Sweat out the Sweatshops
In the early 1800’s, the seamstress, was common figure in American cities. The seamstress was a skilled mender of clothing, a much needed but under valued member of American society. There was the seamstress and there was the dressmaker. Although the seamstress and the dressmaker had comparable skill in those days, they did not have comparable in incomes (Leibhold, 1998). Dressmakers were often hired to make entire outfits and wardrobes for the wealthy, and thus made a very good living for themselves. The seamstress earned their living by piece work. Sewing precut fabrics into garments for Southern slaves, Western miners, and New England Gentlemen (Leibhold, 1998). The wages were not enough to take care of themselves or their families. By 1880, the garment industry was rapidly expanding and immigrants began to converting small apartments into contracted sewing shops (Leibhold, 1998). These contractor shops doubled as sewing shops and living quarters for the employees. Employees were expected to work for 16 hours a day being paid pennies by the piece (Leibhold, 1998). The apartments housed 8 to 10 employees in family units, who worked, slept, and ate in the same space. Conditions were unsanitary and unsafe. Workers became sleep deprived, hungry, and dehydrated. There was no standard for personal hygiene and workers often became ill from disease under those circumstances. Contract shops were coined as sweatshops because of the conditions immigrants were expected to work in (Leibhold, 1998). By the 1940’s sweatshops were very common in America. Between 1940 and 1960, an awareness of worker rights began to take place, unions helped organize American workers to force employers to provide better working conditions. Congress passes legislation to improve working conditions and raise the American worker from the sweatshop environment to safer and more profitable circumstances (Leibhold, 1998). In the 1960’s, the...
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