for American markets.

Barrett has written about the global garment industry for more than 25 years for “Women’s Wear Daily,” a trade publication based in New York City. She has toured factories in Peru, Thailand, Mauritius, Vietnam, and most recently Burma.

Barrett points out at that one point in U.S. history the textile and apparel industries moved to the American south to escape higher wages in the Northeast. Now the industry chases low wages throughout the world’s economies to keep prices low and meet consumer demand.

“The American market for apparel is one of the biggest in the world,” Barrett said. “Manufacturers seek to meet demands for inexpensive products while protecting their reputations by trying to avoid sweat-shop conditions and abusive labor practices. While those things still exist, the industry is increasingly sensitized to the public’s awareness of social welfare.”

Holtslag’s specialty is in international relations and he teaches classes on the international political economy, the international politics of development, and international human rights.¬†Before earning his Ph.D. in international relations, he was a freelance human rights lawyer working for several nongovernmental organizations throughout the world.

“I am planning to address all three issues with regard to the Myanmar clothing issue,” Holtslag said. “In my talk I will specifically address the role the Myanmar clothing industry plays in the world economy, how textiles are the first part of industrialization in the process of development, and the working conditions of the textile industries in the context of international human rights law.”

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Betty Ellzey, co-coordinator of women’s studies, at¬†bellzey@shepherd.edu.

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