Living Life By a Thread

Over the years it has been clear that most of the clothes we purchase are made in countries outside of the U.S. Not only do our clothes come from outside of the country, but they are also made in sweatshops where the workers who make them are put through harsh conditions and are paid little to nothing. The following essays, video clips, and pictures will provide information on the conditions and employees of sweatshops around the world.

Sweat Shops, by: Stephanie Hardyway

How can we tell if the product we are about to purchase was made by a child, by teenage girls forced to work until midnight seven days a week, or in a sweatshop by workers paid 9¢ an hour? The sad fact is that most of the time we can’t. Companies do not want us to know, so they hide their production behind locked factory gates, barbed wire and armed guards. To shop with our conscience, it is our right to know in which countries and factories, under what human rights conditions, and at what wages the products we purchase are made.

In the U.S, garment workers typically toil 70 or 80 hours a week in front of their machines, often without minimum wage or overtime pay (Lessin). In fact, the Department of Labor estimates that more than half of the country’s 22,000 sewing shops violate minimum wage and overtime laws. Many of these workers labor in dangerous conditions including blocked fire exits, unsanitary bathrooms, and poor ventilation. Government surveys reveal that 75% of U.S. garment shops violate safety and health laws. In addition, workers commonly face verbal and physical abuse and are intimidated from speaking out, fearing job loss or deportation, since many of the workers are immigrants (Department of Labor 2).

The U.S. has always been a big participant in the use of sweat shops and with a government that advertises freedom it is hard to believe. So people lose the rights guaranteed to them for the simple fact that low wages, with poor conditions, is better than nothing at all. Everyone has their own questions of morality when it comes to the garment industry. Some might say that yes there are poor conditions, but at least these immigrant workers can get paid, and that the workers should be happy. However, not all people think this way and a lot of people might want to know which stores implement sweat shops as a way of making their clothes. It won’t be easy to find out which stores use sweat shops, but for now being educated can be enough to hopefully stop production in sweat shops, or at least make the conditions and wages better.

Work Cited:

Department of Labor. No Sweat – Help End Sweatshop Conditions for American Workers. Web. 2001.

Lessin, Tia. Behind the Labels: Garment Workers on U.S. Saipan. National Video Resources. Web. Mar. 2001.

Time to Change, by: Bahareh Bidram 

When we hear the word garment or sweatshop, we can picture of small, dangerous, and dirty factories. Most of the employees are women and children who forced to work on this unhealthy and unsafe environment. Behind the clothing label there are a lot of issues, which sometimes it is worse for women workers, which I want to share in this essay

The majority of garment workers are women. They work from morning till late night with minimum wages. These workers are to report to their duties on time otherwise they have to come under many queries or cuts in wages. There is a lot of pressure on these women which could affect their health and for some who are pregnant; there is a high risk of miscarriages which are reported a lot. Most of these women come from poor villages to town for work, therefore, increasing amounts of overtime has put the personal safety of women workers at risk especially when it requires them to travel to and from work at times that may prove unsafe for them. Many women face the risk of being attacked or have to wait until morning to return home. In a survey of 27 workers who had expressed concern over being raped and/or killed, six had already been raped.

In conclusion, there is a lot of more issue in the garment industry according to worker safety. I feel it is a time to make changes on companies’ roles and make safe and healthy place for workers.

Work cited:

Jin, Kezhi, Gary S. Sorock, and Theodore K. Courtney. “Prevalence of low back pain in three occupational groups in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.” Journal of Safety Research 35.1 (2004): 23. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 14 May 2010

Money vs Morals, by: Jhocelyn Marroquin

America is not a self-sufficient country. We have to import oil, food, and a lot of our merchandise such as clothes from overseas. The days when Americans worked in sweatshops under horrible conditions is long gone, now we rely on overpopulated and underdeveloped third world countries to do the “dirty work”. The conditions under which they work in are horrible: no air conditioning, no benefits, barely any breaks, and spending all day secluded to a little work area making clothing items. It may not sound like hard labor but it’s really not that easy, especially when your 13 years old working in a sweatshop for over 8 hours a day trying to earn enough money just to feed your family; which is the case for many of the employees in sweatshops. Since they are so poor a lot of big name brand clothing companies are taking advantage of that to get as many workers as possible to make their clothes for less, thus making the companies richer and selling to the consumers (us) at a good price.

This is rather cruel, but most of us don’t even worry about it. We ask ourselves “what can we do about the situation, someone has to make our clothes!” Internally, America has a very strange economic system. The American life has now switched focus from being a good person to making money. Today most economists are critical of the anti-sweatshop movement. But that was not always the case. At times even the leaders of the economics establishment condemned sweatshop labor or its equivalent and lent their support to social movements intended to eradicate it (Miller). The main problem that I see is economics and how the poor are treated inhumanely.

Although it would take a massive governmental altering (revolution) to solve this problem, I believe it is in the best interests of all people to face this problem now. While we are being spoon-fed ideals that emphasize individuality, they are constantly being put under restriction and censorship. In my opinion, I believe that America is more of an economy rather than government, because they threw their morals out the window just to make money. The Government seems to not care about the people as long as they are making their money.

