News reports have described the use of forced child labour for cotton harvesting in Uzbekistan, which is then used in t-shirts and so on, including those sold by some major shops in England like Asda/Wal-Mart, as I mentioned on the debian-project email list last autumn. When you buy badly-produced T-shirts to support free software projects, you may be helping provide freedom for more software users in your country, but you may also be helping to enslave vulnerable workers in other countries.
If you buy Debian T-shirts from the UK, you’re probably OK. This is something that the Debian UK Society seems to do right. Their buyer (and current Debian Project Leader) Steve McIntyre wrote:
“[Fruit of the Loom premium Ts, Kustom Kit Augusta/405 polo shirts …] both FotL and KK have ethics statements that describe their standards. The KK one is linked off the front page of their website; the FotL details I have in .doc format that I’ll pass on if people would like to see them.” (original)
I also asked my local perl mongers group to do similar but there’s been no response to that yet (or any t-shirts AFAIK). I’ve been told that all of the FSF Europe gear is Fair Trade but it doesn’t say that on their web shop.
How about other free software projects? Have you asked about your T-shirts? Is there a central site for this sort of information?