Trimming Fabric

Workers in the famous El Monte sweatshop used this bundle of knit trimming fabric (collars and cuffs) as they sewed Airtime brand shirts. . While the sweatshop was located in El Monte, California, Dolphin Trimming Inc. (where the fabric was cut) was nearly 3,000 miles away in Miami Lakes, Florida. The apparel production business is typified by small shops doing specialization work. Authorities seized the fabric along with other evidence during a well-publicized 1995 raid. The bundle is part of a larger Smithsonian collection of artifacts documenting apparel industry sweatshops, focusing on the El Monte operation.
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.
Currently not on view
overall: 2 in x 18 3/4 in x 3 7/8 in; 5.08 cm x 47.625 cm x 9.8425 cm
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
El Monte
Many Voices, One Nation
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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