When we think of automation—specifically replacing workers with robots—our reaction is to worry about the social burden of laying off thousands of workers. We think of the cruelty of decimating a 60 million person workforce. But what happens when you automate jobs in a system that has largely failed to treat its workers with dignity?
The more you know about the $3 trillion garment industry, the harder it is to shop. That's why—if you're a (usually failed) conscious consumer like me—you're stuck between the clothing rack and a hard place. Like cheaper blood diamonds, our t-shirts are often the product of poorly paid labor—stitched by underfed hands, and packed in hot and smoky warehouses while toxic dye runs into a river somewhere outside of Dhaka.
Keeping costs low, of course, comes at a human expense: Many of the garment workers who make our clothes experience miserable wages, health care access, unsanitary conditions and forced overtime. Some workers also told Human Rights Watch they experienced physical abuse and extreme pressure to produce high quotas of clothing.
But there's a possible solution to these human rights abuses: robots.
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