Professor Peter Dreier

TuTh 1:30-2:55pm

Spring 2000

UEPI Seminar Room

Cultural Studies Program 6


What This Course is About

"Sweatshops" are workplaces where the health and safety conditions, hours, and pay are significantly below acceptable standards. Sweatshops are typically associated with child labor, with female labor, with immigrant labor, and with the clothing industry, but they are not limited to a particular group or industry. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the resurgence of sweatshops, not only overseas but also in the United States. College students, in particular, have become vocal in addressing this issue, but the White House, Congress, labor unions, consumer groups, the apparel industry, and others have also been part of the public debate.

This course looks at sweatshops from a variety of perspectives. To understand the past and current realities of sweatshops, it incorporates history, sociology, and economics. To understand the morality of sweatshops it incorporates philosophy and theology. To understand whether we can address the sweatshop problem through changes in public policy, it involves political science.

This course will examine the history and current reality of sweatshops in the world today (including right here in Los Angeles) in order to raise broader questions about trends and issues in society. These include the following:

Goals of the Course

This course has several goals, including the following:

1. To help you improve your ability to think analytically and critically

2. To help you improve your writing and research skills

3. To help you improve your ability to use the World Wide Web as a tool for research and information gathering

4. To help you to become a more informed consumer of the media, both advertising and news

5. To help you to become a more informed and active citizen so that you can help improve social, political, and economic conditions in society


Each student's grade will be based on the following criteria:

One third of your grade will be based on your participation in class discussions

One third of your grade will be based on the required writing assignments. There will be several short assignments

One third of your grade will be based on your journal, which is described at the end of this syllabus.


Required Books to Purchase

You should purchase the following five paperback books, available at the college bookstore:

Andrew Ross, ed., No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade, and the Rights of Garment Workers (New York: Verso, 1997)

Peter Liebhold and Harry Rubenstein, Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops, 1820-Present (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, and Smithsonian Institution, 1999)

Mary Williams, ed., Child Labor and Sweatshops (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999)

John Schwarz, Illusions of Opportunity: The American Dream in Question (New York, W.W. Norton, 1997)

Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage: Economic Reconstruction from the Bottom Up (Boston: South End Press, 1994)

Xeroxed Readings

You should also purchase a xeroxed collection of readings for this course. (These are identified with an asterisk on the reading list). Purchase it immediately so you can do the readings for the first week. You will only be charged the cost of copying them -- $13. They are available from Wendy Clifford at UEPI. If you're paying by check, make it out to "Occidental College" and give it to Wendy.


During the seminar we will see a number of films -- both documentaries and feature movies. Some of these will be shown during regular class sessions. Others we will see outside of regular class sessions. These will be scheduled to make the screenings convenient for all students. The list of possible films is listed below, although we won't have time to see all of them.

"New York" (a 1999 PBS documentary; episode on immigrants, sweatshops, and the Triangle Fire)

"The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal" (1978 made-for-TV dramatic film, 98 minutes)

"Hull House" (1990 documentary about Jane Addams and the settlement house she founded in Chicago to improve living and working conditions in immigrant ghettos, one hour)

"Uprising of '34" (1995 documentary about a nationwide strike of textile workers in 1934, one hour)

"Norma Rae" (1979 Academy Award-winning film, starring Sally Fields, based on the true story of a Southern textile town, 117 minutes)

"La Ciudad" (1998 feature film about Latino immigrants in New York City; one episode focuses on a sweatshop worker)

"Zoned for Slavery" (23 min)., "Something to Hide" (25 min.), "Sweating for a T-Shirt" (23 min.)

"Tomorrow We Will Finish" (26 min.), "Global Village or Global Pillage" (26 min.) (These are short documentaries about contemporary sweatshop conditions in Third World nations)


During the semester, we will hear from a number of speakers who represent different viewpoints about the sweatshop issue. These will include Julie Su (attorney for the El Monte sweatshop workers), Ilse Metchek (executive director of the California Fashion Association), and others.

Visit to Museum of Tolerance Exhibit

Thanks to good luck and timing, a wonderful exhibit on the history of sweatshops, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," originally at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, is now at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. We will schedule a visit to the museum for a time as early as possible in the semester.

