12E.4.7 Tip Letter
This map and letter was sent by the boyfriend of an escaped sweatshop worker. The letter outlines the security measures enacted by the El Monte garment shop, and pleads for swift action. Acting on the tip, investigators from the California Department of Industrial Relations staked out the apartment complex and gathered enough information to obtain a search warrant. On August 2, 1995, authorities raided the site. The working and living conditions they found horrified even these seasoned professionals. Police arrested eight operators of the clandestine El Monte garment shop and freed seventy-two Thai nationals who had been working in a form of modern slavery. Workers, recruited in Thailand, were promised good pay and good working conditions. After signing an indenture agreement for $5,000 they were smuggled into the United States with fraudulent documents. The workers were paid about $1.60 an hour with sixteen-hour workdays in horrifying conditions. They were held against their will in a razor wire enclosed complex with an armed guard and were jammed into close living quarters. By 1999, eleven companies Mervyn’s, Montgomery Ward, Tomato, Bum International, L.F. Sportswear, Millers Outpost, Balmara, Beniko, F-40 California, Ms. Tops, and Topson Downs, agreed to pay more than $3.7 million dollars to the 150 workers who labored in the El Monte sweatshop. As in most cases of sweatshop production, these companies contend that they did not knowingly contract with operators who were violating the law.