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Sweatshops not jut there but here (online discussions)

March 27, 2012

Today we talked about sweatshops extending beyond the garment industry and those that can be found throughout the globe, including the United States.  Lets talk about why (1) the narrative and media coverage tends to imagine the problem of sweatshops as outside the United States; (2) the consequences of such a narrative, (3) Why is it important to shine a spotlight on sweatshops in the United States and why does that often make people uncomfortable?

LAST DAY TO PARTICIPATE: APRIL 6, 2012

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36 Comments
  1. Kyla Chappell permalink

    I think the reason the fact of there being sweatshops overlooked in the United States is that people think not that America is “too good” to have sweatshops, but rather most people think no one in America would work for such little wages. So, from learning in class, sweatshops in California, since close to the Mexican border, seek immigrants. Maybe some people crossed illegally, so would not have the appropriate paperwork required to apply at a regular job, or are unaware they could be working somewhere for better wages, but settled at the first place that took them in. I believe the narrative and media coverage tends to imagine the growing problem of sweatshops being excluded to places outside of the United States, mostly because that’s where majority of them are and have been. Honestly, before class on Monday I had no idea that there were running sweatshops here in America, I was one of those naïve people thinking that wouldn’t happen in our country. The consequence of this thinking is that the sweatshops here are not only overlooked, but nothing is done about them due to the lack of knowledge that they even exist. So much is trying to be done to gain equal rights in other countries, but what about doing something about the sweatshops in our own country first? I think that is a problem in and of itself that we Americans put so much focus on other countries’ problems that our own go unresolved. It is important for a spotlight be shone on sweatshops here in the United States because it could potentially become as much of a problem here as it is in other countries. I think this makes people uncomfortable because most Americans are proud to say they live in the United States, and admitting that we support such horrible working conditions would be hard for us. But if we continue to ignore the fact that we have sweatshops in the United States, it will become a growing problem to a point, like in many other countries, that is harder to get rid of.

    • Madison McKenzie permalink

      I completely relate with the fact that you were also unaware of sweatshops in the US. I was also only made aware of sweatshops in the US recently as well. I don’t think that just because we have a sweatshop problem in the US automatically says that we support them, but it defiantly means that we need to get a handle on our own problems too. It does seem quite contradicting. Also, when you say that maybe people who have crossed the Mexican border illegally are the individuals working in the sweatshops here in the US, do you think that maybe even though they are still sweatshops the ones here are better conditions than the ones in Mexico? I’m not implying that our sweatshops are okay and have better working conditions but why would people want to come to America just to work in a sweatshop? I just find that interesting, wouldn’t they want the typical “American Dream”?

  2. Madison McKenzie permalink

    I honestly think that people don’t want to acknowledge the fact that there are sweatshops in the United States. Narrative and media coverage focuses on problems of sweatshops outside of the US because in a way it takes the attention away from US sweatshops. Americans don’t want to believe that people in our own country are working under such horrible conditions and instead they shift their attention to foreign countries. People enjoy living in the United States thinking that we treat our workers well and that everyone works under great conditions and it comes as a harsh reality for people to conclude that that is not always the case. Just because we are the United States and somehow believe that our conditions are so much better some of the working conditions in our country are just the same as in other countries. Instead of realizing our own faults, narrative and media coverage shifts the focus away from US problems and focuses on extremely heinous situations in other countries. I think that because of this, a majority of the United States is straight up oblivious to our own sweatshop problem. Such terrible stories developing from foreign countries are told that people don’t see any way possible that the same thing could be occurring in the United States right under our noses. When people are made aware of certain US conditions and sweatshops it’s difficult for them to believe. We spend so much time advocating the end to sweatshops in foreign countries, yet we have the same problem in our own country that people aren’t always aware of. When people think about this it makes them uncomfortable because people spend so much time believing that sweatshops are only problems in foreign countries that the reality of them being in the US as well is shocking. It’s important to shine a spotlight on the sweatshops in the United States because it needs to be known that sweatshops are a global problem and our country is not immune to them.

