The Sociology Video Project

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Title: Sweating for a t-shirt

Rating: 3.5 out of 4

Reference: Producer & writer, Medea Benjamin; director, Maisa Mendonça
San Francisco: Global Exchange, 1998
23 minutes.
Call number: video 5346

Abstract: UCLA freshman Arlen Benjamin journeys to Honduras to investigate unfair conditions and practices of sweatshop industry in the maquilas owned by large Western clothing companies, which sell billions of dollars of clothes in college stores. Executives and workers in Honduras give their views, and students at UCLA are interviewed about their level of awareness. Examples of effective action are presented.

Library of Congress subjects:
Clothing trade—Honduras
Clothing trade--United States
Offshore assembly industry--Honduras
Honduras--Economic conditions

Sociology subjects:
Ethnographic methods
Globalisation & development
Kids & youth (in part)
Women & work

Reviews and Numerical Ratings

3.5 This video would be excellent in a first year class for introducing students to basic sociological concepts such as globalization, imperialism, capitalism, social inequalities, even what/who a worker is. It could also promote conversations on the production of apathy in Western countries. The video is well produced, easy to understand, the subtitles are easy to read if English or Spanish are not your first languages. It is very basic though, and may not be suitable for 3rd or 4th year students. Anna Toth

3.5 Very interesting! Dispels myth that maquilas are creating jobs, that improvements to them have been implemented. Shows struggle by workers, apathy on part of university community in U.S.A., activism of student narrator. A smart video with good appeal for students, though it could be 5 minutes shorter. Lecture topics: work, sweatshops, observation research (entrée issues especially), agency. James Beaton, Kathy Bischoping, & Riley Olstead

4 Stupendous exposé of the insidious nature of globalization: in order to successfully achieve a high standard of living, one must diminish the standard of living of another. Globalization is demonstrated to benefit only the few while leaving the masses to starve and work as, essentially, slave labour. The video makes clear that working conditions in developing countries are not fit for scrutiny, as numerous requests for visitation of these workshops was denied. The video illustrates the perils that workers are faced with in these poor countries. Barbed wire surrounds these buildings, scrutiny is forbidden, discontented workers are fired, & unions are powerfully dissuaded from forming. And, importantly, the myth of the cost of living being cheaper in these impoverished countries is dismantled. The assertion that one meal of McDonald’s takes up an entire day’s salary is indicative of how the wages earned are not commensurate to the costs of living. So, while western consumers buy products made by Fruit of the Loom, Nike, Buster Brown, Hanes, Dockers, and Tommy Hilfiger, the manufacturers of these items live with no running water & in decrepit conditions. Formal education, which would lead to more promising employment, is denied as it is not financially possible. Therefore, we learn the cruelty of our standard of living: these people are left with nothing while we export everything that would make these people rich. Indeed, a compelling video that should, undeniably, be a part of the sociology curriculum. A global economy should be seen for what it is, and this video facilitates this remarkably. For students at any level. Belinda Godwin

3 Possibly the best video introduction to the issue of global sweatshops. The video demonstrates convincingly that there are current serious socioeconomic & health problems for Honduran workers in the maquiladoras. The topic will leave students upset, confused, and feeling powerless - and that is why this topic would be great for class discussion. In addition, anyone who consumes products manufactured in such sweatshops will be able to discuss that phenomenon. Overall, the video is informative and an eye-opener and, in that sense, would be a great choice for our curriculum. The topic is presented in a straightforward manner, but because the presentation lacks intellectual content and depth, it would not be a great choice to show in a lecture setting. Also, the video lacks data: there are only opinions from the researchers from Global Exchange, Honduran workers, and the Honduras-U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative. For 1st & 2nd year students. Minh Hoang (undergraduate)


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