Who Makes the Clothes We Wear? We love shopping and buy products in branch name. Normally when we go to shop, we never stop to think where all of those products come from. They come from sweatshop. Sweatshops have existed for over one hundred years; and it still exists today for many reasons. Moreover, some people do not realize that the basketballs children are playing with were made by children and poor workers’ hands. Have we ever known that there are children around the world are working as full-time employment under a minimum legal age?
These children are treated like slaves and are paid little or nothing at all. Child labor is recognized as a terrible situation, a social problem. Beside, sweatshop also abuse violates human right and working laws. Workers work long hours at low wages under poor working conditions. That is why adults around the world need to unite and stop child labor. We have to fight against those who support it, do not buy products from a company that is forcing children to work. These children need help. They should be playing games or going to school. They have rights just like everyone here; they should be free.
There is no legal definition for sweatshop; but in a common definition, a sweatshop is a workplace where workers are subject to extreme exploitation, arbitrary discipline such as verbal and physical abuse, including the low living wage and benefits. In sweatshops, workers work long hours at low wages under poor working conditions. The word “sweatshop” itself was originally used in the 19th century to describe a subcontracting system in which the middlemen earned their profits from the margin between the amount they received for a contract and the amount they paid workers with whom they subcontracted.
The margin was said to be “sweated” from the workers because they received minimal wages for excessive hours worked under unsanitary conditions (Sweatshop Watch). The word “sweatshop” conjures up the images of cramped, dangerous, and filthy New York factories. Immigrant women and children worked long hours in these factories for no benefits and little pay. To make ends meet after fifteen hours workdays, many workers brought more work home in the evenings in order to get work done (Harsh Conditions Create Public Support for Reform).
Some sweatshops are owned by the brand name multinational corporations such as Nike, Reebok, Gap, but most are locally owned or owned by middle corporations in slow developing countries like Bangladesh, Honduras, Indonesia, Guatemala, China, Pakistan. Large corporations are taking advantage of workers and making them work in harsh conditions. Many companies and schools in the United States buy products from factories that have workers working in horrible conditions. Workers at those factories work in overheated and a noisy environment. The temperature gets high in 130 degrees.
Many workers become sick and are not able to go home. The factories are not kept clean, safe for any worker. Dangerous chemical, fume, poor lighting, and high temperature cause sick, heat stress, burns, and injuries to worker. The health care requirements for labor conditions have not been met. Many workers do not get to see a doctor when they are ill. They do not receive regular vaccinations that help their body prevent sick such as smallpox, cough, tetanus, polio, and diphtheria. Sweatshops bring a vision of dangerous, filthy, and cramped conditions.
In sweatshops, workers work from 5:00 am in the morning until 8:00 pm, with only half hour lunch break, seven days a week (The CQ Researcher Online). Many sweatshops do not pay their workers the right amount. The workers do not get paid minimum wage and extra pay for long fifteen hour working days. In Bangladesh and Myanmar, the workers get paid ten to eighteen cents per hour; in China, Pakistan, Viet Nam, India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, the workers get paid twenty to sixty cents per hour (Sweatshop Watch Report).
For example, Nike charges the consumer eighty dollars for a pair of shoes; however, the person who makes the shoes only earns up to sixty cents for the hour that she makes the shoes. In a factory in Dominican Republic, workers earn eight cents for every twenty dollar baseball cap that they make. In a factory in Guatemala, hundreds of young women earn pennies by making Van Heusen men’s dress shirts. In order to get better wages and working conditions, they fought for ten years to win a union. After they won, the Van Heusen shirt company closed their factory and moved the work to lower wage sweatshops nearby.
Walt Disney has workers in Haiti who work for twenty eight cents per hour. With 2. 35 billion dollars that Walt Disney makes in the year 2004, some of their money should be used to improve the working conditions and pay the worker more. Since Walt Disney Corporation makes huge profits over the merchandises that are produced by hard workers to get paid in cent per hour, sweatshop factories should treat their workers fairly and responsibility. A worker in one of Walt Disney factories in Haiti said “they treat us badly, like we are dumb, with no respect. Why does this sweatshop worker only get paid couple cents to be treated unfairly? Sweatshop abuse violates human rights and working laws. In a factory in Dominican Republic, hundreds of workers have been fired for going to school at night and trying to organize a union. In Indonesia, workers in Nike contractor factories report working abuses to human rights organization. Most worker’s common complaints are wage deductions, having their ears pulled, being pinched or slapped, being forced to run around the factory, and having to stand for hours in factory yards. As punishment on the job, workers were made to clean the rest rooms.