  3. Chris Morgan permalink

    The reason that media coverage often imagines or implies that sweatshops are only prevalent outside of the U.S. is a pretty simple concept and one that’s definitely not limited to only sweatshops but covers other social issues as well. That being the fact that our national media wants to frame issues such as slave labor and poverty and other similar issues as being beyond us.We want to paint the picture that these are third world issues that couldnt possibly be happening right here in America where we are supposed to be “the example” of freedom and fairness. This is not to say that people in America and even the media aren’t concerned with things like this because we are; there are plenty of coalitions and interest groups that fight for equal treatment under law for all workers. The consequences of this narrative though is that the media often only associates sweatshops and slave labor with larger corporations such as Apple, Nike, Adidas, etc which leaves small business workers (such as in the carwash video we watched the other day) to be exploited because no one really knows about. It’s important to shine the spotlight on workers in the United States because it’s something that we can actually do something about. We have laws that protect workers and protect the wages they make and these people have the right to be treated fairly. The power of media is that it can put pressure on the government at whatever level it may be to take action. As I said earlier people are uncomfortable talking about it because they don’t want to believe that people are being exploitated in the same ways here as they are overseas because we want to believe that we’re better than that and that we wouldn’t do that when in fact the truth is the opposite. When people are working unfairly to make our products overseas people are okay with it because they can’t physically see their faces or see their conditions; but when it hits home and its happening here people would be more prone to take action.

    • Kyla Chappell permalink

      I feel like you hit a lot of great points in this post. By saying we want to paint of picture of how our country is great and the example of freedom and fairness is right on. I agree with this 100%. I also think you bring up a great point of why it should be put into the spotlight, because in our country we have the laws to protect workers and their wages and even the conditions they work in. We need to bring the sweatshop problem into the spotlight here in the United States, since we can actually do something about it here.

  4. Madison Magliocca permalink

    I believe that the media tends to imagine that the problem of sweatshops is outside of the United States because they like to obtain the image as though “America does no wrong”, and how can we condemn other countries for having sweatshops if we ourselves have them as well. We are supposed to be the “example” for other countries, so if the media focuses on other sweatshops, no one will take notice to the ones in our own backyard. However, the problem with such a narrative is that it hides the public from the real issues that are going on. We deserve to know how our employees are being treated, and they deserve better conditions. I feel that if people knew more about the sweatshops that take place in our own country, there would be high demands for better work environments and higher wages for the workers. It’s important to shine a spotlight in the United States because we have all the resources necessary to get rid of these sweatshops. If these sweatshops are continuously overlooked, then nothing will be done to change the problem that we so willingly point out in other countries. It makes people uncomfortable to recognize and acknowledge such things because when the issues are far away they are impersonal and easily forgotten about. But when these same conditions take place around our homes, it becomes an uncomfortable reality because we see the faces of these poorly treated employees, and the reality sets in that we are not immune to global problems. I think the best thing the US could do would be to admit to our sweatshop problems, and show other countries how we choose to handle the situation, instead of hiding from them and pretending they don’t exist.

    • Maddie Steiner permalink

      I agree with your points. I think as American’s it is harder for us to think of these sweatshops as being “real” since we only hear about them in far away countries. But when we hear about them in our own backyard, reality hits, and we are shown how horrible they really are. Sometimes we are quick to judge other countries actions and practices without taking our own problems into account. I think that this issue provides America with a great opportunity to prove our values. Depending on how we deal with our own issues, I think we can have a huge impact on how other countries deal with their sweatshops. American has always been a symbol of freedom and a country others look up too and we need to live up to our expectation.

  5. You are all pointing to idea of American exceptionalism; you can also think about we define ourselves vis-a-vis the Other and how the existence of sweatshops is often simplified (where race, nation, gender) so that acknowledging sweatshops in multiple locations across time and space forces complexity

  6. And keep up engaging conversation

  7. Maddie Steiner permalink

    I think that one of the reasons that sweatshops are overlooked in the United States is because its hard for us to admit when we are doing something that is so wrong. When we look at the other countries that are commonly known for having sweatshops, we think of them are third world countries with a struggling government, less human rights for citizens, etc not the U.S. When we learned about the sweatshops in the U.S in class on Monday, I was surprised. I had never thought about the United States having a problem with it because I always associated the idea of sweatshops with poorer countries. I think its so much easier for us to point fingers at other countries wrongdoing then looking at our own internal problems. Because of our American values, I always picture work conditions in the U.S to be good, with fair hours, and benefits. It’s sad that this happens in our country and that many people don’t know about it. Sweatshops are horrible and nobody should have to suffer those conditions in order to make a living. The focus on sweatshops have always been on ones in foreign countries, but I think before we jump into saving other countries, we need to help ourselves. Sweatshops are a form of slave labor and should not be practiced, whether if the workers are illegal immigrants or not. This practice is wrong, especially in our country where freedom and equality are such strong values. We have the opportunity to make an example of ourselves by how we end this problem. If we can overcome our problems, then it can help other countries overcome theirs as well.

