May 4, 2020
Los Angeles’s garment industry got busy when the City of Los Angeles announced in late March that it was launching a program to produce five million much-needed masks for essential workers.
The problem is, many of the essential workers who make these masks have to work under unsafe conditions themselves—and for poverty wages—as they did before the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers continue to work in small, crowded sweatshops without windows, where the doors are kept shut. Safety gear is usually minimal: bosses may provide masks, but often not much else—not even hand sanitizer, for example. And pay is often still per piece and very low. Some garment workers’ hourly wages remain as low as about half the legal minimum wage, which is $13.50 in L.A.
Being undocumented, many of the garment workers are afraid to report these safety and pay violations.
These workers, whether they have papers or not, do work that is literally saving lives. But the capitalist society we live under just tries to exploit them beyond any limit, so that their bosses, and above all big-name corporations many sweatshops work for, can increase their profit beyond any limit.