previously published in Examiner
Part 7 of the The horrendous conditions of sweatshops in America, Canada, and Montreal then and now
Origin of sweatshops in America – Time line – continued
The sweatshops of 1910 were the most horrendous. By 1950, there was marked improvement and by 1980 conditions of factory workers and sweatshop practices was on the rise again.
The North American Free trade agreement – Nafta had paved the way for the relocating of a lot of industries (especially garment) to Mexico and these people work under sweatshop conditions. Other places like El Salvador in South America is notorious for sweatshop conditions, and of course we all know about the conditions in eastern countries.
The Labor Code
The labor Code came into existence in 1935 and it has not been amended in 50 years, regardless of the changing times. The economic factors that produced the modern day sweatshops included globalization and the need to mass-produce for the world economy at the expense of the workers. The low wages given these workers kept the competition stiff.
On a social level there is racism in regards to immigrant workers in America, and there is also the immigrants’ reluctance to join unions resulting from fear of retribution by their employers.
Also, the US did not prevent businesses from taken their product to third world countries to benefit from the cheap labor there. The US government did not do anything to stop factory owners from avoiding unionization in America.
In 2001, Newsday reported that Hispanic workers are in a high-risk group for getting killed in the workforce.
According to the study by the National Academy of Sciences, the chances of Latinos dying on the job in America are 250 percent higher than other workers.
Jennifer Gordon, the director of the Work Place Project, in Long Island, New York, and associate professor at Fordham University School of Law, explains that companies in America are forbidden by law to hire immigrants without papers, but once they are hired, illegal immigrants are entitled to the same conditions and pay as their legal counterparts.
However, immigrants work illegally in many sweatshops and are exploited. The immigrants of course can do nothing about it, it is accept the horrendous conditions or go home to conditions which are far worse.
To be continued
For more information on the Montreal needle trade and the horrendous sweatshop situation in Montreal
Centre des Travailleurs et Travailleuses Immigrants / Immigrant Workers Centre (CTI-IWC)