Undocumented immigration is a condition of existence for the new American sweatshop
. But, as Ross points out, large numbers of immigrants need not mean sweatshops
, as the Puerto Rican wave of immigration to New York City in the 1950s demonstrated.
For example, American Apparel--which employs more than 1,000 workers in its LA T-shirt factory--aggressively promotes itself as a socially responsible "sweatshop
After all, the status of some sweatshops
is so dubious as to be called modern slavery by the American Anti Slavery Organization.
Locally, the extent of sweatshop
abuses was virtually unknown until 1999, when the Sweatshop
Working Group, a coalition of 33 Chicago-area community organizations, set out to interview nearly 800 workers and found that more than one third of them were working in sweatshop
The alliance coalesced around the goals of replacing sweatshops
with modern factories and restricting women's labor--especially that of married women--in favor of the family wage for male workers.
On the one hand, many TNCs argue these codes are a solution to the sweatshop
"problem"--this, despite the fact that such codes cover but a tiny fraction of global sweatshops
, and despite numerous studies that show that workplaces that have been monitored and deemed to be in compliance with codes often remain non-compliant.
Do unions (except for the United Farmworkers Union) simply not care about toxic pesticides, genetically engineered cotton, or the literal "sweatshops
in the fields" which characterize most cotton farms and plantations around the world?
A large number of potential new members were immigrants, and many of them worked in sweatshops
. And some unions, often influenced by the antisweatshop students they took on as interns and summer employees in the AFL-CIO's Union Summer program, began to see that the conditions of sweatshop
workers overseas would have to improve dramatically if the capital flight that characterized the garment and other labor-intensive industries was to be halted.
Most recently, American university students at some of the largest and most elite public and private universities, including Duke, Georgetown and Brown universities, the University of Michigan, University of California at Berkeley and University of Wisconsin (all Part of the powerful anti-war coalition of three decades ago), have mobilized to fight against sweatshops
, using as leverage the licensed sportswear that bears their college logos.
Of the estimated 22,000 garment shops in the United States, over half are categorized by the Department of Labor as sweatshops
, which means that they violate multiple labor laws.
(32) For a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of anti-sweatshop mobilization, see Aaron Bernstein et al., "A World of Sweatshops
: Progress Is Slow in the Drive to Better Conditions," Businessweek Online, November 6, 2000.
"We've started with the assumption that businesses can be allies in fighting sweatshops
," said Claeson.