  8. Brittany Dyess permalink

    I think the reason that the media and news barely narate about sweatshops in the U.s is because there are too many to even mention(sweatshops/wearhouses/etc) and will talking about it really promote change?I dont think so!Alot of people know about Walmart and other companies that treat their employees unfairly, but that doesnt stop them from applying for positions, Shopping at the stores, and Even Simply as liking them On FB! People see it as its their, so I will take advantage, and especially in regards to working, when you have to provide for ur family, the Media and what they have to say is irrelevant.
    Regarding Consequences, I Honestly dont think their would be any consequences on the Sweatshops being exposed in the u.s.yes some will have negative things to say, but at the end of the day, their business will still be up and running and creating a profit at the end of the day..If employees wanted to protest, or even quit, the company would not suffer because their are millions of people who would want the job anyway.For example, the Kardashians were being accused of Having a sweatshop for their line, but they simply covered it up, made a few aplogetic PSA’s and Are still doing business!
    I think it is important to shine the spotlight on u.s sweatshops just as how they do over seas, because at the end of the day it does raise awareness and Can trigger if not the whole world, maybe 1/4 of the worlds opinion as well as their actions on how to not support theses companies.

  9. It seems as though the media has this problem with many different issues, not just when it comes to sweatshops, especially when it involves the issue of poverty. When I watch the news all I hear about are problems in other countries with either sweatshops, or the need of “U.S. Aid” or something to that effect. How is it possible for Americans to so blatantly and constantly look past our own problems in order to criticize the inadequacies of other countries? I realize that the United States has a responsibility to the global economy, but I believe that one of the reasons that our economy fell into such a rapid decline is because we were worried about the problems of other countries rather than focusing on fixing our own first. The consequences of overlooking our own inadequacies are that these problems seem to get worse and worse until they hurt our country substantially and then people act surprised as if the problems had just started. The most important reason that I think we need to “shine a spotlight” on issues like sweatshops in America, is because we HAVE TO realize the problems in our country and work to fix them before we can have the audacity to tell other countries what to do and try to “fix” them.

    • Trevor Harper permalink

      I agree with what you had to say. It is almost like our country puts other countries issues in the spotlight, to try and make our country to look better. When it fact we have several issues here that other countries have. I am all for our society helping out other countries, but we need to make sure that we are taking care of issues at home as well. When it comes down to it, we are not much different then other countries, and the issue of sweatshops is another example.

  10. Michael Anderson permalink

    In general, sweatshops are a slightly more common occurrence and problem within other countries. However, there are sweatshops in the U.S. that for the most part go unheard of. Most comments posted so far relate to the fact that many people don’t want to believe sweatshops occur in the U.S. because we are too good for that. Therefore, the media does not want to make the sweatshops known. I definitely agree with these ideas and think that by not publicizing these things, we are only prolonging and even aiding the problem. As more and more attention gets brought up about sweatshops in other countries, we can see more and more ideas of reform take place. Without attention to sweatshops within the U.S., it makes it much harder to bring about reform. There is no reason to fix something when no one knows it is a problem. This goes for all problems regarding race, gender, working conditions, ect… If no attention to these problems is ever brought up, it is near impossible to promote change.

  11. Casey Smith permalink

    The reason that the media coverage tends to portrait the sweatshop image as a foreign issue, is due to the fact that the media leans towards the common thought of the people the USA. Those thoughts being, a civilized country where workers are represented and the people have a say in their lives. The media throws out the image that all is right within America and with that due to the legalization of unions and other workers rights laws, we have eradicated the issue of unfair wages and extensively long work hours. The media is biased towards our country only giving us the gold star moments of our society. And, unless an issue is made mainstream through protest, social media, or popular cause the media would never run a story about immigrant workers being taken advantage of. The consequence of this is that the general public are only given a snippet of what is really going on. We are only shown the information that the media deems as what we need to see. They pick the stories and what the general public gets to see. It is of the upmost importance to “shine a light” on American sweatshops. The first reason being that the people who work in the sweatshops are often times immigrant workers, making many American people think that since they are foreign they can be taken advantage of. This leads to the sweatshops giving the workers longer days and wages that are substantially lower then the minimum wage of the state.
    I see it as this. If you are to work in america or around the world you should be paid the minimum wages and work timely hours that America and the other countries assign for certain jobs. There should be no change or adjustment unless it is deemed fair. However this seems to be forgotten in todays society. I think that it is unjust to have a corporation that hires workers to work for less than the minimum wage. And on top of that it makes my skin crawl to think of businesses forcing people to work the ungodly hours. It seems to be eerily similar to slavery.

