Ethical dilemma-Ergo made in China - Mothering Forums
Babywearing > Ethical dilemma-Ergo made in China
Greensleeves's Avatar Greensleeves 02:03 AM 03-24-2006
I was wondering if anyone else has hesitated to buy an Ergo carrier after finding out it is made in China? I did a search and came across this very interesting thread: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...ght=ergo+china

but I wanted to get some fresh perspectives since the original thread is 2 years old.


I guess this issue is especially on my mind since seeing a recent documentary on Walmart. It talked about working conditions in Chinese factories and it wasn't a pretty picture. (Actually I've had strong reservations about buying Made in China items for a long time, but this documentary renewed my concerns.)


I was really attracted to the Ergo as an option but I think I'll go with the US made Sutemi now instead.

bethwl's Avatar bethwl 03:20 AM 03-24-2006
Well, I think that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you should go with your heart. But I read through the original thread and I don't feel that some of the things said in the thread represent an accurate or nuanced analysis of a complicated issue. Is this an issue fraught with complications? Yes. Are we right to worry about working conditions for workers in other countries? Yes. But that does not mean, in my opinion, that Made in China, out of hand, means unethical. A lot of manufacturers do take great pains to ensure that the workers are being paid fairly and work in safe conditions (I know I heard that the makers of Moby actually lived in the town and worked for a bit in the Thai factory that made Moby Wraps to make sure it was good.) Because finding affordable contract sewing in the United States is extremely hard. And I find the argument that no matter what they are being paid, it is a case of a rich country exploiting a poor one disingenuous, because we can't look at their wage and say that it is low by American standards and leave it that; if the wage they receive earns them a good living in the local economy and they have proper working conditions, then I believe that is ethical. To say that the makers of Ergo are making a HUGE profit (over the makers of Sutemi, for example) because they manufacture in China is too big an assumption. While the Ergo and Sutemi are similar, they are not identical and we have no idea what differences in their patterns mean to the cost of producing each carrier. And scratching our heads over why an Ergo or Sutemi cost more than WAHM-made carriers is tough, because it is comparing apples and oranges. Large, multiemployee corporations with international distribution through large retail channels have very different contraints that a WAHM sewing her own slings (or even paying seamstresses to sew or even hiring contract sewing companies locally) will have. WAHMs who sell only direct to consumers and do not wholesale will often have lower prices, because they do not have to make sure the retailer gets a cut--but on the other hand they are also never going to have the reach that a company that focuses on wholesale distribution is going to have. Basically, I'm just saying that the issue is very complex and I don't think can be distilled down to Made in China = bad, Made in US = good. A lot of people who work in sewing factories in the US (at least in my area, Chicago) make probably $9 an hour. Even with benefits, I can't fathom living in this city on $9 an hour (and for really hard, tedious work). In my mind, it is conceivable that a factory seamstress in China making less than $9 an hour, but something that affords her a better lifestyle in HER city is better off than the US worker. Just something to think about.

As for what you should do about the Ergo. I think all you can do is perhaps email the company, express your concerns, see what they say, and then you'll have to go with your instincts about whether or not you feel they adequately satisfied your need to be sure that they carriers are made in fair conditions. If you have any doubts, just go with a US-made carrier. But if you feel assured, then buy the Ergo if that is what you really want. My more-than-2-cents.
massagemom's Avatar massagemom 10:58 AM 03-24-2006
don't i remember an ergo rep being active on mdc? that may have just been when i searched the archives.
SlingMomEsq's Avatar SlingMomEsq 01:59 PM 03-25-2006
I have definitely seen Ergo people post here.

As to the old thread, it is now outdated as from what I understand, Karin has INDEED been there, now, to see the factory conditions.

I agree with Beth.

If you have a concern I would discuss with Karin. I think it would be great if everyone got more facts instead of speculating.

www.ergobabycarrier.com
Fuamami's Avatar Fuamami 03:10 PM 03-25-2006
I just bought one of these last night, and was wondering if you'd read this part on her website:

http://www.ergobabycarrier.com/about.html

Scroll down to the Fair Trade Practices part. Don't know if that helps.
MaryJaneLouise's Avatar MaryJaneLouise 03:28 PM 03-25-2006
If it eases your conscience, most of the fabric that WAHMs use is probably made in China, like most of the fabric sold in this country.
Greensleeves's Avatar Greensleeves 03:43 PM 03-25-2006
Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts!




Quote:
Originally Posted by SlingMomEsq
I think it would be great if everyone got more facts instead of speculating.