We can find violations of minimum wage, overtime laws as well as physical mistreatment of workers in a Viet Nam Nike Company. A South Korean factory floor manager working for a Nike subcontractor Sam Yang Co. was convicted of beating Vietnamese employees with a shoe. Hundreds of Vietnamese workers walked off the job at the Sam Yang factory to protest poor working conditions and low wages. Abuses become horrible things, nightmares in most factories around the world where sweatshops exist. Sweatshop abuses are human rights violations. Today, sweatshops in the United States garment industry are a tremendous problem.
The Department of Labor estimates that of the twenty-two thousand clothing contractors in the United States, approximately half do not even pay the prevailing minimum wage. Many use illegal immigrants to work; some even use child labor. A 1996 survey of just California garment firms found that ninety nine percent were in violation of wage, health, or safety regulations. Lina, a former employee of Seo Fashions in New York City, said of the conditions there, “everything is dirty, the trash is not picked up, and the bathrooms are not fit for pigs to use”(Sweatshop Watch).
In a Manhattan sewing shop, young immigrants work up to seven days a week, from early in the morning until late at night. The owner punches their time cards after eight hours, but he still keeps workers working without paying overtime. On August 2, 1995, the Department of Labor raided a factory in El Monte, California. There they found seventy-two garment workers, mostly Thai and Mexican immigrants, being forced to work seventeen hours a day at wages between 0. 6 dollar and 1. 6 dollars an hour. They were literally held captive at the factory by barbwire and armed guards.
Employees were threatened with rape and violence if they attempted escape. However in many sweatshops, the workers work voluntarily. Within the United States, notes Secretary Reich, “sweatshops are a magnet for illegal immigrants because unscrupulous employers know that they are willing to take a risk and not complain about work conditions” (The CQ Researcher Online). Even the meager wages that the undocumented immigrant workers earn are more than the wages they would earn in their home countries. As long as there is a supply of willing workers, sweatshops will flourish.
Child labor has been an issue since the Industrial Revolution began in England in the late 18th century. The brilliant increases in productivity permitted by newfangled machinery came at a ghastly social price. Increasingly monotonous tasks, such as manipulating a shuttle back and forth through a textile loom, seemed “designed with the express purpose of laying the world’s work upon the child’s shoulders”, as one historian wrote ( Milton Meltzer 26). In the early economy of the United States, child labor was considered acceptable by such notables as Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.
He believed that “children are rendered more useful by manufacturing establishments than they otherwise would be” (The CQ Researcher Online). Nowadays besides sweatshop, child labor is recognized as a terrible thing, a social problem. “Forced labor is illegal in most parts of the world, and yet it is on the increase in Asia, Africa and Latin America because children are profitable and easily exploitable,” says Rep. James P. Moran (The CQ Researcher Online). As consumers, we want to buy products without asking whose hands made them. All around the world children are working for little or no pay.
These children are treated like slaves and often times held captive by employers. These children work in many places to manufacturing many things. India’s children are known for making rugs and carpets. Indonesian children are being employed by such big name companies as “Nike” and “Reebok”. They are making clothing and shoes for both companies. In Brazil, children are farming sugar cane, and children are making bricks in Cambodia. Many of these factories hire children who are ineligible to work in those places. About two hundred and fifty million children between the ages five and fourteen work in sweatshops.
Half of these children are working full time and one third of them are working in extremely dangerous conditions. The employers do not care the dangers that happen to child labor. Child labor is the abuse and misuse of young children at work. Child labor is exploiting children by giving those low wages or no wage at all, allowing them to work excessive hours, and in unsafe, unhealthy work environment. These children should be in school rather than in these workplaces. By working in these sweatshops, many children do not have a chance to get an education which helps them to get a better life when grow up.
School should be the priority in children’s life. Children should be out of factories, go to school, and play like a normal child. How can the sweatshop and child labor problems be solved? The most obvious solution to the problem is government regulation. The Department of Labor monitors the garment industry, but with eight hundred inspectors for twenty two thousand garment contractors, in addition to six million American workplaces, it is not easy task. The Department of Labor is forced to rely mainly on raising public awareness through the No Sweat Campaign. Part of this campaign is the Fashion Trendsetter list.
The list contains companies that have pledged to fight against the use of sweatshops by ensuring that their shelves are stocked with only “No Sweat” clothing. Another major solution is through the retailers. Retailers have many options to help eliminate the sweatshop problem. They can hire independent companies to monitor their vendors. Many companies employ monitors of their own to regularly check on the contractors and subcontractors. Education is an important solution. Consumer should be guided to distinguish products are made by sweatshop and no sweatshop.
