Grade 9-12

Should I Join the Sweatshop Boycott?

Time: 60 mins,
Updated: April 24 2023,
Author: Stephen Day


After completing this lesson students will be able to:

  • Analyze changes in living standards in different regions over time.
  • Create and support an argument for or against a sweatshop boycott using primary and secondary sources.


In this lesson from the Ethics, Economics, and Social Issues curriculum, students investigate the effects of garment factory labor in developing countries.

Factory jobs in developing countries are often dirty, dangerous, repetitive, and low-paid, by developed countries’ standards. Factory owners can probably do better for their employees by paying them more or having better working conditions. But these factory jobs also increase productivity, living standards, and options for future employment in the developing country. Studying textile factories over time and place teaches us about the tradeoffs of our business and labor practices. It also teaches us about the lives and decisions of the people – usually young women – who work in the factories of developing countries.

Students will study a news report, several letters home from factory workers, and a graph of living standards in different regions over time. As a performance assessment, students write an email to a friend explaining why they will or will not be joining a boycott of t-shirts made without higher labor standards.