Sweatshops conjure up a vision of dangerous turn-of-the-century garment factories, of rooms crowded with immigrant women and children hunched over sewing machines for a few dollars a day.
But, they still exist today.
Sweatshops are an ugly stain on American fashion, and it is up to all of us to remove it.
America's garment industry today grosses $45 billion a year and employs more than one million workers.
Retailers dictate to manufacturers what, where, and when garments are produced. Manufacturers, in turn, purchase material and contract work among some 22,000 sewing contractors. Many of these contractors violate labor laws.
Independent surveys as well as federal and state compliance data show minimum wage and overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act occurring in 40 percent to 60 percent of investigated establishments. Additionally, thousands of these shops have serious safety violations that threaten the health -- and lives -- of their workers.
Many companies in the American apparel industry provide good jobs, decent wages, and fine clothing, and they deserve our support.
But the firms that utilize and tolerate sweatshop labor make it harder for honest, law-abiding shops to compete in the marketplace. Both industry and labor have an interest in making sure that companies do not mistreat their employees.