Yup, that would be why I started the thread in the first place. I think it's better to speculate than to blindly consume.
I think a lot of the points on the old thread are still valid.
I read the whole ergo website before I posted this thread. Still had concerns which is why I wanted to get more perspectives.
Fuamami's Avatar Fuamami 03:58 PM 03-25-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greensleeves
I read the whole ergo website before I posted this thread. Still had concerns which is why I wanted to get more perspectives.
Sorry I missed this!

I agree it's a difficult issue. I worry about this too, because it is so hard to avoid Chinese products, or even things made in questionable conditions. Even here. Like the pps brought up, who's to know who has the better lifestyle, the Chinese worker or the mom with two kids trying to get by on $9/hr in a major US city.

My sister used to date a Honduran immigrant who had a thriving drywall company. He had worked in a few sweatshops before coming to the US, and we talked about it a lot. I was pretty young and idealistic then and I was surprised that he was so much less "condemning" of it than I was. He really felt that the factory had a place in Honduras' economy, and he'd actually made enough money there to get himself here.

Anyway, I don't know if I'm just trying to justify my consumer habits here, or what. I guess it's just such a complex issue. Thanks for bringing it up.
Peppamint's Avatar Peppamint 06:31 PM 03-28-2006
Even if the factory has been visited- $90 for a baby carrier is a lot of money. I'd rather support a WAHM but that's me. A lot of the time, I don't have a choice to buy American made (which toilet brush, made in Mexico or made in China? ) so when I do I choose to do so if I can afford to. Even cars- my dad and half of this town have jobs because of General Motors and Visteon (ie. Ford). If those jobs go- what do we do?

Sure, some things you import just because it's a special item. I understand buying a pair of Birkenstocks or a real German cuckoo clock or something- but I don't understand having what originated as a WAHM product sent overseas... and I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it didn't get any cheaper once it was imported.

JMO. As one who has a husband with a engineering degree who has been jobless twice in the six years we've been married (after holding a single job for 13 years) I really do think importing too many things is going to affect us in a big way someday.
afishwithabike's Avatar afishwithabike 07:29 PM 03-28-2006
I try my best to buy American made products and support WAHM and Mom and Pop places. I got my sling from posh papoose. I now am borrowing a sewing machine and have been looking at textiles made in the USA to support my idea. Just seems right to me.
bethwl's Avatar bethwl 07:48 PM 03-28-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by busybusymomma
Even if the factory has been visited- $90 for a baby carrier is a lot of money. I'd rather support a WAHM but that's me.
I have to disagree that $90 for a baby carrier is a lot. Once you become familiar with how they are constructed, the price is not inflated, it is simply where it needs to be to support a business. The Ergo is a fairly complex-looking pattern to me. And many WAHMs price their products way too low, so that in reality, the Chinese worker is probably making more money for her time spent working than is the WAHM (not exagerrating here).
Peppamint's Avatar Peppamint 11:13 PM 03-28-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethwl
I have to disagree that $90 for a baby carrier is a lot. Once you become familiar with how they are constructed, the price is not inflated, it is simply where it needs to be to support a business. The Ergo is a fairly complex-looking pattern to me. And many WAHMs price their products way too low, so that in reality, the Chinese worker is probably making more money for her time spent working than is the WAHM (not exagerrating here).
It's a lot to me when it was made by someone who doesn't have the freedoms I have.
Kristine233's Avatar Kristine233 03:00 AM 03-29-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethwl
I have to disagree that $90 for a baby carrier is a lot. Once you become familiar with how they are constructed, the price is not inflated, it is simply where it needs to be to support a business. The Ergo is a fairly complex-looking pattern to me. And many WAHMs price their products way too low, so that in reality, the Chinese worker is probably making more money for her time spent working than is the WAHM (not exagerrating here).
I have to agree with this. If the Ergo were made by a WAHM here it would cost well over $100. Even Mei Tais *when priced right* are near $100 or more. Most WAHMs here in the US that make babyecarriers DONT make enough to live on. The WAHMs that do it and sew thier own carriers are doing it because they love to support babywearing, NOT to make money. Its different for manufacturers that are big enough to hirer sewing houses and such, but I can only speak from the persepctive of a WAHM that DOES sew her own carriers and have been actively selling them for over 3 years. I do it because I love it, its a *glorified hobby* for me.

