US: Sweatshop workers awarded US$1.2m damages
Garment workers toiling in “sweatshop” conditions in Manhattan have been awarded more than US$1.2m in damages for unpaid wages by a federal judge.
The 13 immigrant workers at the factory in Chinatown, Lower Manhattan, regularly worked six or seven days a week and 10-12 hours a day, or longer at busy times, according to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which represented them in court.
They were paid by the piece, but regularly did not earn the minimum wage or overtime for making items primarily for retailers Dress Barn and Lane Bryant, neither of which was a party to the lawsuit.
When the factory closed in October 2010, it also owed the workers more than $110,000 in unpaid wages, on top of the unpaid overtime and minimum wage pay, which covered the 2005-2010 period.
The two defendants, factory boss Jun Reng Zhou and factory manager Jin Xian Mei, tried to blame others for the offences, but the judge described their testimony as “inconsistent and incredible”.
“Not all of the garments made for American manufacturers are made overseas,” said Ken Kimerling, AALDEF legal director and attorney for the workers.
“Garment sweatshops still exist in Manhattan, and workers are still not being paid overtime and minimum wages.
“This excellent decision shows that, while some manufacturers may be spending more to monitor their work overseas, they still need to protect American workers as well.”
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