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Sweatshops in America

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Submitted By nikkiaj7
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Sweatshops in America Having a globalized economy provides easy access to just about anything we want or need; however we almost never know where these items come from or how they were produced. You don’t need to go to a third world nation to find a sweatshop as they are very prevalent in California and New York. Sweatshops exist because large retailers don’t produce their own clothing. They hire manufactures to coordinate production, and the manufactures typically enter into contracts that require quick turnaround. Sweatshops in America produce a big portion of the shirts, dresses, blouses, and skirts on the shelves of big American retailers. Retailers often claim they are unaware of the conditions in which their clothes are produced. The retailer reaps the benefits of this labor; without, taking responsibility of the cheap production.
Sweatshops are back in America because in recent decades, many garment manufacturers have moved overseas and unions have become less powerful. Devastating budget cuts severely limited the U.S. Department of Labor policing of garment factories. There are now only 800 wage, and hour inspectors employed by the Department of Labor. They inspect six million work sites of all kinds in the USA making it easy to avoid inspection. It is estimated that 4,500 of New York’s 7,000 garment factories are sweatshops. These sweatshops are often mobile operations, making them even more difficult to regulate. The only equipment that is really needed is a few sewing machines making it easy to move. A typical sweatshop worker endures long hours including some overnights if an order needs to be completed. Workers are pressured to work very fast, encouraged not to drink water as bathroom breaks are limited. The cloth used has many chemicals and dust particles that cause many symptoms such as irritated eyes, noses and throats, and long term respiratory ailments. They endure injuries caused by repetitive motion due to endless hours of tedious work. It is common to find unsanitary conditions including bathrooms with no toilet paper, no running water, or soap. There is often no drinking water, or sanitary place to eat lunch due to rats, cockroaches, and insects.
The majority of garment workers in California are immigrants; some have residency, but most do not. The majority of workers are women; about 75 percent are Latino, and large portions are Asian. Many people enter into this industry because they do not have language ability, authorization, or skills to get into another industry. Many immigrants do not know their rights, and if they do they are unaware of how to stand up for them. The threat of deployment contributes to the tolerance of these conditions.
It seems that labor law violations are rampant in Southern California particularly in El Monte where there is a booming garment manufacturing industry. During a raid in 2008, 72 Thai women who immigrated to America illegally were found being held in slave like conditions in a factory for as long as 7 years. They were found barricaded in a small room by razor wire. They were threatened with abuse and rape if they stopped working, and they were paid $.69 per hour. The illegal workers that were caught during the raid were owed back wages totaling more than $200,000.
William Slattery, the commissioner for the raid operation believes the Asian’s are here because of Asian organized crime groups. Asian based crime groups are recruiting Asian workers with promises of high wages, and a better life. They are then transported illegally to California sweatshops. The raids were conducted by the state authorities after Federal immigration officials investigated, but law enforcement refused to act. They refused to act because the raids carry troubling economic implications. There was concern about the kinds of jobs being created and how it may be distorting the economy in Southern California, because during that time the garment industry was applauded for adding jobs so fast. The legal system is also afraid the raid will only push these shops farther underground making them harder to find.
Sweatshop made clothing is not a secret, but it’s hard to know where to shop for clothes you are confident were not made in a sweatshop. Made in America might be what the label says, but that can mean it was made in produced in U.S territories that are exempt from U.S labor laws, or that the finishing touches were applied in the U.S; however the rest of the garment was probably made overseas. Some ways to know your clothing was made in America is to look for union made labels such as Union House and UNITE. Resources are available to help ensure your clothing was not made in a sweatshop such as sweatfree.org.
Union Made sells clothing and products made in USA by U.S. Manufacturers. Their products include union and or American made apparel from Round House, Camber, Okabashi, New Balance, Union Line, Kamik Winter Boots, Northstar Gloves, King Louie, Union House men's briefs and boxers. They also sell Made in USA Cookware and Toys. They are organized by Local 880 IUPAT. UNITED HERE boasts a diverse membership, comprising workers from many immigrant communities as well as high percentages of African American, Latino, and Asian American workers. The majority of UNITED HERE members are women. UNITE HERE members have made apparel jobs in the South and hundreds of thousands of other traditional low wage jobs into good family sustaining middle class jobs.
Sweatshops should not be the system of production in a place we consider modern. From the clothing we wear to the toys our children play with, store shelves are stocked with goods made in sweatshops. The most environmentally responsible and surefire way to shop sweatshop free is to buy already used goods. This would reduce the pressure on resources and production.…...

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