  12. Trevor Harper permalink

    I think the main reason sweatshops are not portrayed as a problem in the United States, is that the media is able to use examples of sweatshops from other countries. Our country seems to have a problem bringing domestic problems into the media. The media often tries to paint our country as one with minimal flaws. When in fact we share some of the same issues as other countries, such as sweatshops. This type of narrative can cause some consequences. For one, people in the United States hear about sweatshops, but are not made aware they also occur within the United States. Those watching the news most likely will assume that if sweatshops were an issue within our country, then they would also be discussed along with the foreign sweatshops that the media discusses. It is important for the media to shine a spotlight on the issue of sweatshops in the United Stats. Our country needs to be aware, that these horrible sweatshops we hear about in the media, are also an issue within our country. It is important that people are aware, as there are people being put in dangerous situations, and laws are being broken. People may be uncomfortable with coverage of sweatshops in the media being in the spotlight, because they don’t like our country being portrayed in a negative way, even though we share issues with other countries, and issues that our society views as horrendous. It is important for the media to cover any issue within our country that is damaging, so we can begin to repair issues, domestically and foreignly.

    • Karlie Hall permalink

      Trevor I completely agree with you in the fact that we are given false presences that our country is “fair” and that we treat all workers fairly and with benefits. We are hypocritical when we compare ourselves to other countries and say that we are a country of rights and freedom when we are doing the same thing and being just as guilty as these other countries. I personally was very unaware of what was actually happening in our country with these sweatshops and poor labor workers in jobs such as car washes. However, how was I suppose to be aware of these things we they aren’t being publicized? But almost the opposite in that they were almost being hidden from the public eye. Without this being exposed and advertised no one is aware of what is occurring and going on and changes wont be made. But if the media gets more involved with this issue and begins to get the word out to the public, the community will start to also get involved and then the government will have to step in and start making some changes. The fact that this issue has gone on for so long unannounced and unpublicized and bad enough, and these workers deserve their voice to be heard and deserve fairness.

  13. Payden Bjornesatd permalink

    We as Americans have an image that surrounds ourselves; we as a country have an interpretation that we are the do-gooders of the world. If we do something, whatever it may be, than we are doing it for a good and just cause/ reason. The media portrays the United States, in large part, in this way. This is why problems are kept outside of the confines of the United States when they arise. The outsourcing of jobs, while it may not be occurring within the United States, is in large part, occurring BECAUSE of the United States and other developed countries. The consequences of such a message make it so that since it is not happening here it “isn’t our problem. The media portrays this issue as something that is terrible and not acceptable, but the emphasis is spent on the conditions, the workers and their horrible factory mediators/bosses rather than the companies, which are employing them and the people who buy from them. I remember hearing about Nike and the sweatshop scandal. It was all over the media and in this instance; Nike was at the brunt of the blame. However, I don’t remember seeing anything about the consumer being at fault or anything about Nike getting in any trouble. Again, we are segregated from the problem. The media also has control of the message, they can spin it any which way or not even say it at all. I noticed when I was a little kid that just about everything I owned was made in china. This was just the way it was, as far as I was concerned. I never even thought it was an option to get clothes from anywhere else. I honestly thought that all they did in china was make stuff that us in America could buy. The message, and in this case, the lack of message made it seem normal to me. It’s the normalization “this is the way it goes” that makes nothing get done. Nobody really cares that children made their clothes: A.) Because they don’t know B.) Because the clothes are cheaper so they don’t care and C.) Because there is nothing we can do about it “its just the way it is”. We need to shine a light on this problem to get over these obstacles in the way of change. Nobody wants to hear that a child or malnourished person working in a sweatshop made the clothes they are wearing, but in all likelihood, there is a good chance that it was. We need to acknowledge this and seek change. I have no idea about how to go about doing this, but you have to start looking someplace. It starts with insight and ends with actions. Just because nobody else is doing anything doesn’t mean that what is going on is alright.

    • Mallory Nagel permalink

      I think your statement mentioning that the American countries that outsource jobs are largely ignored compared to the conditions of the factories they outsource to is a very strong point. This large countries gain blame for only taking away American jobs. A large amount of time, large American countries due not receive much backlash for the conditions in the factories that they choose to contract with. This is another example of American narrative and media coverage being focused outside of the United States despite the United States having such a large role in why the factories pay the employees so little and why the foreign factories are so able to treat the employees in such a manner as they do.

