TakePart: California’s Garment Workers Reveal: Sweatshops Aren’t Just a Problem Overseas

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Garment industry abuses don’t just happen in faraway lands—workers in Los Angeles face rough conditions too.

It was nearly 100 degrees outside the theater in Pasadena, California, where reporters gathered Wednesday afternoon to hear what it’s really like to work in the local garment industry.

“We feel the heat right now,” said Maria, a middle-aged seamstress sporting a pink cast on her thumb. At least those who had come to listen had the benefit of a breeze.

“Now imagine what that heat might feel like with no ventilation,” said Maria, who did not give her last name for fear of retaliation. She does not have to imagine what it’s like working in a factory that’s 15 degrees hotter than the already-scorching outdoors—she’s one of the more than 43,000 people employed by the garment industry in Los Angeles, making clothes for some of the world’s most fashionable brands. Rough conditions—working 10 or more hours a day at just about half the legal minimum wage in a baking-hot room—are often just part of the job. Describing it was enough to bring Maria to tears.

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