Sweatshop Labor: Wearing Thin Essay

2014 words - 8 pages

     For most people in the United States, the term “slave to fashion” relates to an
individual’s desire always to be wearing the latest fashions from trendy clothing lines. In
a twist of supreme irony, the designation applies much more literally to the legions of
poverty-stricken sweatshop laborers worldwide who toil away under miserable conditions
to produce the snappy apparel that Americans purchase in droves on a daily basis.
     Conditioned by a media that places considerable emphasis on possessing a stylish
wardrobe, the majority of U.S. consumers are far too awash in their own culture -- one
that is notorious for the value it places on material wealth -- to be sensitive to the plight
of these indigent foreigners. And although the US media’s fleeting scrutiny of sweatshop
conditions five years ago did make the issue a greater part of the national consciousness
than ever before, not enough people changed their buying habits as a result -- or at least
not enough to make a dent in the all-important bottom line of guilty corporations. Indeed,
major American retailers of clothing and other apparel products have not changed this
despotic element of their business practices in the least despite the negative publicity; in
fact, they continue to exploit laborers in foreign, mostly Third-World countries to an
alarming degree.
     The scope of the problem is such that hundreds of residents in a town as small and
isolated as Santa Cruz have at some point been employed in sweatshops in impoverished
nations. Santa Cruz resident Lorenzo Hernandez endured years of mistreatment at a
Doall Enterprises factory in El Salvador before immigrating with his wife and two sons to
Santa Cruz in September, 2000. He now works full-time as a cook at Tony and Alba’s
Pizza in Scotts Valley, and while he scarcely earns above minimum wage in his current
position, it represents a substantial improvement to the abject conditions under which he
labored for so many years in his home country. “They treated us very badly (in El
Salvador),” Hernandez said. “I earned not enough to live on. My family could only buy
two shirts and pants (per person), and we were always hungry. I worked 14, 16 hours a
day but still did not make enough.”
     Hernandez speaks and moves with the languor of a man who has spent his entire
adult life working 80-hour weeks at physically-taxing jobs for domineering bosses who
accepted nothing short of continuous effort without complaint and granted only
occasional, monitored bathroom breaks. Years of constant use have rendered his hands
callused, decrepit, and scattered with patches of scars and discoloration. His face is
markedly cragged, his eyes convey a vacant -- though faintly sad -- quality, and his black
scalp is blotted by manifold gray strands of hair. He is only 34, but his rugged features
and frail demeanor strikingly approximate those of a...

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