Fashion Crimes- Sweatshops

The term ¨sweatshop¨ was coined during the Industrial Revolution referring to a subcontracting system in which the middlemen gained profits from the margin between the amount they earned for a contract and the amount they paid to the employees. The profit was said to be "sweated" from the workers because they received minimal salaries for excessive hours worked under poor and sometimes dangerous conditions. What working circumstances makes a job considered as a ¨sweatshop¨? In sweatshops, workers are exploited by being forced to work overtime, receiving low wages, toiling long hours in unsanitary conditions where they are exposed to health and safety hazards, violations of labor laws, and sometimes sexual harassment. Sweatshops can go beyond factories and workshops, worldwide agricultural workers are subject to the same laboring environments.

According to this article, ¨Typical sweatshop employees, ninety percent of whom are women, are young and uneducated. Many of them are recent or undocumented immigrants who are unaware of their legal rights.¨ I am interested in this topic because I am an immigrant myself with parents who work in factories and family members back in Cambodia who drop out of school at an early age to find employment to help earn some money for their families. I want to learn as well as share about the information regarding sweatshops because it affects my family in America and in Cambodia since this unwarranted industry is a global issue.

This issue is significant because sweatshops violate human rights throughout the world. I was appalled to learn that in some Indonesian sweatshops, it was mandatory for women to pull down their pants and reveal to factory doctors that they were menstruating in order to claim their legal right to menstrual-leave (Morey, 2000).  In a Samoan apparel plant, the factory owner habitually came into the womens' barracks to see them shower and change (Greenhouse, 2001). A 20/20 investigation in Saipan sweatshops discovered that pregnant employees were required to have abortions in order to keep their jobs (20/20 special investigation, 2000). Many U.S.A. corporations that run on sweatshops are getting away with the way they treat their workers. Reports of broken fingers and the experience of teens who worked in sweatshops in Guangzhou, China were filed proving to be one of the countless Chinese factories that supply Western companies like Walmart, Dell, and Disney.


Dhaka, Bangladesh – March 2010.

Garment factory in Dhaka Bangladesh in the Mohakhali area.

Dhaka counts more than 4000 factories producing for export only.

Credits: Clean Clothes Campaign

It is important for others to be aware of this problem because many people, like me were uninformed about where our clothing came from and how it was made. Some people might decide to stop buying products from stores that run on sweatshops or contribute to organizations that fights for labor rights. A particular case-study used Nike as an example to examine further into the issue of sweatshops. Nike sells millions of products yearly, but they do not produce any of their garments. Instead, the company contracts with manufacturing facilities located throughout the world. Around 800,000 people work in these factories,which are mainly located in Asia. They have been criticized for the working conditions and low wages at these factories, with many critics accusing the company of profiting from sweatshop labor.

584115397.jpgNike has gathered much pres about using sweatshops since the 1970s.

Below is a video that explores the world and issues of sweatshops that uses Nike as a casestudy.

At this point of my research, I am questioning how it can be so difficult to find evidence of wage violations or child labor if there are so many sweatshops that exist. Also, I was wondering exactly what corporations have done to improve laboring conditions.

Find out more about sweatshops here.