  14. Desirae Meza permalink

    I would say that the reason our society imagines the problem of sweatshops outside of the U.S is due to many factors. One would say that it is because we only want to hear the good of what the U.S offers. We could also argue and say that the media implies that there are problems outside of the U.S. to bring in issues regarding people encountering slave labor. The U.S does not want to think that these kinds of issues are occurring within our boundaries of what we call a “ free country”. Since we grow up being naïve observers; only thinking that serious issues happen outside of the U.S then this makes us think that our country treats its workers with equality so we tend to worry less about whether or not our country can even have the issue of sweatshops. If people were aware of the issues for example, in California concerning the abuse of workers working in car washes then we would realize that not only foreign countries are dealing with sweatshops. But of course, residents of the U.S do not want to hear that they are one of the bad countries allowing this to happen. On the country we focus more on other countries problems than our own. I would say that if we were to shine the spotlight on the U.S it would only cause a minor controversy. It would not be a big issue compared to the sweatshops in foreign countries. But it is better than nothing to aware at least a portion of the U.S population about the sweatshops within the U.S. Most of the people in these sweatshops are minorities. Therefore, it seems that if the issue on sweatshops was more exposed to the larger population of non color people then it might shocking for them since they are not use to hearing sweatshops dealing with a majority of their own race

    • Racharlle (Landa) Mendoza permalink

      WOW. You probably took the words right out of my mouth.. but made it sound smarter haha. I agree with you 100%. I have one specific comment though on your whole thought process of minorities – “I would say that if we were to shine the spotlight on the U.S it would only cause a minor controversy. It would not be a big issue compared to the sweatshops in foreign countries. But it is better than nothing to aware at least a portion of the U.S population about the sweatshops within the U.S. Most of the people in these sweatshops are minorities. Therefore, it seems that if the issue on sweatshops was more exposed to the larger population of non color people then it might shocking for them since they are not use to hearing sweatshops dealing with a majority of their own race.”

      Where did you get this idea from? Why do you believe race is a factor?

  15. Mallory Nagel permalink

    Sweatshops in the United States are not commonly acknowledged because Americans do not want to recognize the mistreatment of human beings that is occurring so close to home and many Americans may believe that with laws in the United States, such as minimum wage, it is not possible for there to be factories with such treacherous conditions. The lack of American interest and/or belief in the United States having sweat shops pushes for narrative and media coverage to focus on the sweatshops outside of the United States that are well-known. The sweatshops found in other countries, such as China, are widely known to exist and many Americans may be more willing to listen to stories that are told about these sweatshops. Due to the large narrative and media coverage of foreign sweatshops and lack of coverage on American sweatshops, the idea of having sweatshops in the United States is insane and it can be assumed that many Americans would take a long time to accept American sweatshops are a reality. As viewed in some of the videos we have seen in class, such as the video about the abuse of car wash workers, the sweatshops located in the United States are still not widely known about despite there being many groups attempting to gain public attention. Large groups across the United States have acted in roles that should command the interest of at least their local communities, but fail to do so. I personally had not heard much information on sweatshop conditions in the United States until our class began to pursue this topic. I had been raised to believe that sweatshops are foreign nightmares and that the United States does not have the kind of working conditions found in sweatshops. Media coverage that did not include American sweatshops led me to believe that if no one was talking about them, they must not exist. This is the flaw found in narrative and media coverage focusing away from sweatshops in the United States; focus on foreign sweatshops rather than local sweatshops implies that sweatshops are not a problem here. Publishing information about sweatshops in the United States and beginning to include more coverage of American sweatshops could enable more Americans to know about the situations of sweatshops in the United States and could perhaps push individuals to step against the lowly sweatshop factory conditions. By raising awareness of the problem in the United States, it is possible that the problem of sweatshop can become a better and more addressed issue here (in a large country, that has a large amount of influence in the world). While raising consciousness about American sweatshops may not be the solution to the treacherous conditions of sweatshops, it can contribute to an overall world view shift to not using sweatshops and creating better working conditions.

  16. Racharlle (Landa) Mendoza permalink

    Personally, I feel like the United States likes to imagine PROBLEMS in general, outside the US rather than inside. I’m pretty damn sure there are a lot of things going on in the United States that we don’t know about that we should! The media does not want to shine a spotlight on sweatshops in the United States because “we”, as a country… don’t want to look bad nor believe the truth. Sure, there are bad, low-income places all around the United States, BUT… is it normal to see horrible living places such as those in other countries? Such as Africa? No, it’s not. I feel like the United States is set up to certain HIGH standards that “we” have to live up to. I always here things like: “America is the country with opportunities.” It’s the IMAGE of the United States that is causing this blindness of sweatshops and whatever else we don’t know about! It makes people uncomfortable because they’re not use to it, don’t want to believe it or just all around, don’t want to be viewed it in a certain way. The media likes DRAMA, and they would rather have drama from another country then ours.

