Archive for the ‘Garment Industry’ Category

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.

Behind the Label

Sweatshops have been a major controversial issue around the world. The question of whether or not these sweatshops are morally right is commonly in the spotlight. This group of essays is an attempt to explore the different perspectives of sweatshops.

Blood, Tears, and Sweat

By: Youna Chang

Sweatshops are defined as factories in which workers do their jobs for low pay and do so in harmful conditions. These sweatshops have existed for over one hundred years, but complaints of sweatshop labor began in the 1960’s during the Civil War when the wives of the soldiers were employed to make uniforms. But the problems of low wages and harmful conditions greatly increased during the twentieth century industrialization period, and the numbers of sweatshops in Latin America and Asia were off the charts. However, with the rise in sweatshop labor, public awareness grew as well.

Many of the factories that manufacturing companies purchased are located in other countries in an attempt to save money. These money saving tactics cause problems later in the worker’s life because of the poor conditions that they are constantly in can lead to death. This kind of practice was first introduced in North America during the industrial revolution as a basis of cheap labor. While big corporations gain huge profits, citizens continue to suffer working for a stingy five to ten dollars a week for an eighty to a hundred hour week. Sweatshops continue to hinder the progress of workers’ lives because of the economical and political challenges it presents to the nation in which it is located in. But one of the problems is that even if they get caught, these corporations never face bankruptcy. Fines have such little impact on companies that profit from billions of dollars every year. As citizens, we have the authority to sway this ever so increasing form of slavery.

Sweatshops still exist all over the world today for numerous reasons. Corporate greed is clearly a major culprit. Very often, some countries are actually forced to choose sweatshop labor as it is a necessity to increase their economy. Governments and international trade agencies, the World Trade Organization for example, are responsible for the creation of trade laws and lending policies that require developing countries to support first world nations’ economies. In order to accomplish this, these countries have no choice but to create export industries, and as a result, come to ignore the problem of social injustices.

Works Cited

(1) DoSomething.org. Background On Sweatshops. DoSomething.org. <http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/background-sweatshops>

(2) Scholastic. History of Child Labor. Scholastic. 1996-2010 <http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=5428>

(3) USAS. About Us. USAS. 1997 < http://usas.org/about-us/&gt;

Garment Industry: A Human Rights Violations

by: Sun Hee Han

Sweatshops are a hot topic in today’s modern, global economy. The word sweatshop, which is derived from a middleman or “sweater”, is defined as a working environment with unhealthy conditions and low wages. Because of the rise globalization in the 1980’s, multinational companies have a been using sweatshops to save money. But sweatshops can even be found in the U.S., where firms employ illegal immigrants. Some of the best-known U.S. brands in the world have used sweatshop labor.

Popular brands like Nike, Gap Polo and Levi’s use third world manufacturing in an attempt to keep up with the rest of the retail world in order to maximize profit. The manufacturing sources of these famous brands have terrible working conditions. According to an anonymous survey, workers must work while standing for 12 hour work shift without bathroom breaks. They breath in poisonous chemicals all day long causing  workers to develop skin conditions and lung problems because they have been exposed to harmful materials, hazardous situations, extreme temperatures, and also from being abused by their employers.

In conclusion, to get rid of sweatshops, consumers should know they have the right to refuse purchasing clothes that are produced in sweatshops. We can also ask for laws to be made that restrict the option and use of sweatshops. Abusing people on the other side of the world for the benefit of global companies cannot be justified. This is why we should be against sweatshops and try to prevent these terrible working environments and conditions in order to protect human rights.

The Price of Cheap Products

By: Mark Lin

Workers in Asia do not have amenities the way American workers are guaranteed. Conditions are worst to the point where there is no air conditioning service in the factory; they are limited to using the bathroom facilities; workers inside the factories don’t have privacy due to being under surveillance. Workers in the factory hardly get treated like human beings. They are seen as machines that are being bought with money to do work beyond what machines are able to do in reality. Workers are required to work 75 hours a week and they get paid about 45 cents an hour. Besides worse working conditions, low wages for workers, and sexual discrimination, the environment in these areas, where factories are located are usually quite bad. There is water pollution, air pollution, heavy metal pollution, dust pollution and soil pollution. No one is willing to take responsibility for causing the pollution.
Lots of famous companies like the western brands, including Levi’s Adidas and Nike makes a lot of money every single year because they get cheap labor. Richard Duncan, chief economist at Blackhorse Asset Management in Singapore, said, “If you sell a pair of tennis shoes for 101 dollars instead of 100 dollars, no consumer in Chicago will notice the difference, but it will totally transform villages in Vietnam.” It sounds pretty scary, but this will only help one village. What about the rest of the workers in other countries? We have to raise every single good that is made from those factories, including shirt, shoes, lamp, keyboard, slippers, umbrella, gloves, skirt, toothbrush etc, one percent higher than it used to be. Consumers will definitely notice and find out once they get to know the logic behind it.

