Seamstress at a Sweat Shops in the 21st Century

Ok, you never realize you’ve made poor choices until they’ve already flourished (or spoiled) and shown their full effect. I’ve been trying to be the person who’s had their shit together since my seniour year in high school. I had grandiose dreams of going off to art school and becoming a fashion designer and working in some glamourous high paying professional career so that I could live in NYC.

When two years of a prestigious high end art school for girls failed, I eventually ended up working in a factory where I live. I applied for the position of sewing machine operator and thought I was striking it big getting offered a position operating a huge computer-operated cutting table that cuts pattern pieces from files. It was fine at first, there were two tables and two of us. The boss was cordial, I did my thing, ok.

The hell hole grew larger and larger over the course of the next year. I ended up running the single table by myself (the one I started on broke and no one was fixing it). Mile after mile of fabric passed through my hands as I painstakingly yanked from these huge rolls, heavy material down this table, set it up, and started the machine. I could go on forever about this part of the job but it’s long behind me. At the end of my second year I left, getting a part time sewing job that I was laid off from in a matter of 6 months.

Last summer I went broke after what I had had saved in the bank from unemployment and tuition reimbursement checks had run dry. Yes, I went back to school after I got laid off. I returned with great optimism.

I was forced to go back, tail between legs, to this place and hope they didn’t hold resentment towards me. The boss, surprisingly, welcomed me back with open arms sort of. This time it was all different. The sewing area was now enclosed and had air conditioning. Big plus. I was doing only sewing and I was only working part time. After having spent a couple years honing my sewing skills to make costumes for myself and having worked at the other place, it came more naturally than it had when they FINALLY put me on the sewing machines a couple months before quitting. My work was horrible then.

It’s about a year later and I had worked my way up to three days a week. It’s hard man. Forcing yourself to get up every day, rush out the door, and sit in a smelly, dirty, place where the clock never seems to move. Sitting way longer than one should with pains from holding in your bowels in fear that it’s been too soon to go potty again and they’ll get angry and say something. Feeling the dust and fibers from the filthy sewing machines landing on your skin, tickling you, making you insane from itchiness and wanting only to go take a shower. Being told you take too long in the bathroom but then get scolded when you don’t wipe out the sink when you’re done. Being limited to only 20 minutes of break time per day for eating your lunch. Not being able to answer your phone long enough to see who was calling and tell them you’ll call them back later without your boss making a big deal over the fact that you were on your phone even though other employees take calls all day.

I am not a racist person but I do not like working with people who are of the same race and foreign as they become cohorts. They are unfriendly and two faced and act resentful I guess because I am American. They never get scolded about their phone calls or trips to the bathroom and let me tell you, they don’t rush around for anyone. I’m busting my ass to get everything 100% right and get it all done, go beyond the boss’s expectations, and they make a big deal out of one tiny mistake out of all the great things I did. I do two-three times as much work as anyone there.

And yes, I have to shake my clothes out at the end of the day because we all share the same nasty, filthy, office chairs. The place is totally disgusting and unclean. We sweep up at the end of the day on Fridays, big deal. The AC barely works, there’s a shortage of light bulbs and inadequate lighting. The one lamp had to be taped with masking tape by another working cause it kept falling over. The machines bunch up, the threat breaks, yet you’re blamed for it when they are making us use however old hunch of junk equipment. The one machine doesn’t even back stitch but I am made to back stitch on it. We do not have a tacking machine, the other place did. Ever see a strap attached to a bag with a little “X” design? That’s a tacking machine. We don’t even have the proper equipment for cutting strapping. The foreign lady puts the roll on the table, usually right where I am working despite the request to do it elsewhere, marks each piece and has to burn it apart by hand. The one day she had to do it with a LIGHTER!

I was thankful that they took me back and have been flexible but even that has ended. I was given a hard time when I asked to come in three hours late one morning because I had to attend a mass in memory of my recently deceased sister. I was sick last week and called out and offered to come the next day to make it up but I know they are slow so I didn’t think they would miss me anyway. They cut my hours from 24 hrs a week to 8 supposedly because of the economy but I’m not buying it. I have a note from the doctor too. I fucking hate this shit man.

They were flexible with me in the beginning and now they are just being pricks. The best part is that they are allowed to smoke in there and I am sure in this state, even though it’s technically illegal, there are some sort of loopholes company owners are given. The air is horrible. It smells like vinyl, glue, and cigarette smoke. I radiate this smell when I leave there and so does my stuff. The rest of the shop still lacks AC and there is only one water cooler. Fucking sweatshop slave labour man.