From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes

From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes


[Music] over the years Cambodia has become one of the world’s capitals of sex tourism it’s cheap and available prostitutes attracting men from around the world the sex industry has different rungs to it there’s streetwalkers that do the five dollar blowjob there are brothels there’s massage parlors and then there are the bars where you go in you get serve drinks and the girls will go home with you there are tens of thousands of women who are doing that here in Cambodia the US government has long worried that many of these women were victims of human trafficking and put pressure on Cambodia to crack down and since Washington provides some six hundred million dollars a year in development aid the Cambodian government finally listened in 2008 it launched an aggressive new anti trafficking and prostitution campaign but there have been reports that it was doing more harm than good so we went to see for ourselves boys all by the way so we’re out on patrol the anti-trafficking unit from the Ministry of the Interior we’re going on a raid to get some women who have been illegally trafficked that’s all we know right now they’re taking their phones right now so the girls won’t call ahead to other operations to other brothels it’s a very happy scene right now [Music] oh my god this is this is but as dark as it gets right here Oh where did they go now what do you do with the girls I thought man can be tiny don’t know what if I compared a young man that can be the main union between time young disaffected by scientist and inanimate objects inside not before and this is the crux of Cambodia’s anti-trafficking program sex workers brought into police custody are given a simple choice except training for a new career or remain in custody indefinitely vulnerable to abuse and shakedowns by corrupt police with these options most women choose retraining almost always for work in Cambodia’s booming garment industry since the Cambodian government started its crackdown in 2008 authorities claim to have rescued and retrain thousands of women from the sex industry what at first glance seem like better jobs but we soon learned that many of these women didn’t want to be rescued at all at the end of this long abandoned train track is a makeshift squatter camp it’s the home to one of the rescued sex workers a mother named Paul Poli so today after paulie’s arrest police released her into the custody of a local NGO that would prepare her for her new career but sceptile mom loose at the I get up off on deck to obey but fear my young hai Nam will hope job god man nada the NGO would train her for work in the garment industry which employs a half million Cambodians and makes up 80% of the country’s exports at first it sounded like an opportunity for a fresh start and Cambodia’s biggest industry the reality was very different so were you making any money while you were in the training union Hanoi day I an8 a well-known Antonio Inoki I would love a knee-high um no no Mia now they all think I’m gonna we spoke to several women with similar stories and they told us that life didn’t get much better after they finally entered the workplace garment workers here get a base salary of $80 a month the minimum wage that’s barely enough to feed a family a diet of rice alone and pay rent in a shack and pnom pan or live in factory barracks like these sang-soo a man tries to support her family working long hours in the garment factory but it’s still not enough to get by how much is your rent for your house I said all right now don’t I think my own hoping behind Island hey dude I seen all kinds doing that going to and don’t make that big wooden anything high five something’s coming like dog here Jim I hang you up on the phone I’m told how I’m doing when I won’t get done tonight buddy hope I think let’s hope my hide it on my own today to make ends meet she now moonlights as a prostitute every night earning just eight dollars per customer we look around the world where the garment industry is flourishing what attracts a garment industry it tends to be with the rule of law is weakest and where people are so desperately poor that I’ll master almost willing to work under any conditions David Welsh is an organizer at the Solidarity Center a labor rights group out of the United States it’s affiliated with the afl-cio it’s not indentured slavery or servitude but in a way it is throughout the supply chain incredible amount of money is being made by these brands a significant amount of money to be made by the factories the workers are nowhere near a living wage and that’s where the margins are desperate for jobs and fearful of crackdowns by the authoritarian Cambodian government garment workers have four years stayed quiet but conditions have gotten so bad because they are now starting to push back we’re just outside the capital where dozens of clothing manufacturers for Western brands sprawl out for miles hundreds of garment workers were picketing for a second day and things were tense these women are protesting striking the base existence they want to be paid for just that morning thugs had come and beaten some of the strikers with clubs and that pushed the women to their boiling point we wanted to see the factory conditions that led these women to strike but these factories are notoriously difficult to get into especially with cameras can you take inside solidarity we are not allowed in this Factory but if the workers all protect us then we can go in so they’re taking us in to pick up the pot a little bit security guys making calls right before long someone from management showed up to greetings [Applause] [Applause] normally it is 3000 women no nose to the grindstone sitting here all day every day six days a week for maybe $80 a month and they’re supposed to feed their families with that by all definitions Cambodia’s garment factories are sweatshops literally and some factories there have been mass faintings and women have been hospitalized by the hundreds on the floor at berry we sell labels for hmm Old Navy Benetton and Russell athletics over several weeks we reached out to all of these brands but no one wanted to talk to us on camera the management of the berry factory told us that none of this was a problem at their shop the bay treated their workers well and even paid them more than the minimum wage and then for some reason they wanted me to be the one to convince their workers of all that you can spend today it’s not it’s not appropriate for me to get involved in these contract negotiation I had no intention of being a mouthpiece of the factory management so I took this opportunity test the workers directly what they are actually paying their bodies are saying that the bit of momentum is happy for 80 dollars and that you are actually dead made less 75 to 200 is that correct [Applause] this entire dispute which has led to the walkout and strike was all over what amounted to a $4 per month raise and the very fact that Barry’s management actually invited us to see their factory strongly suggests that the conditions there are far above average many others in Cambodia and throughout Asia are far worse like a factory making sneakers for Asics wear roof collapsed in 2013 and killed two workers and injured seven others the working conditions in the garment industry have gotten so bad that strikes by workers and clashes with the authorities are now almost routine the government is starting to get worried that all this unrest will hurt business in January 2014 police open fire on demonstrating garment workers killing at least four these riots threaten the destabilize cambodia in all this so you can spend a few dollars less on our t-shirts it’s crazy when you go into a big retailer in America and you can find a hoodie played ten bucks like if you think about it how could it be that cheap the only way is that the people who are making the product are getting paid peanuts and that’s what’s going on here [Music] many of the sex workers pushed into garment jobs told us they didn’t want to be rescued at all the women we spoke to said the pay and conditions are actually better on the streets if you quit being a sex worker would you go back to the garment industry Councilwoman Ivo meant well but my to mark the aliens o-mint laptop some tile men will chop some tongue until t attack and here’s a sad bit of irony about Cambodia’s rescue program a number of studies have found that most of Cambodia’s sex workers weren’t victims of trafficking after all for now women are choosing prostitution over garment work and that more than anything it’s a very stark picture of what the reality is for Cambodia’s girls and women [Music] [Applause] [Music]

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