The Expensive Consequences of Cheap Foreign Labor



Workers

Story of a Sweatshop Worker

Arifa is a women who lives in Bangladesh and works sewing garments. The factory she works for makes clothes mostly for Wal-Mart, but also produces apparel for other companies. Arifa has been a factory worker for twenty years now, and she began when she was only ten years old.

Although she has been working for twenty years, Arifa only makes around 2200 taka, or $29 US dollars, per month. This is above the Bangladesh minimum wage, but below a living wage. In addition she must provide for her three children, two sons and one daughter. Arifa's husband owns and operates a small shop, and her eldest son works abroad in Saudi Arabia. Together with the supplemental money from the shop, and the amount the eldest son can send home, they barely make ends meet.

Arifa says she does not fear sexual harassment or her boss in the factory, and in that respect she is very fortunate. She does feel unsafe because of her working conditions however, as there is little light, no ventilation, and inadequate hygiene practices. She fears workplace accidents, and has recurring health problems because of the conditions of the factory.

Arifa's story is not unique. Nor is it one of the worst cases seen in sweatshop factories. She is lucky because she does not feel threatened by her superiors, and is even a part of the National Garment Workers Federation. But there are many thousands of others who are not as lucky as Arifa. Their stories are silenced by the hand of ruthless corporations.



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