Times Presents the Softer Side of Sweatshops


As we saw in the Liberty Garment case back in February, garment workers are subject to all kinds of abuse and only slowly if ever compensated. Some weeks back, raids on Forest Uniform and its contractor Technical Garment made headlines because some of its products — created by employees working up to 80 hours a week with no overtime, a condition masked by duplicate sets of timecards — were NYPD police uniforms. (The cops subsequently removed Forest Uniform from its list authorized vendors.)

Today the New York Times pays a visit to Technical Garment, with a panoramic photo of the “alleged sweatshop”, and talks with owner Andreas Ortiz, who with “brows furled” and “bags beneath his eyes,” complains of the effects on his business of this unwanted government intrusion. Three of Ortiz’ “biggest customers” have “pulled out because of this.” “Does it look like I live like a rich man from this?” he asks the Times, which does not follow him to his own home and report the conditions there.

Ortiz bristles at the notion that he is running a sweatshop, a concept the Times says has “occupied a scandalized space in the collective psyche of New York” since Jacob Riis’ day. Ortiz’ shop doesn’t remind the reporter of those 19th Century horrors; while he admits it’s not the coziest workplace, there are “small touches that cut against the arduous atmosphere,” such as “a pleasant note beside the time clock reminding workers to punch in when they arrive” (presumably on the second set of timecards). One presser announces in broken English that he is paid on time every Friday, and a seamstress “who gave only her first name” expresses gratitude for the $10 an hour on which she supports two children. How can you not like Ortiz? He’s like the Santa of the sweatshops.

Learn how to create your own virtual sweatshop here.