(I'mnot familiar with the whole Ergo thing so I cant comment on that, just wanted to give a WAHM persepctive on WAHMade carriers and how much they *make*)
PatchyMama's Avatar PatchyMama 04:58 AM 03-29-2006
I can vouch that if it was made by a wahm it would be a lot more. I made an ergo lookalike for my own use.. it took me 6 hours easily... i would have to charge well over $100 to make that and make money on it.
SlingMomEsq's Avatar SlingMomEsq 12:20 PM 03-29-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by busybusymomma
It's a lot to me when it was made by someone who doesn't have the freedoms I have.
I guess the issue for me is a lot more complicated than this.

If we pulled out our business interests all over the world, then I guess we get to exert no influence at all for those countries that we suspect to have human rights violations.

Also, what if the factory conditions are better than in all the rest of the country and it is the only source of revenue for a certain town of people?

Lastly, I think it is not necessarily correct to assume that we have the better (superior) culture and or better life here because of the particular freedoms we enjoy. They may not at all mesh with other people's value systems and that is okay. I think a lot of our freedoms have contributed to a general malaise, conspicuous consumption, rampant materialism, greed, split families, etc. Someone from China may well say...."YUCK! That's not for me!"

Who is to say that anyone, in a particular situation, does not have a happier life with more limited freedoms?

Since the maker of the product has actually been to see the factory, I think that is the best place to ask questions and then to decide.

I think these are good questions to ASK by the way, but as I get older I have learned not to assume anything. My parents travel the world for humanitarian aid reasons, btw, and I have learned a lot from them, including how egotistical I personally am about my own culture, etc.
bethwl's Avatar bethwl 01:10 PM 03-29-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by busybusymomma
It's a lot to me when it was made by someone who doesn't have the freedoms I have.
For me the freedoms that the worker has or doesn't have has nothing to do with the price of the product. That statement makes it sound like it would be ok that the worker didn't have certain freedoms as long as the product were cheaper, kwim? Whether the product is a $2 item or a $200 item, I think we all hope that the worker is treated fairly. Pricing is a separate issue that is figured out through complex calculations on the part of the company, including things like the cost of the materials, the labor, import tax, shipping costs incurred, salaries paid to employees, and a whole lot more. And yes, a profit is built into that, but it's almost as if we're treating the whole premise that people go into business to make a profit as a dishonorable thing. People should not profit when they exploit the rights of others, but that is the issue here that should be decided by the OP by contacting the makers of the Ergo and discussing their visit to the factory. Someone who visits the factory obviously wants to know that the workers are being treated fairly. Another factor is pricing, however, is *what the consumer will pay* and part of why many goods are made in China is that most American consumers won't or cannot pay what goods might cost if they were factory-made in the US, or WAHMmade in the US AND priced properly.
Peppamint's Avatar Peppamint 05:27 PM 03-29-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethwl
For me the freedoms that the worker has or doesn't have has nothing to do with the price of the product. That statement makes it sound like it would be ok that the worker didn't have certain freedoms as long as the product were cheaper, kwim? Whether the product is a $2 item or a $200 item, I think we all hope that the worker is treated fairly.
I didn't mean that and if you read my post above that, I mentioned not even being able to find a $2 toilet brush to clean my toilet that isn't made in China or Mexico. I support American jobs as much as possible, from a bag of candy (much of which is doesn't seem to be made in USA anymore, want a Peter Rabbit chocolate bunny for Easter? It's made in China or Phillipines. ) to a new toilet to buying a vehicle.

I don't care about exerting control over other countries through trade- I care about having jobs for my husband, my dad, my brother and so on. I know people working for Walmart because they can't get a better job. Maybe that sounds selfish, but if my family is on welfare we can't do crap for anyone else.
Greensleeves's Avatar Greensleeves 08:14 PM 03-29-2006
I kind of resent the implication a couple of posters have made that I shouldn't be airing these concerns here but instead taking them up privately with the makers of Ergo. I see a lot of people on these boards praising the Ergo. I was all excited to buy one. Then I saw that it was made in China. I try to avoid as many made in China products as possible so I was pretty disappointed about this. What's so wrong about seeing if there were any other mamas who felt the same way? If I was some mindless consumer, would that be better? Am I not supposed to care that these workers, while probably having better working conditions than many Chinese workers (at least on the day of the visit) still have to work 6 days a week and only get 1 day a week off? That mama only gets 1 day a week with her child. I'm not supposed to care about that? Sheesh, MDC is a weird and contradictory place sometimes.

ETA and yes I do realize that many Chinese factory workers work 7 days a week. If anyone wants to get more leery of buying products made in China, rent the documentary "Walmart:the High Cost of Low Price".
SlingMomEsq's Avatar SlingMomEsq 09:44 PM 03-29-2006
Hummm.....I commend you on asking these questions.

I say in my post that these are good questions to ASK! Perhaps that was missed?

