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Sweatshop conditions are associated with companies, businesses and manufacturers that do not provide safe, fair and clean working conditions for its workers, employees and staff. Some of the common sweatshop conditions include pay that is below minimum wage, excessive working hours, a dangerous working environment and conditions that create and foster health problems.
These poor working conditions typically target workers who are not able to obtain employment in traditional work environments. Generally, they are illegal immigrants and do not have proper work papers. It can also include undereducated or uneducated individuals that lack the skills and experience to find work in more traditional working environments.
Due to the fact that the workers tend to be sub-par to traditional workers, companies that run sweatshops tend to pay the workers very low wages. Typically, the pay is not even minimum wage. Without even being paid minimum wage, it tends to perpetuate the poverty of cycle that sweatshop workers tend to live in either on their own or with their families.
Common sweatshop conditions also tend to require workers to work longer hours than is typically allowed by law. For example, in the U.S., a typical workweek is up to 40 hours for a full-time worker. Common sweatshop conditions may have workers working excessive hours, such as 80 or 90 hours a week, but without any additional compensation for overtime.
One of the most common sweatshop conditions is the danger of the work environment itself. Typically, sweatshops do not have air conditioning in the summer months and do not have heat in the winter months. Especially in manufacturing plants, there is also not proper ventilation to ensure that the workers are breathing clean and safe air, and that any chemicals emitted from the manufacturing process are being handled properly.
Unclean working conditions can also contribute to the poor sweatshop conditions. Improper cleanup of food, chemicals or bi-products can create all sorts of health problems for workers. Sweatshops that have rodent or pest problems can create even more health issues. Rodents and bugs have diseases that can create even poorer working conditions that can translate into illnesses and diseases for the workers.
Equipment and machinery in sweatshops also tend to be poor and dilapidated. Improperly working machinery can cause injuries to workers. Some of these injuries are minor, but other injuries can partially or fully disable the worker, which may even prohibit them from working.
I worked at one place I would say was a modern day sweatshop. The local temporary employment companies would send dozens of us to the factory every morning, because there was a lot of turnover and they needed replacement workers every day.
The managers would line us up against a wall and we would wait to be assigned to an open work station. Anyone still standing against that wall after an hour would be sent home. The company received stock overruns for a famous perfume company, and workers would open the boxes and repackage the contents for secondary markets, like deep discount stores. We rarely took breaks, and supervisors would stand behind us with stopwatches to make sure we
were using our time efficiently.
The building was not air conditioned, and my station was located in an outside warehouse. The temperature inside that building was 105 degrees F. People were passing out from the heat, but the supervisors would just reassign more work to the ones who weren't affected. At one point, the managers called us all into a meeting and distributed ice cream sandwiches. That was about the only concession that company made to the workers. It's no longer in business.
I feel sorry for anyone who has to work under such horrible conditions. The United States does have a lot of laws and regulations on the books to cut down on the use of sweatshop labor, but it still goes on. I mostly think of poultry processing plants in this part of the country, but actually they are not considered sweatshops. They often hire undocumented workers, but the wages are fair and workers are not forced to work overtime.
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