Page 25


Photo from No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade, and the Rights of Garment Workers, edited by Andrew Ross Sweatshop sewing country music keep you company: “Poor, poor, pitiful me,” and “I’m married to a waitress and I don’t even know her name.” After a while, words are unnecessary to sense the moods of those around you. At times expressions so focused, so intense, and so full of hatred scare you. There is simply too much time to think. You may see tears roll down a co-worker’s face while he continues to work, and you may shed a few of your own. Alas, it is probably too late for that ambitious young psychology student to survey the effects of anger on the speed of production. That study has been done. It won’t be long before the ladies in the break room tell you about the most memorable disagreements. On one occasion two women took to each other with their nippers, the scissors used to cut loose threads. On another occasion more humorous than violent, a worker was said to have grabbed the toupee off her boss’s head. Life is sure to be hard for those who like to play supervisor. Unauthorized quality control checks and sending back garments cost the women in line valuable minutes, i.e., money. Don’t nitpick people who are already physically, economically and psychologically MARCH 27, 1998 stressed out. Even the supervisor prefers it when Quality Control forgets her glasses. Safety is also an issue in the factory. Consider a large shop housing dozens of machines, some of which have been known to overheat and catch on fire. Now consider the flammable piles of fabric that sit at each workstation. Look up at the, ceiling. There is no sprinkler system. Look at the aisles to the exits. Carts holding bundles block them. Look at the fire extinguishers. They are inaccessible due to barricades of bundles. Hope you’re not allergic to stinging scorpions. Now blow your nose. The result is the color of whatever fabric you were sewing that day, black, blue, or brown. You have signed release forms acknowledging your awareness of the formaldehyde content in the clothing. Try looking at your file. Don’t bother trying to get copies. The secretary will not show you anything that bears your signature. Better understand the company accident policy. Don’t wait too long after injuring yourself to report it, and demand to see a doctor immediately. You won’t be provided with eye protection, even though needles sometimes shatter. Are laws violated on a regular basis simply because the fire marshal calls before he inspects? Shouldn’t a worker have the right to review any document that bears his signature without first having to obtain a subpoena? Shouldn’t a worker’s raise really be a raise? Take a week off and sew in a factory. It shouldn’t be too hard to get on. There are usually openings. Try to make production. Your clothes will never look the same again. Joanna Hofer, a freelance writer living in Round Rock, dabbled in production sewing for six months \(as any longer surely would ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512-453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31