Economics 298a                                                                       John Miller

Sweatshops in The Global Economy                 006      Knapton

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 A century ago, when immigrants from eastern and southern Europe came to the United States, they often found jobs as sewers and stitchers in the garment industry, working long hours in unhealthy and dangerous conditions for little pay.  These sweatshop conditions have returned to the United States, especially in the factories of the apparel industry, and spread across the global economy.  Today, sweatshop workers, whether working in a Los Angeles barrio, a Bangkok slum, or an export-zone of South China or El Salvador make our t-shirts and sneakers and toys.


This course engages students in the controversy regarding sweatshops and their role in the global economy.  We ask why sweatshops have returned to the United States, the richest economy in the world.  We also ask what role the spread of sweatshops in the developing world played in the alleviation and perpetuation of poverty and the "immiseration" of "liberation" of factory workers.  We will read pieces written by economists praising sweatshops and their role in economic development as well as stinging critiques of factory work and sweatshops.  Using electronic and printed resources, including worker's testimonies and economic analyses of export factories, we look closely at examples drawn from the apparel industry and the athletic footwear industry in Los Angeles and New York City, El Salvador, Indonesia, Mexico, Viet Nam, and especially China.


The course pays special attention to what we should and can do about sweatshop labor and asks students to develop an appropriate public response to sweatshops, as well as poor peoples' and workers' movements in the developing world.  We will ask if international labor standards, including calls for a "living wage" have been effective in alleviating sweatshop conditions.  We also ask if industrial codes of conducts and the recent self-monitoring efforts of corporations such as Reebok and Mattel are effective ways to regulate sweatshops.  In addition, we will assess the impact of social movements – first-world anti-sweatshop movements led by consumers, religious groups, and students and third-world workers’ and poor peoples’ movements – have had on sweatshop conditions and examine our role in that movement.




Behind The Label: Inequality in The Los Angeles Apparel Industry by Edna Bonacich and Richard Applebaum.

Beyond Sweatshops: Foreign Direct Investment Globalization in Developing Countries by Theodore H. Moran.

Can Labor Standards Improve Under Globalization? by Kimberly Ann Elliot and Richard B. Freeman

China's Workers Under Assault: the exploitation of Labor in a Globalizing Economy by Anita Chan. 

Made in China:  The Role of U.S. Companies in Denying Human and Worker Rights by Charles Kernaghan, National Labor Committee.

No Sweat:  Fashion, Free trade, and The Rights of Garment Workers edited by Andrew Ross.

Photocopied Packet of Readings available in Knapton 007 (for $10).



Class Participation – This class should operate as a seminar.  A seminar allows each of us to try out new ideas, to learn from each other, and to develop our critical facilities.  All of this is possible only if each of us is willing to participate actively in our class discussions.  Part of your grade will be based upon the quantity and quality of your class participation.  This is just as much a requirement for the course as any written assignment.


While effective class participation requires more than just showing up, you certainly can’t be a regular participant in our class discussions if you don’t show up.  I will expect you to attend each class.  Missing more than two classes will lower your final grade.


Readings and Discussion Questions – To get the most out of class time, we much come to class prepared, having read, or even re-read, the assigned material.  Each class will begin with our questions from the readings.  Also, to help analyze the readings, I will ask you to complete and turn in discussion questions on each week’s readings.


Papers – You will complete four short essays addressing different themes of the course as the required formal writing. The essays will between 500 and 2000 words and due different times during the semester.  One essay will be based on your oral report described below.


Oral Reports -- Each student will make a class presentation as part of a research team. You will present the results of your library study on working conditions and economic conditions in the clothing, footwear, and toy industries in various countries of the global economy.  We organize teams of students by industry, country and corporation.  You will develop an annotated bibliography of electronic and printed sources.  You will present the class with copies of your annotated sources and a handout that summarizes your presentation.


Special Class Sessions -- We will spend one class spend one class meeting touring Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the first textile mill in the United States


Mid-term and Final Exam Essays:  You will have a take-home mid-term and final exam that will ask you to write essays that explore the themes we develop during the semester.


Course Grading – Your grade for the course will be determined by:

            Papers                                                 Class Participation and Discussion Questions                 Oral Report and Paper                         Mid term and Final Exam Essays

Course Outline and Tentative Reading Schedule


Sept. 4, 9, 11   Introduction:  Sweatshops and the Anti-Sweatshop Movement

China's Workers Under Assault, ch. 1 & ch. 2.

"Two Cheers for Sweatshops," by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn,

 New York Times, 9/24/2000.

"Tide of China's Migrants," New York Times, 7/29/03.

In No Sweat: “Introduction” by Ross.

"Corporate America on the Hot Seat," in The Sweatshop Quandary, edited by Pamela Varley, Investors Responsibility Research Center, ch. 1.