I am just all for asking the manufacturers as well, just so you have the most information. KWIM? The more information, the better for making my choices in my book.

For example, if the manufacturer is totally dismissive, I guess you have your answer, too....they do not care, right? (I am not saying that is the case here....I don't know.)

These are not easy issues and have some interesting info on all sides.
bethwl's Avatar bethwl 12:01 AM 03-30-2006
If the issue is about whether your husband/brother/whomever has a job, then the conditions under which the Chinese worker is employed don't matter. Even if they are well-treated, then your concern is that the job would have formerly been done in America, so I can respect that--dont' buy except Made in USA. And yes, as you said , finding American-made goods is harder. I don't have any answers, but I don't fault you for your position.

To the OP, I certainly don't feel that you shouldn't be asking these questions here. I think it's fine to have this discussion, but I don't think you can get a totally definitive answer from us. Each of us has our own opinion. The information you would get from the manufacturer is just what I think will help you most to make your own decision. But have this public discussion is very appropriate. And I don't think the questions you are asking make you a xenophobic hick.
huggerwocky's Avatar huggerwocky 01:57 AM 03-30-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethwl
Well, I think that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you should go with your heart. But I read through the original thread and I don't feel that some of the things said in the thread represent an accurate or nuanced analysis of a complicated issue. Is this an issue fraught with complications? Yes. Are we right to worry about working conditions for workers in other countries? Yes. But that does not mean, in my opinion, that Made in China, out of hand, means unethical.
That's right. But isn't that labeled fair trade then so we know about it?
bethwl's Avatar bethwl 03:25 AM 03-30-2006
I personally don't know what it means to be labeled fair-trade and if there is any type of certification process to that. I would be interested to know if anybody out there has specific knowledge on this issue. Is anyone policing the companies that label their products fair-trade? Edited to ask if there is a definition of fair-trade that is agreed on by everyone? You know? It could mean different things to different people.
merpk's Avatar merpk 12:18 PM 03-31-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by busybusymomma
Even if the factory has been visited- $90 for a baby carrier is a lot of money. I'd rather support a WAHM but that's me.
Sure, some things you import just because it's a special item. I understand buying a pair of Birkenstocks ... but I don't understand having what originated as a WAHM product sent overseas...


Not necessarily agreeing with your entire post, but am agreeing with this part. As both a Birkenstocks fanatic and a WAHM-supporting addict.
MamaDeYsabel's Avatar MamaDeYsabel 08:17 PM 03-31-2006
Fair trade certification (y'all might recognize the logo):
http://www.fairtradefederation.org/

This is a complex issue, and one I've struggled with a lot from a manufacturer's perspective. I don't think that sending work overseas is inherently unethical, and hence have had to make some very tough decisions for our company. What it comes down to for me is that if I can find a "neighbor" who has the skills or products that I need, my personal ethic says that I should use them. That's a big IF these days, for many things, like fabric. (We use as many organic fabrics as possible in our products, and we're down to ONE domestic organic fabric mill making prints at all. And only 2-3 domestic mills making (yawn) solids. So it gets harder by the day to keep much of our sourcing in the US.) But I DO know that I will not send my products overseas to lower the price. I'm proud to pay my employees a living wage, and I'm proud to work with local contractors who pay their employees living wages, and I feel fine passing that cost on to my customers.

One more thing to add to the mix is transportation costs, financial and environmental. When I factor in the fossil fuels and such to get a product from China to Texas, then on to the consumer, the "cheap" price of goods doesn't seem so cheap.

One more perspective . . .

Vesta
LaurenS's Avatar LaurenS 08:25 PM 03-31-2006
Glad to see this discussion. I was the OP almost 2 years ago that may or may not have sparked this discussion. I was made aware of new discussion on Ergo's being made in China by an Ergo employee. I still feel the same way that I did two years ago. If I had known the Ergos were being made in China, I would have never had bough one. So I do commend Ergo for putting this info on their website now. The sales rep told me that they hadn't received any complaints of the Ergo made in China. I told her that I know they received at least one about two years ago.
Anyway, like others have said, this is a complicated issue. It is very hard to decide what to do. I am fully aware that just because I buy things made in the USA that it doesn't mean fair working conditions. Although we do have laws in place for them whether they are being followed or not. The way I look at it is this, if an American company is using labor oversees, they are taking advantage of cheap labor. Especially when there is a similar carrier, the Sutemi, that is made in the USA. So if I was in the market for a carrier today, I would go with a Sutemi or probably a Kozy. Whatever you decide, at least you thought about it. Most people could care less.

Lauren
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