Works Cited:

“John Miller.” Review of Radical Political Economics v41, n3 (Summer 2009): 358-64

It Still Exists, by: Marianne Steverson

When you think about the 21st century and how far we’ve come, you would think that there is no more slavery; that it ended. But in reality it is still alive and thriving; it’s happening everywhere. There are many different kinds of slavery, one of them for example being sweatshops. First of all, what is a sweatshop? It’s a shop employing workers at low wages, for long hours, and under poor conditions. The working conditions in sweatshops are terrible, very dangerous, and unbearable. “As appalling as the illegally low wages and extended hours are the injuries immigrants suffer on the job. Most sweatshops are unsafe” (Suburban Sweatshops 15). Majority of people have gotten cut, lost body parts, and even died while working on the job; including using unsanitary bathrooms, and they don’t receive breaks! Seeing how bad these circumstances are, why do they continue to work there? Do they not realize that they are being treated like slaves? Basically they have no choice; either they quit working in these dangerous situations and have no money, or risk their lives and get paid peanuts.

So how should we handle this? One way could be having our clothes made in the U.S., so it is domestic and the employees are more likely to receive better pay and working conditions and benefits; American Apparel is a good example. Another alternative could be making our own clothes, but for those who are not sewing savvy they can shop at thrift stores.

Works Cited:

Gordon, Jennifer. Suburban Sweatshops. The Belknap Press of HUP, 2005.


10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ruth Zuniga on June 1, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    After reading the post titled Money vs. Morals, as a person living in the U.S. it opens up my eyes to how my mentality has to change. I can not keep thinking like most people in America, “someone has to make our clothes,” the people working in sweetshops are suffering and I believe that this post was able to show what truly is happening in third-world countries and how each individual has the power of changing it.


  2. This blog really opened up my eyes. After learning more about the tragic labor demands in sweat shops, I have realized that I need to be more aware of what I buy when I go shopping…

    -Erica M. Choi


  3. I really liked how this group had so many great arguments against having sweatshops. But I would have liked to see some opposing arguments as well. I think it would have strenghthened your arguments more.

    -Youna Chang


  4. We all must take notice of this current crisis. There is more than just safety issues indeed. I respect the fact that one person saw how women face the injustice at the work-place. I strongly assume that this is more than frequent because of how the gender roles vary according to different cultures. Still I am in agreement to remonstrate the existence of these sweatshops. I am guilty of making purchases from companies who endorse sweat shops. I think the solution is clear. It all starts with awareness and implementation of education to help the buyer to make a more contributing purchase. If you ask me I’d say that we should do like my grandma’s days and make our own clothing. Just a thought
    thanks for sharing your discoveries on the Garment industry ladies and gents

    -Wesley F Akeli


  5. This group’s message was very strong and straight. They provided many facts and examples to tell us the reality of sweatshops. Everybody knows about the sweat shops but try to avoid that they know about it and continue to buy products from sweatshops but this group made me think of the real scene of the factories and how i should act as a consumer. -Soo Jung Rim


  6. Posted by Brandon Pardosi on June 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Yeah this really opened my eyes, I have so many clothes and shoes and never thought about where they were made and what conditions those workers were under. I’ll try to buy my clothes consciously now and do what I can to help the cause.


  7. living by a Thread was the title that attracted my attention the most, because the title`s meaning is explained pretty well in each essay. these essays had great facts, and I agrree Marianne the most, because we may just think that these people are suffering and that is all, but in reality these people working in the sweet shops are truly living as slaves in 21st century world. Thank you for sharing this important idea with us.
    Dalea Kandela


  8. In response to Marianne’s blog: I agree that sweatshops are bad, something has to be done. But with the idea that you suggested, wouldn’t that be just as bad for the workers? Say if all clothing products are produced in the U.S., then wouldn’t it leave the worker jobless, making it even harder for the worker to obtain money? Although I may be wrong about the affect of your idea, but I think it would be better to just improve the working conditions of the sweatshops. The reason for this is because sweatshops are going to inevitable with the selfish attitudes of Americans wanting things to be cheap.

    – Oscar Martinez


  9. i dont think that completely gettind rid of sweatshops is the answer to the problem. sweatshops do help out these poor people a lot but the conditions in which they work are horrible. and i agree with Oscar in that aspect. they need to improve the working conditions for the employees and pay them more than what they are earning. they deserve way more then what their now getting. its not fair! companies are taking advantage and thats what i think is wrong.

    -Jhocelyn Marroquin


  10. After reading this post i think i have opened my eyes a bit more . Yeah i knew that the clothes that we most likely purchased came from a sweatshop , but the labor is to little, and these children need to live their childhood not as a memory working in a shop producing clothes etc.. But i also think that everyone has their own situations why they are there working. It may be the only thing parents can do to support a family, and in those types of conditions



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