"Knight Is Right," by Thomas Friedman, New York Times,  6/20/00.

VIDEO:  “Sweating For a T-shirt” by Global Exchange (1999).


BROWSE:  Smithsonian Institution Exhibit, Between A Rock and A Hard

Place, especially Fashion Food Chain and Dialogue and El Monte exhibits.


Sept.16,18       What is A Sweatshop?

In No Sweat: “The Economics of the Sweatshop,” by Piore and “After the

Year of the Sweatshop: Postscript,” by Ross, “El Monte Thai Garment

Workers” by Su, and “They Want to Kill Us For Little Money,” by Mort..

Sweatshop Warriors, ch. 1, ch. 2,  "Rojan 'Na' Cheuchujit," pp. 235-242.

China's Workers Under Assault, cases 19a & 19b. pp. 185-196.

 "Clothiers fold on sweatshop lawsuit,"  San Francisco Chronicle 9/27/02.

                                    Which of these is a Sweatshop?   New York Times 5/14/95,

New York Times, 8/29/96 , Newsweek 5/15/00, Los Angeles Times 5/30/00,

 Los Angeles Times, 7/2/00, Chicago Sun-Times, 3/18/2001, and

The Ottawa Citizen 6/22/01.


                                    BROWSE: Sweatshop Watch, especially Factsheet, the Garment Industry,

and Corporate Watch, Facts on the Global Sweatshop, Feminists Against Sweatshops, Frequently Asked Questions, , and "Sweatshops in the U.S.,"  GAO, 1988.


Sept.23, 25, 30              U.S. Sweatshops:   In History and Their Return

Oct. 2*                        In No Sweat: “Labor, History, and Sweatshops in the New Global

                                    Economy” by Howard.

Behind The Label, intro. Part I: Capital, ch. 1   4, Part II: Labor , ch. 5 - 7.

Sweatshop Warriors by Miriam Ching Yoon Louie ch. 2,

“Maquiladoras: The View from the Inside,” by Fernandez-Kelly in

                                    The Women, Gender, and Development Reader edited by Visvanathan et al.                                         The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Sweatshop Reform In American History by

Suzanne Lieurance, ch 1, ch.2, ch. 4- ch. 6.

"Budgets of the Triangle Fire Victims," in The Triangle Strike and Fire,

 by McClymer, pp. 107-109.

 "The Big City: A 1911 Fire as Good TV, Bad History," New York Times,



BROWSE:  Cornell ILR  Triangle Fire Website, especially narrative 2 & 3

 and Letters, Newman; "Remembering Rose Freedman, last survivor of the

Triangle Factory Fire," CBC, 2001;  Smithsonian Institution Exhibit, Between A Rock and A Hard Place,; MSNBC TV News: Sweatshops:  especially undercover diary and timetable; and, Los Angeles Jewish Commission on Sweatshops.


Oct. 7, 9,16     Why Would Economists Defend Sweatshops?                         

"In Defense of Sweatshops," in The Sweatshop Quandary, ch. 3.

"Why Economists are Wrong About Sweatshops and the Anti-Sweatshop

Movement,' by Miller, Challenge, Jan./Feb. 2003.

 "In Praise of Cheap Labor," by Paul Krugman, Slate 3/27/97.

“A Defense of Sweatshops” by Weidenbaum All in Child Labor and

 Sweatshops edited by Williams, 1999.

"Academic Consortium on International Trade), Letter to University

Presidents,", available at the ACIT website.

"Scholars Against Sweatshop Labor Statement," available at  PERI..

Contours of Descent by Pollin, pp.  156-163,


Browse "Clothes Encounters: Activists and Economists Clash Over

Sweatshops," by Liza Featherstone and Doug Henwood, Lingua Franca,

March 2001.  "Antisweatshop Movement: A Letter and a Response" by Linda Lim and John Miller, Challenge, July-August 2003.


Oct.  21, 23     Two Views  of Globalization and The Role of Direct Foreign Investment

         28                       Beyond Sweatshops:  ch. 1, ch. 2, ch. 3.

                                     "Global Capitalism: Can it be made to work better?" Business Week


"Globalism's Discontents," by Joseph Stiglitz, The American Prospect,

Vol. 13,  Issue 1, Jan 1, 2002.

"The Scorecard of Globalization 1980-2000: Twenty Years of Diminished

Progress, " by Wesibrot et al and "Globalization: A Primer" by Weisbrot,

both from The Center For Economic and  Policy Research.

"Searching for the Holy  Grail? Making FDI Work for Sustainable Development,"   by Zarksy and Gallagher. Tufts University, March 2003.


VIDEO: Global Village or Global Pillage (Global Exchange).

BROWSE: Braunstein  and Epstein.  2002.  Bargaining Power and Foreign Direct Investment in China: Can 1.3 Billion Consumers Tame the Multinationals?  Political Economy Research Institute.

