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Students Against Sweatshops


Sweatshops are assembly-for-export factories (also known as maquiladoras) in which workers are subjected to extreme exploitation. They experience harsh and deplorable working conditions, low wages, and lack of benefits. Sweatshop wages do not provide enough money to cover the cost of basic needs, such as food, shelter, and healthcare. Even a minimum wage usually doesn’t cover these costs.


Sweatshop laborers generally work 60-80 hours per week and are not paid enough to put food on the table, sometimes receiving just pennies a day for their labor.  Often, the sweatshop environment is unsafe. Workers are harassed, intimidated, forced to work overtime, and made to work in dangerous and unhealthy environments, even while ill.  Workers handle toxic chemical paints, solvents, and glues with their bare hands. 

Sweatshops are a product of the global economy and so-called "free" trade.  Companies increase profits by driving down costs any way possible, so they set up low-cost factories.  To minimize costs, companies look for places with the lowest wages and human rights protections.  Sweatshops can be found all over Central and South America, Asia, and certain regions of Europe.  There are even undocumented workers in sweatshops in places like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Since adults are not paid a living wage, their children also go to work to help support the family. Children employed in sweatshops are willing to work for less money and are less likely to complain about poor working conditions.  Because of their work shifts and forced overtime, children workers usually drop out of school. 



Students concerned about the abuses of sweatshop labor organized United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) in the late 1990s. United Students against Sweatshops is the largest anti-sweatshop community group in the United States and Canada. Focusing on domestic as well as international sweatshops, the group has built coalitions of students, labor groups, workers, and community members that focus on a range of campaigns. USAS organizes in solidarity with garment workers to fight sweatshop conditions such as poverty wages, forced overtime, sexual harassment, union busting, and health and safety violations in the global apparel industry.

Conscious consumers can help by buying sustainable, fair-trade and cruelty-free apparel.

For information on how to take action at your high school, college or university to end sweatshop labor, contact  You can also visit the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) at