    • Mallory Nagel permalink

      I completely agree with your idea that Americans would rather imagine the problems of other countries. Just in the last year, I have learned about so many things that occur in the United States that I had never known occurred in this country (such as kidnapping children to sell them into slavery in another country). Continually, I hear new things that I did not think could possibly happen in the United States.

  17. I feel that the media portrays the issue of sweatshops being outside of the United States so that Americans won’t feel the burden of feeling like it’s our fault, or our problem. Nobody likes to watch news on T.V. that makes them feel bad about themselves. Also, we have to keep in mind that the organizations that partake in the use of sweatshops are usually very large companies, so the media is not going to want to get on the bad side of them. Whether the media likes to admit it or not, it’s a very corrupt system. When you have people with that much money in their hands, they have a lot of power, and that can scare people, like the media from standing up and speaking out about the truth.

    Most Americans rely on the media for their knowledge about the outside world around them. Although, that is changing now that people are realizing how corrupt the system is. However, if the media doesn’t give us the truth about issues like sweatshops running in our country, then Americans will remain ignorant to the problem, which will make it less likely that any changes will be made. People will continue to be treated unfairly as they struggle to make ends meet, while the rest of us will continue on with our daily lives.

    It is important that we shine a light on the issue of sweatshops running in the United States because we need to stand up to these organizations who are treating their employees unjustly. I believe that if the people of the U.S. can stand up against these organizations, then we can influence our government to take a stand and fix this problem, which could be a leading example for other governments and countries across the world. Being the strong, leading country that we like to pride ourselves in, this is an issue we can lead others to fixing as well.

    Acknowledging this issue, and taking a stand against it, will probably make Americans feel uncomfortable because we don’t like to think that this would ever happen in our country. We don’t like to feel like it’s our problem, and so we turn a cheek to it, telling ourselves there is nothing we can do, or it’s not our responsibility. Many of the employees in these sweatshops are illegal immigrants and I feel that as a country we need to start restricting our borders so that companies are forced to pay LEGAL AMERICANS minimum wage. Instead we are turning a blind cheek to illegal immigrants and the dirty work we are making them do as a consequence for not being a legal citizen. If it means paying more for goods, and having less,than so be it.

  18. laurazaro permalink

    First off, I can’t remember ever hearing about sweatshops in the United States and was very naïve in thinking they only existed in countries outside of the U.S. The media tends to cover the problem of sweatshops in other countries outside of the U.S. because many people can’t imagine something like this happening in the United States. For many, such as myself, I always assumed that because there are laws requiring a minimum standard of working conditions, that they are always followed. However as we saw in the carwash video in class, people are working in conditions that are dangerous and illegal. Because sweatshops in the United States are not in the media spotlight, no changes are made to improve working conditions that aren’t up to standard or ensure people are being paid at least minimum wage. Another consequence is that those working in sweatshops are not treated with the respect they deserve in a workplace. As we also saw in the carwash video, many of the workers were illegal immigrants who were scared to speak up about their inhumane working conditions because their boss threatened them with deportation if they did. As a consequence of all of this, sweatshops are flying under the radar all over the United States. It is important to shine a light on sweatshops in the United States because this is an issue happening in our own country, right under our nose. There have been laws established to ensure that everyone is paid what they deserve and ensure that they are able to work in a safe and comfortable environment and everyone is entitled to these rights. Although sweatshops in countries outside of the United States are also a problem that needs to be addressed, first we need to shine a light on problems that are closest to home. For many people, talking about the fact that sweatshops still exist in the United States can be very uncomfortable. Part of the reason I think is because it’s hard to believe that here we are in the year 2012 and people still are only being paid cents an hour while working in conditions that are inhumane. Another reason people may be uncomfortable with shining the spotlight on sweatshops is because they don’t know how they can help.

  19. Reed Clarridge permalink

    The true nature of some of the labor in this country conflicts directly with our perceived code of ethics, the American dream, and the country’s status of leader of the world. Patriotism is a powerful hegemonic force, and through it we’ve been able to interpret America as the “good guy” in history. In war, when we get involved, we’re always the ones fighting the good fight for causes we believe in, unless of course we fight to save other countries we felt need rescuing. People don’t intentionally turn away from instances like this, where our country is guilty of practices we decry, but the fact that we don’t expect it here makes it so much easier to not take notice when evidence is presented. The political right here publicly mocks such movements, and our generation is the intellectual uncertainty and politically correct no offense generation, so we learn to stay away from politics as a topic unless we’re aware of the audience’s political views.