"But Mr. Clinton, Globalization has a Human Face," by Bhagwati, The

Financial Times, 8/17/99.



Oct. 30                        Clothes Production in the Global Economy: China.

Nov. 4, 6                     China's Workers Under Assault,  ch. 3, ch.4, ch. 5, ch. 6, ch 8.

In Made in China: Wal-Mart/ Kathie-Lee Handbags, Nike, Wei Li Textile,

 Ltd., Spiegel.


BROWSE. Global Exchange, Global Trade Watch, and National Labor

Committee on China.


Nov. 11, 13     The Athletic Footwear Industry: Southeast Asia and China

                                    In Made in China: Timberland, New Balance, Fubu and Deep-E, Keds, Nike.

Intro , Labor Law in China,  Cost of living, Company Dorm, Labor Activists

 Imprisoned, Rhetoric vs. Reality.

                                    “Commodity Chains and Marketing Strategies: Nike and the Global

Athletic Footwear Industry,” by Korzeniewicz, in Commodity Chains and

Global Capitalism, edited by Gary Gereffic and Miguel Korzeniewicz.

“The Globetrotting Sneaker,” by Enloe, Women’s Lives, edited by Gwyn

and Okazawa-Rey.



VIDEO:  Now with Bill Moyers 9/5/03:  Women and Globalization.

BROWSE NIKE ON THE WEB: “Nike’s Satanic Factories in West Java

(Indonesia),” by Hancock, 1997, “Cruel Treatment Working for Nike in

 Indonesia,” by Press For Change, 1999; “Nike Labor Practices in

 Vietnam” by Vietnam   Labor Watch, 1997; “Nike, show workers the at your

 commitment to human rights is genuine,” by Hong Kong Christian

 Industrial Committee 2/00.


Nov. 18, 20,    Labor Standards and The Living Wage Debate;

Nov. 25                       China's Workers Under Assault, ch. 9.

                                    Beyond Sweatshops, ch. 4, ch. 5.

                                    Can Labor Standards Improve Under Globalization?, ch. 1, ch 2, ch. 3.

Contours of Descent by Pollin, pp.  156-163,


                                    BROWSE: "Thinking About Social Responsibility," by Jagdish

                                    Bhagwati, World Link , Feb. 2001.  “The Case of Corporate

 Responsibility: Paying a Living Wage to Maquila Workers in El

 Salvador,” by Connor et al, A Study for  the National Labor    Committee, May 14, 1999. “Wages and  Living Expenses for Nike

 Workers in Indonesia September 1998” by Benjamin, both from

 Clean Clothes Campaign; "The Effects of Multinational Production

 on Wages and Working Conditions in Developing Countries," by Brown, Deadorff, and Stern;  "Global Apparel Production and Sweatshop Labor: Can Raising Retail Prices Finance Living Wages?" by Pollin,  Burns and Heintz, Cambridge Journal of Economics, forthcoming.2003.     


Dec. 2, 4          Government Enforcement, Labor Rights, Corporate Responsibility, and

         9, 11        Antisweatshop Movement

                        Behind the Label: ch. 8, ch. 9, ch. 10.

                        Beyond Sweatshops, ch. 6, ch. 7, ch. 9.

Can Labor Standards Improve Under Globalization?, ch. 6, ch. 7.

“The Era of Corporate Rule,” by Naomi Klein, Corporate Watch.

"Knight Is Right," by Thomas Friedman, New York Times,  6/20/00.

"Foot Fault,' by Peter Drier and Richard Appelbaum, The American Prospect

On Line, Sept. 2003.

“Latin Sweatshops Pressed by U.S Campus Power,” New York

 Times, 3/31/03.


BROWSE:  Bata Shoes, Corporate Watch, Fair Labor Association, Global

 Exchange, Global Trade Watch, Mattel, Reebok,  and Unite,

UC Berkeley Labor Center, "The Global Economy." Fair Labor

 Association, , Sweatshop Watch,  United Students Against Sweatshops.


*          Field Trip to Slater Mill, date to be announced.



Bata Shoes

            A large Canadian owner manufacturer of shoes operating in Southeast Asia sited by non

 governmental organizations (NGOs)  as a more responsible employer that pays a living

wage and  does not use subcontractors.


Boycott Nike Homepage

            Covers the Nike in Vietnam Story reported on CBS provides a report on the dangerous and

 abusive labor practice in the factories of Nike’s subcontractors in Viet Nam.


Campaign For Labor Rights

            Mobilizes grassroots activism throughout the United States for a campaign to end

sweatshop abuses and child labor.  Large sections on Nike in Asia, Disney in Haiti,

 and  sweatshops in Mexico and Central America.


Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC)

"Remembering Rose Freedman, last survivor of the Triangle Factory Fire."  CBC, 2001.


Cleanclothes Campaign, Nike

            A British website with updated reports on Nike in China.


Co-op America’s solutions for a global economy: Sweatshops

            A national non-profit education organization that works to promote a socially responsible

 market place.


Cornell University, International Labor Relations School, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Page

            Contains pictures of and commentary on the fire and its aftermath.


Corporate Watch

            Bills itself as the watch dog of the web when it comes to corporate irresponsibility.  Of

 interest are its Nike expose page and its newsletter Blood, Sweat, and Shears.


Fair Labor Association

Garment Industry Association that emerged from a White House organized anti-sweatshop

meeting.   It members include Kathie Lee Gifford, Liz Claiborne, Reebok, and other

 corporate giants and its fair labor guidelines demand that member corporations open their plants to inspection by external monitors and that members pay the prevailing minimum wage, not a living wage.


Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor

These standards  emerged from the labor struggles of the 1930s and the New Deal and were

 enacted in 1938.  They include the minimum wage, time and a half for overtime, and the

 prohibition of homework and child labor.


Feminists Against Sweatshops

This feminist web site points out that women make up 90% of sweatshop laborers in the

 global economy.  Their frequently asked questions section is especially helpful.


Global Exchange

            One of two leading groups in the U.S. anti-sweatshop campaign.  Their site contains

            Information on global economy as well as corporate reports such as Nike Update.


Global Trade Watch

Part of Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen  devoted to promoting government and corporate

 accountability in the world economy

            A site managed by United For A Fair Economy contains the latest data on U.S inequality.


International Labor Organization (ILO)

            Official international labor and human rights organization known as the authors of

            International Labor Conventions and for its studies of the informal sector.


Los Angeles Jewish Commission on Sweatshops

            See their January 1999 report on Sweatshop in the L.A. garment industry.


Mattel’s Corporate Responsibility Page

Mattel, the toy company, one of the largest contractors of toys producer in the developing world, recently published a study of conditions in the factories of their subcontractors.


MSNBC TV News: Sweatshops: America’s Labor Struggle.

 Assembled for their Dateline Program. See especially the undercover diary and timetable.


National Labor Committee (NLC)

            One of the two (along with Global Exchange) leading Human and Workers Rights

organizations in the U.S. anti-sweatshop campaign.  Headed by Charles Kernaghan, the

 NLC has conducted successful campaigns against Kathie Lee Gifford/Wal-Mart and the

Gap and has recently turned its attention to East Asia, especially China.


NikeBiz/Labor Index

Nike’s social responsibility webpage that contains: Nike’s response to student

protests, Nike’s take on the labor conditions in its factories in China, and an explanation of Phil Knight’s (the CEO) decision to no longer donate to the

University of Oregon after it to joined the Worker’s Rights Constorium.


Nikewatch: Are Nike Factories Sweatshops?

            Sponsored by Community Aid Abroad, Oxfam, Australia, a complete website

            dedicated to a campaign to get Nike to upgrade its code of conduct.


Nike Workers Web Page

            Site contains a study of wages paid workers in factories of Nike subcontractors in

 Indonesia and series of photos taken “inside” factories producing Nikes in Indonesia.


NO SWEAT – Help End Sweatshop Conditions

            Department of Labor (D.O.L.) anti-sweatshop page includes lists of corporations granted

            The D.O.L. no sweat label. Uses the GAO definition of sweatshops.


Poverty Net: Resources to Support People Working to Understand and Alleviate Poverty

            World Bank poverty page with data, interviews, and program descriptions.



            One of the largest manufacturers of athletic footwear, regards itself as a model employer,

and recently published a self-monitoring report on its subcontractors in Indonesia.


Rethinking Schools

            Reports on its Summer 1997 Volume devoted to sweatshops.  It includes helpful exercises

            And curriculum suggestions.


Smithsonian Institution Exhibit, Between A Rock and A Hard Place: 

The controversial Sweatshop in America exhibit of the Smithsonian containing long pieces

 on the  history of U.S. sweatshops, the garment industry, and the El Monte case as well as

the global production game.


Sweatshop Watch

            A coalition of labor, community, civil rights, immigrant rights, women’s, religious and

 student organizations and individuals committed to eliminating sweatshop conditions in

 the global garment industry.  See What is a  Sweatshop under garment industry.


UNITE! Union Home Page

            The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees has taken a leading

            role among U.S. unions in the fight against sweatshops.





United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

            UN agency that publishes the Human Development Report and is know for its work on

            Global inequality by income, region, and gender.


United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)

            An international coalition of students devoted to stopping sweatshop labor. It reports

            On the USAS-directed Sweat-Free-Campus Campaign which demands that colleges

Initiate codes of conduct that go beyond the standards set by the Fair Labor