The Unseen Labor Force

Capitalistic standards have bred a nation of self-interested corporations striving to earn the next dollar at the expense of laborers all over the world. Immigrants are divided through the “subcontracting system by ethnicity, gender and immigrant status and by the globalization” of their industries. Ethnic and race conscious labor histories are still very much alive in sweat shop industries. These “niche markets” of low waged immigrant woman workers are being exploited behind closed doors. The “image conscious corporations” mentioned by Louie, is constantly masking the means of production and labor, thus making the working conditions for the vast majority of female immigrant workers virtually invisible.

Many industries such as the hotel industry are employing immigrant workers but constantly hiding them behind the scenes. In the reading, Louie mentions how immigrant Latino and Asian workers are usually placed in the back of the house operations while college educated waitresses and receptionists are working front of the house to interact with the consumers doing the product purchasing. Clothing brands alike, tend to hide the backbones of production to avoid influencing consumer’s perception of the product. Because hiring patterns reflect consumer behaviors and perceptions about a product/ brand, labor practices and sweatshops are often invisible to the public eye. The release of “pent-up human suffering” is crucial to allowing immigrant women to regain their dignity and free themselves from the shackles of capitalism.

The video I attached at the bottom is the infamous documentary, Behind the Swoosh (2009). It brought to light the utter corruption in sweatshops in Indonesia manufacturing for Nike. The documentary clearly shows us Nike’s position of power in the production process telling us what its only true concern is: a high rate of production and a high return achieved through extremely low labor wages, at about $1.25 per day. On a daily basis, working conditions are permeated with corruption and fear, exploiting females and children as if they were merely objects of production. By keeping these workers hungry and poor, Nike was able to keep workers from fighting back, robbing them of dignity and self worth. The documentary does a great job at exposing the true nature of sweatshops (before any reforms) and American’s exploitation of low cost labor, all for the sake of good old capitalism.



Since the exposure of Behind the Swoosh and other misfortunes such as Rizana Nafeek’s tragic death, workers movements have spurred and strengthened, increasing visibility to laborers all over the world.


Early last year, Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan migrant in Saudi Arabia, was executed after being convicted of killing a baby in her care. U.S. Domestic workers’ movement, led largely by immigrant women of color, is doing more and more in pursuit of countering abusive job conditions and give female laborers a voice. The movement “highlights the often overlooked intersection between labor, gender, and immigrant rights struggles.” The Domestic Workers United campaigned for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010, establishing standards for rest time, wages and anti-discrimination protections. The country’s shifting demographics are prompting demand for national labor reform. Nafeek represents the “continuum of abuse of transnational, precarious migrant labor, channeled through legal “sponsorship” programs and black-market networks.” Like the many other silenced laborers all over the world, Rizana was just one example of a female in the workforce that is virtually invisible to us, yet suffered tremendously at the hands of her controller.

Here is the Behind the Swoosh documentary its about 20 minutes but gives a good perspective of the differences between working conditions for American Nike workers, and those in Indonesia before any reforms were implemented.


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