  20. Karlie Hall permalink

    After watching the videos in class, and doing that class activity where we would guess on which companies were producing sweat shops in the U.S. I was honestly shocked and unaware of what was taking place. When looking at places like Forever 21, in which I buy plenty of clothes from and what actually goes on behind the scenes, it makes me think twice about what I am actually wearing. The fact that we go through every day unaware of what factors and implications go into something so simple as clothing makes us forget about the workers who have to slave everyday to develop something we may think is so simple. However, how do we become aware that this is happening right here in the U.S.? The media has not exposed this kind of labor that is happening right now. I feel as though we need to do a better job in publicizing what is actually happening in our country within these sweatshops and get the government and public involved and aware. Most people are unaware of these conditions and only see it as an international problem therefore we must take the initiative to make a change and provide fairness for these workers who are definitely receiving the exact opposite of that.

    • Julia Balaban permalink

      I agree completely with what you have posted. I have never really thought about the clothes that I am buying and where they have been made. Now, after looking at all of the videos in class and things we have read in text it has made me even more aware of the stress that is put on each of the individuals making clothes and other items that we, as American’s take for granted. I do also agree with that the news does need to publicize what is going on in America because I believe that I am not the only person that does not know there are actual “sweatshops” in America. As I said in my post, many people must think that we are too rich, or too good of a society to have these types of issues going on.

    • Kimberly Clark permalink

      I 100% agree, Karlie. I was utterly shocked that one of my favorite places to buy clothes has a sweatshop RIGHT HERE IN THE UNITED STATES! And yes, publicizing this kind of stuff is the only way to get rid of it. The public needs to be aware of what is going on, not only in third world countries, but in our own as well.

  21. Julia Balaban permalink

    Personally, looking at the sweatshop industry in and outside of America has been pretty eye-opening and shocking to the average person. Learning through the media hasn’t quite given me the view of sweatshops as I have learned in class. But, one thing I have learned is that sweatshops in America are clearly overlooked and people focus much more of their energy on sweatshops across the world instead. Maybe it is because we do not think that America has sweatshops for reasons like how much money America has and how immigrants and such come to America for a “better life”. Is this the outlook everyone has? The consequences of sweatshops in America are if gone unnoticed and untreated they can become much larger problems. It is important to shine a spotlight on sweatshops in the United States because since they are so unnoticed as I said before they could grow to be legal issues dealing with wages, where the workers are from, and is it even ethical.

  22. Meesha Hoskin permalink

    I think the narrative and media coverage tends to imagine the problem of sweatshops outside the United States as a way to save America’s image or as a way to keep America’s positive image alive. I think the media likes to focus on other developing countries and the problems of sweat shops as a way for to make the United States look “good” in the public eye by making other countries seem helpless and disastrous; that way the United States can be seen as the hero by making efforts to put a stop to the cruelty that occurs in sweatshops outside of the United States.

    The consequences of this narrative is that many citizens of the United States who are being treated just as poorly as those who are working in sweatshops in foreign countries are being ignored and neglected. The U.S cares too much about having a good reputation and being seen in a positive light by the rest of the world that they are unable to accept that the same problems that are going on in their own country.

    It is important to shine a spotlight on the sweatshops in the United States because people need to be aware of the same cruelty that is happening right under their noses. For me, I never thought that the United States had any sweatshops because when I thought of sweatshops I thought of big huge buildings where people worked under harsh conditions for long periods of time. In the United States you don’t normally see that because most of the big building are cooperate buildings. But in reality the sweatshops in the United States are places like car washes. I think uncomfortable to think about because the American society has built up this assumption that everyone is getting paid minimum wage, and standard rules of conduct that all jobs live by. We don’t want to accept that there are people out there who are being paid way below minimum wage, and have to work under poor conditions for long hours, because it doesn’t fit the false idea that society has created of a hard working and successful country.

