October 19, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Working on “The True Cost", Andrew Morgan’s explosive “fast fashion” industry exposé, introduced the 28-year-old filmmaker to some of the most heinous working conditions on the planet. And throughout it all, one undeniable reality began to emerge: workers around the globe are virtually powerless because they are unrepresented.
“That’s the heart of this,” Morgan says. “The amount of intimidation these workers face in communities is astounding. It’s downright brutal — and even lethal.”
Until the 1960s, 95-percent of the clothing Americans wore were made right here at home. Today, everyday fashion is a $3 trillion industry, and virtually nothing we wear is created domestically.
“The True Coast” — now streaming on Netflix and distributed by Bullfrog Films — looks at the economic system that reaps tremendous profits for big-name brands, keeps prices low for consumers, and treats overseas people and their labor as nameless assets to be exploited and scrapped.
“Organized labor is a must,” Morgan says. “The system is not engineered to think of human life — it’s just not. And it’s never going to be.”
In 2013, more than 1,100 people died when a sweatshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh suddenly collapsed. Employees warned the bosses about alarming cracks in the building, but were ordered to keep working.
"The True Cost" graphically depitcts the grisly scenes of dead garment workers being dug out of the rubble. The terrible images recall the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire which killed 146 New Yorkers and helped usher in U.S. labor reforms in 1911.
Images — either static or moving — have traditionally inspired social change, and today’s documentarians appear to be rediscovering thier power to change the workplace.
“It’s a powerful tool,” Morgan says. “Statistics don’t go from our brains to our hearts. You just don’t think about injustice — you feel it.”
Many of the major fashion brands Morgan attempted to reach making “The True Cost” refused to talk, and some in the corporate media have been all too eager to try and dismiss the documentary as a specious left-wing polemic against the free market.
Morgan, however, says that as a product of Georgia, he didn’t exactly grow up in a pro-union family, and came to the documentary knowing little about the fashion industry. He doesn't mind the detractors.
“On the whole, [“The True Cost”] has been opening up more conversation than expected,” the filmmaker says. “Fashion students are pretty outraged about the industry they’re going to inherit.”
And although harrowing, Morgan says that the he also noticed something else about the lives of workers worldwide while filming "The True Cost."
“I do think there is a current moving around the planet, and that workers are beginning to realize that they do have rights,” he says.
Educational and community group screenings available from Bullfrog Films can be found at http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/