USAS List-Serve

Each student in the course should immediately join the United States Against Sweatshops (USAS) list-serve. To do so, first go to USAS's website: Scroll down the main page until you find the phrase "Join the USAS mailing list." Fill in your email address and send it to USAS. After you join the list, each day you'll get a number of email messages from students around the country regarding some aspect of the sweatshop issue. This will give you a good "inside" view into the anti-sweatshop movement. Even if you don't agree with USAS's views, you will learn a great deal about the issue and the various controversies. Some of the email messages will be things like, "I'm a student at X College and I want to find out if any other colleges have clothing made by Nike" or "I need a ride to the USAS regional conference in Atlanta. Is anyone from the Memphis area going?" But many of them will be about important issues and discussions of strategy. You should look at your emails on a regular basis.

Web Sites

The following organizations and websites represent a variety of perspectives about sweatshops. Over the course of the semester, you should become familiar with and use these websites to learn more about particular issues.

United Students Against Sweatshops (

Sweatshop Watch (

National Labor Committee (

Global Exchange (

Human Rights Watch (

UNITE--Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (

Triangle Fire Website (

Campaign for Labor Rights (

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (

Co-op America (

National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (

Los Angeles Jewish Commission on Sweatshops (

Feminists Against Sweatshops (

Maquila Solidarity Network (

National Retail Federation (

American Apparel Manufacturers Associations (http://www.american

Fair Labor Association (

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Wage and Hour (

California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (



Readings preceded by an *asterik are in the xerox readers.

Books are available in the Bookstore.

Items with a +plus mark and Web address (http://...) should be read on the Webpage or downloaded



Discussion: Is there a sweatshop in your past? Your present? Your future?


Liebhold and Rubenstein, "History of Sweatshops" in Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops

"History of Sweatshops in Photographs" in Between a Rock and a Hard Place

"History of Sweatshops through Graphics" in Between a Rock and a Hard Place

*Rose Cohen, "My First Job" (1918), from Stein, ed., Out of the Sweatshop

*Florence Kelly, "In Chicago's Sweatshops" (1899), from Stein, ed. Out of the Sweatshop

*Clara Lemlich, "Life in the Shop" (1909), from Stein, ed., Out of the Sweatshop

*Rose Schneiderman, "A Cap Maker's Story' (1905), from McClymer, The Triangle Strike and Fire

*John Commons, "The Sweating System" (1901), from Stein, ed., Out of the Sweatshop

+Daniel, "The Wreck of the Home: How Wearing Apparel is Fashioned in the Tenements," Charities, April 1, 1905 (

+Watson, "Home Work in the Tenements," Survey, Feb. 4, 1911 (

+Van Kleech, "Working Hours of Women in Factories," Charities and Commons, 1906-07



+Triangle Fire Website (spend at least an hour learning about the Triangle Fire)

*"On the Picket Line" (1909), from Stein, ed., Out of the Sweatshop

*"Rules for Pickets" (1910), from McClymer, The Triangle Strike and Fire

*"The Cooper Union Meeting" (1909) from Stein, ed., Out of the Sweatshop

*Clark and Wyatt, "The First Morning of the Strike" (1910), from Stein, ed., Out of the Sweatshop

*Mailly, "The Largest Strike of Women" (1910), from Stein, ed., Out of the Sweatshop


*Bonnie Mitelman, "Rose Schneiderman and the Triangle Fire" (American History Illustrated, July 1981

*Kaufman, "Bessie Cohen, 107, Survivor of 1911 Shirtwaist Fire, Dies," (NY Times, Feb 24, 1999)

*Sklar, "Hull House in the 1890s: A Community of Women Reformers," Signs, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1985

*Dubofsky, "Organized Labor and the Immigrant in New York City, 1900-1918," Labor History, Spring 1961.