  23. Aaron Kring permalink

    For the past couple of weeks, the class discussion has been about sweatshops, the oppression of workers, and the inhumane conditions in which these workers are forced to abide and survive by. At first we spoke about how outsourced work was more profitable for companies and how the working conditions for the employees was terribly degrading. During the first parts of discussion, I would always imagine sweatshop workers in China, India or any other oversea country. However, when we first watched the video on those who work for the car washes in California, that really opened my eyes to types of sweatshops that we have in America. This leads into my point, when someone considers the idea of a sweatshops, the two first images that can pop into someones head are that of the history of sweatshops during the Industrial Revolution, or to outsourced workers. In today’s media, whenever a sweatshop is a topic or headline, first off, it usually has to do with death, poor working conditions, or a type of protest, it always seems to be of one overseas. Additionally, the media seems to program our minds to put sweatshops in overseas countries because no American wants to know that their lives are not perfect. To know that America, the land of the home and the brave, has sweatshops and does not treat everyone “equally.” No governing entity, corporation, or news station wants the live of the layperson to be effected in a negative way because it has the opportunity for people to fight for a system that is being exploited. However, not every layperson will rise to the occasion and take action. Many people also know that these people are treated inhumanly, but keep and ignorant blind eye. This leads to a concluding point, it is important to shine the light on these issues because there are plenty of people who would be willing to stand up and help those in need. Since they do not know they cannot help. However, it does make many people uncomfortable for the reason recently mentioned. No one wants to know that their wonderful country, that allows you the opportunity for happiness, does not always allow that. Additionally, when a person thinks about a sweatshop the image is to see a third world country as an extreme and to apply that image to ones home, would make a person uncomfortable.

  24. Kimberly Clark permalink

    After we did the activity in class where countries had sweatshops I was completely taken aback. Especially when we were told that the United States has sweatshops! I agree with Karlie Hall, I get most of my clothing items from Forever 21 and I was so shocked that they have a sweatshop in California! I think that the narrative and media coverage tends to imagine the problem of sweatshops as outside of the United States because we as Americans usually see sweatshops form in third-world countries or countries with poor living conditions and the United States is more well off than those countries. Therefore our mindset is “we couldn’t possibly have any sweatshops here in the United States because we’re not like those countries. Our living conditions are much better than theirs!” And the consequences of this mindset are close mindedness and the habit of overlooking these sorts of things, because they make us uncomfortable. And they make us uncomfortable because we don’t want to admit that, even though we are much better off than most other countries, we resort to creating sweatshops to acquire a bigger profit-margin and more money for corporate level employees. It’s important to bring these issues to the forefront because most people believe that sweatshops are only created outside of the United States and that they are horrible places and I believe that they would be shocked (as well as sickened) that we have them here in our country as well.

  25. Carolina Salazar permalink

    I think the main reason that sweatshops are not considered a problem in the United States is that in a way the media has normalized this situation by making Americans think that the US doesn’t have any problems regarding sweatshops and that the problem only exists outside the United States in poorer countries. I don’t understand why when the media starts talking about sweatshops in other countries it doesn’t add the sweatshops here in the US. Personally, I think the media has done it this way to somehow make the United States seem like it’s superior to the rest of the countries out there when if fact the United States has some of the same problems as others. This can be a problem because then if no body knows about these terrible sweatshops nothing can be done about it. The US will continue to get its cheap labor, the workers will continue to be treated poorly and almost no one will know about it to do something to try and change the situation that exists here. I think its important for the media to shine a spotlight to this situation and make people realize that the laws here are being broken and that there are people here in this country that are pretty much living in modern day slavery. They are getting paid way below the minimum wage and working in very harsh conditions, and if the public knew more about it then I don’t see how people won’t step in and solve these issues.

  26. I think there are a variety of reasons why sweat shops still exist both here and abroad. I think the biggest contributing factor is that there is just not enough pressure on Companies to enforce working standards. Let’s be honest, we all love nice name brand clothes, unfortunately very rarely does that mean that they are made in a nice air conditioned factory with workers that are paid well. The reality is they are made in sweat shops where the workers have very little rights. I think the majority of Americans are either unaware of the working conditions, or do not care enough to make a difference. The problem is that unless it affects us personally I think it is viewed as less important. If we decided it was important and pressured companies to change there working conditions I have no doubt that they would, but that would also increase the price of the goods. Which is another reason why people do not stand up to the companies. I think all people would say they think sweatshops are bad and that they disagree with them; however disagreeing with them and doing something to put a stop to them are two different things. As I stated earlier I think it takes a personal connection to the situation itself in order for most Americans to pressure the companies and in turn the media to do something about it.
    I think it makes people uncomfortable because it is a very uncomfortable topic. We don’t like to think that we care more about ourselves than the basic rights of others around the world, but that is in fact the case. We want cheap name brand clothing and are willing deep down to ignore where they may have come from so we can get them for the cheapest price possible. I believe everyone realizes this that’s why it is hard to talk about.

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