Tomorrow I should be paid. And I’m excited because my reserves are now at a low of 2000THB. And I feel poor. I surmised that to live a decent ish life (meaning not having to ride the bus everyday to work and regular treadmills, waxing sessions, mani pedi, mostly vegan diet… I CAN’T HELP IT! My diet and routine is highly specialized because unlike most of you naturally skinny Asians, I’m not skinny… I want to be skinny so bad and have to work hard for it too.), I will need around 500++THB/day.
BUT, that’s not the reason why I’m compelled to write here again. The topic/ issue for the day is about sweatshops.
It’s very automatic which images come to mind. Ladies (Chinese looking. read: Thai) in rows upon rows of machines sewing sewing and sewing. Wiping their sweaty foreheads while at it. Trying to keeping their disheveled selves and dignity intact. And like any grossly inaccurate hollywood movie… a lot of it is exaggerated. So bad is this exaggeration that when I typed “sweatshops” on google images, I saw really nice working factories. Most of them are.
This entry by my favouritest blogger in the world, Mrs. Kathleen Fasanella aka Mrs. Fashion Incubator,gives a bit of insight into what “people” (by people, I mean, people who’s opinions are relevant because they actually know what the’re talking about not just some labor rights group shouting foul all the time) think is constitutes a good factory and what doesn’t.
It’s a topic that’s become relevant to me because I now officially work in a factory and am to some degree a factory worker. Sure I had a manufacturing outfit back in Manila that can be in a way called a factory- it still pains me to get flashbacks of my dear Lucy cutting on the floor (lack of funds to buy big ass cutting table; plus, there really aren’t any space available for a table bigger than what we had then which was a regular 4 person dining table)… Then and now though are worlds apart. Sort of.
SOOOO, The nagging question that at times lurk in my head these past couple of weeks is “have I unwittingly been employed in a sweatshop myself?”.
In the hierarchy of this little kingdom (fiefdom… JOKING) that is the factory, I’m actually an employee of position much like an admiral or a colonel or the sexy harem girl so my conditions aren’t as bad as those in the sewing floor (the farmers, the human plumbing pipes).
Enough comfort has been bestowed upon me that I’m finding time to actually write this entry and muse about whether or not me and my co-workers are treated “fair enough”(because fairness is a relative term).
Feeling like someone who’s opinion should be relevant, I can’t help but provide my own two cents. Based on six ish weeks of experience. (Mind you, I do kinda feel like a dirty pretentious hypocrite [like those social science post grads- being cheeky dear, Of course you’re not! ;P] now because I’m discussing labor rights and fair trade in the comforts of my own airconditioned bedroom. Half lying down on the left side of my queen sized bed.)
Conditions for me improved immensely after those two hell weeks I had to rush producing samples. After those two weeks, I only ever visited the factory once and just camped inside the house until I got slight cabin fever. I also learned that this factory is barely a few months old… So they’re still ironing their logistics and production line. The cutting table I worked on was actually brand new when I started- it was perfect for my 173cm height sucks for Lamun , the production manager, cause the table rises up to her empire/ chest region. A lot of the folding and packing job is still done on the floor though I can’t really imagine it done any other way. Not with the multi purpose cutting table that high.
From my observation, My co-workers seem to be very happy. They get paid decently. Have lunch and dinner breaks. The bathroom plumbing works. The workers lounge, clean. They do have to clock in until 10pm on rush days- but they’re paid OT. Except for us the higher ups that don’t get paid on a per day rate… They get Sundays off. The only worker who’s condition closely resemble sweatshop is ironically, the manager. She’s on call 24/7. She’s a workhorse and bossie seems to be milking it a bit. The last time I visited, the bundles weren’t as high as mini mountains like the time I was in the factory. Most important factor, I do know my boss is making a real effort improving everyone’s condition. He knows a happy bee makes good honey.
So yeah, I think it was unfair to a large extent for me to throw around the “sweatshop” tag in my last post. I’m not saying the factory is perfect- a lot of things can and should be improved. It just means that because it can’t provide centralized aircon for my thick hide that needs airconing 24/7, doesn’t make the factory sweatshop.
I do get a bit messianic complex about it. Feeling like I’m gods gift to them and I will magically make this factory the way I imagine prettty rainbow butterfly factory should look like… hard wood floors included. 😀
On a more serious note,
I am a strong believer of fair trade and sound labor practices. My dream is to own an outfit that could be sustainable on both ends. And would be growth (economic etc) conducive not just for me but for all my (future) employees. So I’m really taking notes from the factory floor on what to take on with me when I finally branch out. And what exactly not to do. This is what this blog is all about. A reference journal of sorts.