*Zinn, "The Socialist Challenge" (from A People's History of the United States, 1980)

*"The Socialist Party's Platform: 1912" (in Fink, ed., Major Problems in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era)

*Kerr, "The New York Factory Investigating Commission and the Minimum Wage Movement," Labor History, 1971

*Dye, "Creating a Feminist Alliance: Sisterhood and Class Conflict in the New York Women's Trade Union League, 1903-1914, Feminist Studies, Spring 1975

*Miller, "From Sweatshop Worker to Labor Leader: Theresa Malkiel," American Jewish History, December 1978.

*"Testimony For and Against the Fair Labor Standards Act, 1937; John L. Lewis in Defense; John Edgerton in Opposition" in Boris and Lichtenstein, Major Problems in the History of American Workers

Howard, "Labor, History, and Sweatshops in the New Global Economy," in Ross, No Sweat



*Baker, "A 1911 Inferno with a Lesson for Today" (NY Times, Feb. 27, 1999)

*McDonnell, "Industry Woes Help Bury Respected Garment Maker" (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 1, 1998)

Piore, "The Economics of the Sweatshop," in Ross, No Sweat

Smith, "Tommy Hilfiger in the Age of Mass Customization" in Ross, No Sweat

National Labor Committee, "An Appeal to Walt Disney" in Ross, No Sweat

Spielberg, "The Myth of Nimble Fingers" in Ross, No Sweat

Singer, "Rat-Catching: An Interview with Bud Konheim" in Ross, No Sweat

*"Corporate America on the Hot Seat" in The Sweatshop Quandry: Corporate Responsibility on the Global Frontier, 1998)

*Colliver, "The Stitching Hour" (San Francisco Examiner, Sept. 5, 1999)

*Behar, "Guess: What's Behind This IPO?" (Fortune, Oct. 14, 1996)

*Hornblower, "Guess Gets Out" (Time, Jan. 27, 1997)

*Ramey, "Labor Department Reminds Guess" (Women's Wear Daily, Dec. 10, 1997)

+Guess Boycott Website (

*Glass, "The Young and the Feckless" (New Republic, Sept. 8, 1997)

*Cushman, "Nike Pledges to End Child Labor and Apply U.S. Rules Abroad" (New York Times, May 13, 1998)

*Korzeniewicz, "Commodity Chains and Marketing Strategies: Nike and the Global Athletic Footwear Industry" in Gereffi and Korzeniewciz, eds., Commodity Chains and Global Capitalism (1994)

+VietNam Labor Watch, "Nike Practices in VietNam," March 1997 (


*Ross, "The New Sweatshops in the United States: How New, How Real, How Many, Why?" (1998)

Appelbaum, "The Los Angeles Garment Industry" in Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Su, "El Monte Thai Garment Workers: Slave Sweatshops" in Ross, No Sweat

Mort, "Sweatshop Workers Speak Out" in Ross, No Sweat

+Los Angeles Jewish Commission on Sweatshops ( -- skim

THE NEW GLOBAL SWEATSHOP (Feb. 22 & 24, Feb. 29 & March 2)

*Enloe, "The Globetrotting Sneaker" (MS. March/April 1995)

+Rothstein, "The Global Hiring Hall," American Prospect, Spring 1994

( -- Click on Print-Friendly Version)

Kernaghan, Made in China: Behind the Label (NLC, March 1998)

Given, "An Indictment of Sweatshops" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Weidenbaum, "A Defense of Sweatshops" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Ryan, "Sweatshops Must be Recognized as a Human Rights Violation" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Myerson, "Sweatshops Often Benefit the Economies of Developing Nations" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Lapp, "Child Labor is Beneficial" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Kernaghan, "Paying To Lose Our Jobs" in Ross, No Sweat



"Sweatshops" (Co-op America Quarterly, Fall 1998) -- will be distributed in class

Cavanagh, "The Global Resistance to Sweatshops" in Ross, No Sweat

Shaw, "The Labor Behind the Label" in Ross, No Sweat

Krupat, "From War Zone to Free Trade Zone" in Ross, No Sweat

Proper, "New York: Defending the Union Contract" in Ross, No Sweat

Press, "Sweatshopping" in Ross, No Sweat

Golodner, "Consumer Pressure Can Reduce the Use of Sweatshops" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Stelzer, "Efforts to Reduce the Use of Sweatshops are Misguided" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Posner and Clarizio, "Workplace Codes Could Prevent Sweatshop Abuses" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Benjamin, "Workplace Codes Will Not Prevent Sweatshop Abuses" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