Many of my relatives used to work in the factories, that manufacture NIKE shoes and clothes. They got paid very low and had to adapt to bad working condition. But they never complained, because the shoes labeled, “Made in Taiwan”, are sold around the world and are worn by Michael Jordan in his every single game. People in Asian countries don’t feel the need for Americans or other manufacturers to sympathize with them. Perhaps they never feel like they were treated unfairly. For all they know they were very proud of being one of the NIKE shoes workers.

Clothes Cover Up

By: Rudy German

In the society we live in everything is about appearance. It is not possible to walk down the street anymore and not be judged by others, due to the clothes on your back. Society is focus so much on clothing, 97% of the clothes in the closet are not made in the US. China, abuses a lot of its citizens by taking no action against the companies that use sweat shops in china.

Many of the workers are female in China. The conditions in China are even worst; they beat up the workers literally, for talking to the person next to them. They’re not allowed to take the necessary time to use the bathroom when it is not their break. Or else they will get fined a dollar. In a world of labor were getting paid 10 to 15 cents an hour, a dollar is more than a day’s work. Most of the time the workers work 15 hours day with only an hour, every day for seven days, in order to survive. If one of the workers happen to get pregnant during the job, the employers will ask, if not force her to get an abortion. What is there to do in this situation? Should the woman keep her baby, but lose her job, without a job, how would she support the baby, without any income coming in?

Many corporations, have been exposed to this kind of bad publicity, have suffer millions of dollars of loses. All the companies say is whatever the public wants to hear, that will put the public to rest.  When the companies say they are going to “improve working conditions,” “pay minimum wage,” give the workers some type of “medical benefit.” The companies do the talk but rarely do the walk. Companies that have their manufacturing in china should actually fix the situation instead of hiding the truth to the world.

Are Sweatshops Solely Evil?

By: Karen Ong

The idea of sweatshops brings about negative imagery. People immediately assume that this is an immoral concept that not only undermines the basic concept of human rights and blatantly abuses the capacity of human beings, shutting the sweatshops down isn’t the solution to this problem.

Sweatshop owners are notorious for treating their workers unfairly since they know that the workers are desperate for their jobs. Corporations and even company management teams are abusing certain rights of the workers to obtain more profit. These worker’s wages are below a dollar and are working several more hours in comparison to hours worked elsewhere. More notably, working overtime all the time is detrimental to the worker’s health. Working vigorously for hours on end not only puts a strain on a worker’s body but also causes mental strain from ceaseless working.

However, shutting down the sweatshops to “save” the people working in them is not and should not be the solution for helping these workers. People blindly think that solely what is morally right and react without further thought of implications. Shutting down the sweatshops so hastily will cause even more unemployment for the country’s inhabitants. With no jobs how would people manage to get the income they need to survive? Eventually, this will just lead to more poverty which makes the situation worst. Poverty, of course, will lead to the desperation of people to try and live at whatever cost, which eventually forces people to commit crime and violence. In essence, the people who are trying to help the workers by shutting down the sweatshops are harming the workers more by doing so.

Sweatshops, on the surface, have immediate moral problems and human beings are being subjected to harsh working conditions to make sub-par wages. Regardless of this perspective, the working conditions are the issues that need to be corrected, not the solution of shutting sweatshops down.

The Garment Industry, by: Andrew Cortez

In today’s world, fashion is all about brand and the profit manufacturers can make rather than quality. And with lower prices comes cheaper manufacturing. With cheaper manufacturing comes outsourcing. With outsourcing comes loss of Human Rights and breaking child labor laws. All of these things create sweatshops, and as Sonic the Hedgehog used to say, “That’s noooooo goooooood!”

So why do “good” people like Wal-Mart and Forever 21 do such a horrible thing? The answer is simple. They are a capitalist corporation, and like a lot of capitalist corporations, they care about one thing and one thing only: money in their pockets. Sadly because of this lust for greenbacks, ethics are thrown out the window. But the worst part is that even though they have been found out, people still shop at Wal-Mart and Forever 21. In fact, Wal-Mart is one of the few department stores that didn’t weaken or fall apart during the recession. I still shop a bit at Wal-Mart if I’m in the Loma Linda/Redlands area. Why? Because we blind ourselves to the ugly truth behind corporations of this country. I know I do it. And I know that many Americans do it as well. When we see a nice pair of sneakers in a department store, that’s all we see. We refuse to realize that those shoes were most likely made by some little Chinese boy or girl in a sweatshop making little to no money. And yet the price tag says anywhere from $19.99 to $29.99. Now that’s a deal for us as the consumer and for the manufacturer. The question is, if we get the deal and the company gets the deal, why doesn’t the creator get paid? I mean, are they worth less than us? No! They make a lot of our clothing among other things; therefore, they should get a cut. An actual cut; not whatever minuscule pennies, yen, or pesos they’re making now.

