Coffee Mug

Description
Garment worker Siriluk Rongsak used this red ceramic mug while working at a sweatshop in suburban El Monte, California. The mug was seized during a well-publicized 1995 sweatshop raid and is part of a larger Smithsonian collection of artifacts documenting apparel industry sweatshops, focusing on the El Monte operation. The El Monte sweatshop, like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911 earlier, took on an iconic role as government and activists used media coverage to galvanize the American public into action.
On August 2, 1995, police arrested eight operators of the clandestine El Monte garment shop and freed seventy-two Thai nationals who had been working in a form of modern slavery. Workers, recruited in Thailand, were promised good pay and good working conditions. After signing an indenture agreement for $5,000 they were smuggled into the United States with fraudulent documents. The workers were paid about $1.60 an hour with sixteen-hour workdays in horrifying conditions. They were held against their will in a razor wire enclosed complex with an armed guard and were jammed into close living quarters. By 1999, eleven companies Mervyn's, Montgomery Ward, Tomato, Bum International, L.F. Sportswear, Millers Outpost, Balmara, Beniko, F-40 California, Ms. Tops, and Topson Downs, agreed to pay more than $3.7 million dollars to the 150 workers who labored in the El Monte sweatshop. As in most cases of sweatshop production, these companies contend that they did not knowingly contract with operators who were violating the law.
Location
Currently not on view
Physical Description
ceramic (overall material)
red; white (overall color)
Measurements
overall: 3 7/8 in x 4 7/8 in x 3 1/4 in; 9.8425 cm x 12.3825 cm x 8.255 cm
ID Number
1997.0273.01
accession number
1997.0273
catalog number
1997.0273.01
Credit Line
Gift of Siriluk Rongsak
See more items in
Work and Industry: Production and Manufacturing
Work
Sweatshops
El Monte
Many Voices, One Nation
Data Source
National Museum of American History

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