*Greenhouse, "Labor and Clergy Reunite to Help Society's Underdogs" (New York Times, Aug. 18, 1996)

*Firestone, "Victory for Union At Plant in South Is Labor Milestone" (New York Times, June 25, 1999)

*Bacon, "Organizing the High-Tech Sweatshop," (Third Force, Sept/Oct 1993)

*Bernstein, "Sweatshops: No More Excuses" (Business Week, Nov. 8, 1999)

+Sweatshop Watch, "California Adopts Toughest Sweatshop Law of Its Kind in the Country" (Sept. 29, 1999) (

+National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, "Cross Border Blues: A Call for Justice for Maquiladora Workers in Tehuacan" ( -- read the 4-page report


Behind Closed Doors: The Workers Who Made Our Clothes (NLC, 1999) or

Fired for Crying to the Gringos (NLC, 1999)

*Cooper, "No Sweat" (The Nation, June 7, 1999)

*Moberg, "Bringing down Niketown" (The Nation, June 7, 1999)

*Rohrlich, "USC Workers Launch Fast in Job Dispute" (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 19, 1998)

*Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, "Apparel Industry Partnership" (1998)

*Sweatshop Watch, "Sweatshops and Codes of Conduct" (December 1998)

*United Students Against Sweatshops, "Workers Rights Consortium" (1999)

*"Labor Goes to School" (Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 3, 1999)

*Schevitz, "UC Strengthens Anti-Sweatshop Code for Licensees" (San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2000)

+University of California Code of Conduct for Trademark Licensees (

+Code of Conduct for Occidental College Garment Contracts (Adopted May 12, 1999) (


Harkin, "The United States Should Ban Imports of Products Made by Children," in Child Labor and Sweatshops

Alam, "Efforts to Ban Goods Made by Children Are Counterproductive" in Child Labor and Sweatshops

+Rothstein, "The Starbucks Solution," American Prospect, July/August 1996 ( (click on Print-Friendly Version)

+Rothstein, "The Case for Labor Standards," Boston Review, January 1995


+Amsden, "Hype or Help?" Boston Review, January 1995 (

*Bernstein, "Sweatshop Reform: How to Solve the Standoff" (Business Week, May 3, 1999)

*Bernard, "The Battle In Seattle: What Was That All About?" (Washington Post, Dec. 5, 1999)

*Hutton, "America's Global Hand" (American Prospect, Dec. 6, 1999)

*Faux, "Slouching Toward Seattle," (American Prospect, Dec. 6, 1999)

*Meyerson, "The Battle in Seattle" (LA Weekly, Dec. 3-9, 1999)



Schwartz, Illusions of Opportunity: The American Dream in Question (entire book)

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY (April 25 & 27, May 2)

Brecher and Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage (entire book)


Each student will keep a journal that records what you have learned in the course in the way of specific new knowledge, new understandings, perplexing questions, and so on. This will be an ongoing record of your intellectual growth. I will collect, read them, and grade them twice -- at mid-term and at the end of the term. (Please type them).

Your journal is not meant simply to be a summary of the readings and films, but rather your critical reactions to the course materials, general observations, or concerns that you formulate in response to the course. For each reading or film, your journal should include the following:

(1) Discuss each week's readings (and, when appropriate, film or speaker) in your own words. What are the main issues and themes? How do the readings and films address these issues and themes? What questions do the readings and films raise for you about sweatshops or about larger social issues and trends If you can't summarize it in your own words -- for example, try explaining it to your roommate -- you probably don't understand it. You don't have to summarize each reading or film separately; instead, write about what you've learned from the materials for the entire week.

(2) Write down things you don't understand -- concepts, historical events, and so on. The odds are good that if you don't understand something, some other students don't either. Bring these up during class discussion.

(3) Write down things you disagree with. Again, if you disagree with one or more of the authors, or the filmmakers, or the speakers, the odds are that other students share your perspective. Bring these up in class discussion.

(4) Write down other observations and thoughts you have.