In America, capitalism is the form of economics we have. People obtain jobs, thus making an income to survive with. The harder you work, the more you make. If that be the case, sweatshop workers should be some of the richest people. Though in the countries where these sweatshops are located, the people in power don’t understand this concept, and we see this as a business opportunity to take advantage of. America, who imperially barges into other countries to cram democracy down the throats of the people, does nothing but indulge immensely in it.

In the 1998 film Basketball, the main characters decide to make a clothing line for fans of the sports team they play on as well as own. Like most sports apparel, it is made out-of-country. It’s brought to the attention of the two owners/players that their clothing line is being made through child labor in Calcutta. Almost immediately, one of the characters is on a plane to Calcutta to fix the problem. A news report gives the story of how he has changed the manufacturing of their clothing line from child labor in a sweatshop to an all-adult, normal business setting where the workers make the clothes and receive adequate pay and healthcare benefits. Though the film is a satire of the corruption in sports business, it shows exactly what should be done: you have children/lower class people working in sweatshops, so change it! It’s not that hard. Sure there will be a few precious dollars being lost, but at least you’ll be able to sleep at night.

In conclusion, the problem is solvable, it’s just the corporations need to actually want to. That’s the biggest battle. We need to put sweatshops out of business. If we can force democracy on people who don’t know or care about it, we can do something constructive as well.

Sweat Shops, by: Stephanie Hardyway

How can we tell if the product you are about to purchase was made by a child, by teenaged 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. Many multinationals refuse to release to the American people even the list and addresses of the factories they use around the world to make the goods we purchase. The corporations say we have no right to this information. Even the President of the United States could not find out where these companies manufacture their goods (Zwolinski 6). 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.

The terms “sweatshop” and “sweating” were first used in the 19th century to describe a subcontracting system where the middlemen earned their profit from the margin between the amount they received from a contract and the amount they paid workers. This margin was “sweated” from the workers because they received minimal wages for excessive hours worked under unsanitary conditions (Mason 33). This concept of sweating came alive again in today’s garment industry which is best described as a pyramid where big-name retailers and brand-name manufacturers contract with sewing shops, who in turn hire garment workers to make the finished product. Retailers and manufacturers at the top of the pyramid dictate how much workers earn in wages by controlling the contract price given to the contractor. With these prices declining each year by as much as 25%, contractors are forced to “sweat” a profit from garment workers by working those long hours at low wages (Mason 34).

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).

For many, the word sweatshop conjures up images of dirty, cramped, turn of the century New York tenements where immigrant women worked as seamstresses. High-rise tenement sweatshops still do exist, but today even large brightly lit factories can be the sites of rampant labor abuses. Sweatshop workers report horrible working conditions including sub-minimum wages, no benefits, non-payment of wages, forced overtime, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, corporal punishment, and illegal firings. Children can often be found working in sweatshops instead of going to school. Sweatshop operators are notorious for avoiding giving maternity leave by firing pregnant women and forcing women workers to take birth control or to abort their pregnancies (Taylor 52). Sweatshop operators can best control a pool of workers that are ignorant of their rights as workers. Therefore, bosses often refuse to hire unionized workers and intimidate or fire any worker suspected of speaking with union representatives.

In the garment industry, the typical sweatshop worker is a woman (90% of all sweatshop workers are women). She is young and often missing the chance for an education because she must work long hours to support a family. In America, she is often a recent or undocumented immigrant. She is almost always non-union and usually unaware that, even if she is in this country illegally, she still has rights as a worker (Taylor 66). In December of 1998, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrated its 50th Anniversary, and the governments of the world have pledged to honor the basic rights we are all born with. Unfortunately, for too many people these promises have no meaning, and so that is why so many of these women are subject to work under these circumstances. Not only the women, but hundreds of millions of other people are robbed of their basic human rights simply because of racial or economic status.

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 there clothes. It is 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. http://www.dol.gov/dol/esa/public/nosweat/nosweat.htm, 2001.

Feminists against Sweatshops. Frequently Asked Questions About Sweatshops and Women Workers http://www.feminist.org/other/sweatfaq.html, 2000.

Mason, Ryan H. Sweatshops in the Twentieth Century. Dame Publications, San Francisco, 1992.

Taylor, Johnathan P. A Global Look at Sweatshops. Burns and Rogers, New York,

1997.

Chaney, Bart. Sweat Shop. New Orleans Review. Louisiana, June 2008.