We help consumers to understand that they fight against sweatshop in order to stop child labor. The final major solution is all up to us. As consumers, we should take into consideration to what is purchased, and what is not. By vowing to buy clothing that is produced only in decent working conditions, we eliminate the problem. Students play a large role in the anti-sweatshop movement. Students should get involved with the school board and negotiate with administrators to make sure their college products such as uniforms, sporting equipments, and other goods are not manufactured in sweatshops.
Many colleges and universities in the United States get products from factories that have workers working in sweatshops. A lot of college and universities buy sweatshirts, baseball caps, T-shirts, and jackets with their logo on it, from these kinds of factories. Students should be educated to realize products that are made from sweatshop and shop with responsibility. The search for cheap products of consumer and the purpose for greater profit of corporations are why sweatshop and child labor exist in countries around the world, even in the US.
Consumers want to buy products that are manufactured in decent factories offering a living wage to employees, but they also want inexpensive products. It is difficult for corporations to provide everything a consumer wants. Moreover, improving conditions in factories threatens profits of corporations, and it often wastes time in management. Large corporations want to produce goods at the lowest possible price is the main reason for the existence of sweatshops. Sweatshop and child labor still exist today for many other reasons.
Some countries are forced to resort to sweatshop and child labor as a necessity to increase their economy such as Mexico, Pakistan, Haiti, China, and some countries in south of America. In addition, governments and international trade agencies, like the World Trade Organization, create trade laws, policies that require developing countries to support their economies. To accomplish this requirement, these countries must create export industries, and as a result they ignore the problem of social injustice, human right violation.
Third world countries need the foreign money, and therefore sweatshop and child labor continue to exist. In the United States, people believe that sweatshop and child labor do not give any effect to them as long as they are able to buy inexpensive products. This topic about sweatshop and child labor would bring attention to American consumers who go to shop to know how to avoid buying products made with sweatshop or child labor. Sweatshop and child labor are not only the wide world problem but they are also the problem faced by the United States. Many large corporations are looking for labor that will enable them o achieve the greatest profit, and they are taking away the basic benefits of their workers. The problems with sweatshop and child labor are public, government unawareness, the power of big corporations, and consumer responsibility. But the major problem is consumer responsibility in shopping. By purchasing products that are free of sweatshop and child labor, consumer can help end unfair labor, human right violation, and social injustice; consumer can help encourage large corporations to ensure that all workers are paid fairly and treated with respect.
No one wants to make purchases from companies that are forcing children to work, exploit workers. When one fights against sweatshops, one also stops child labor at the same time. The use of children as laborers in sweatshops is now considered by wealthy countries as a human right violation, and is outlawed. While poor countries may allow it, and sometime it is the only source of income. Children play roles as family labor forces. In Asian countries, many families are living under poverty life; they have no choices on how to earn money.
So they turn to whatever are available for working, in this case are sweatshop and child labor. Large corporations take advantage of this working class and the poor people, because they know that this people need food for their daily meals. Sweatshop and child labor have existed in my homeland, Viet Nam, but I did not realize them. Recently, I have learned about sweatshop and child labor through my research paper. Work Cited Clark, Charles S. “Child Labor and Sweatshops. ” The CQ Researcher Online 16. 08 (1996). The CQ Researcher Online. Oxnard College Library, Oxnard, CA. 0 April 2005 . Hapke, Laura. Sweatshop: The History of an American Idea. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Hearts and Minds Network, Inc. “Historical Background. ” Harsh Conditions Create Public Support for Reform 1997. Hearts and Minds. 18 April. 2005 . Meltzer, Milton. Cheap Raw Material: How Our Youngest Workers Are Exploited and Abused. N New York: Viking, 1994. Ross, Adrew. No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade and the Rights of Garment Workers. New York: Verso, 1997. Robert, Justine Burns, and James Heintz. Global Apparel Production and Sweatshop Labor: Can Raising Retail Prices Finance Living wages? ” Cambridge Journal of Economics. March. 2004: Vol. 28, Iss. 2-153. ProQuest. Oxnard College Library, Oxnard , CA. 8 Apr. 2005. . U. S. Department of Labor. “What is a sweatshop, and where are sweatshops found? ” U. S. Department of Labor 2000 Southern California Garment Compliance Survey Fact Sheet August. 2000. Sweatshop Watch. 18 April. 2005 . RESEARCH PAPER [pic] SWEATSHOP and CHILD LABOR [pic] Written by: Dung Tran