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Geschreven door op 30 Sep 1997 07:48:54 -080 met als onderwerp: Smithsonian Sweatshop Show Attacked

/* Written 7:44 AM Sep 30, 1997 by clr in igc:labr.announcem */
/* ---------- "Smithsonian Sweatshop Show Attacked" ---------- */
Labor Alerts/Labor News
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Segments of the clothing industry are trying to block a planned
exhibit on the history of sweatshops, according to the Washington Post
and Los Angeles Times. The exhibit, scheduled to open on April 15th,
will include a re-creation of the El Monte sweatshop where Thai
immigrants worked in near-slavery for years. Curators offered apparel
industry representatives a chance to tell their side of the story.
Pamela Rucker of the National Retail Federation declined, complaining
that "there is no way we could counter the powerful impact of those
horrific pictures from El Monte." The California Fashion Association
said it is writing to members of Congress urging them to raise
questions about the exhibit.

If the exhibit is to survive and tell its story, then supporters must
mobilize as well.


The exhibit is part of a long-term Museum of American History project
on 'work and worth." It will be entitled "Between a Rock and a Hard
Place: A Dialogue on American Sweatshops, 1820-Present." One section
of the exhibit will explain the history of sweatshops from the 1820's
to the present. Next will be a re-creation of the El Monte sweatshop
which will include the sewing machines and workstations used in the
shop which were acquired by the Smithsonian after it was shut down by
the California Labor Commission. That will be followed by a look at
the global picture which will include a video of modern textile
factories and explain that not all apparel is made in sweatshops.
Allison Wolf of the American Apparel Manufacturers Association
withdrew her offer to produce the video after curator Peter Liebhold
told her that "the union role has to be positively portrayed."

The museum asked industry, labor, government and individuals for
contributions to fund the exhibit, but so far only UNITE, the garment
workers' union, and the Department of Labor have made contributions.
Apart from a monetary contribution, UNITE has also donated some items
from its archives, including a picture of Eleanor Roosevelt sewing the
first union label into a piece of clothing. UNITE spokeswoman Jo Ann
Mort said that the 300,000 member union has had no other input into
the content of the exhibit.

According to the Washington Post, manufacturers, fashion and apparel
industries hope that the controversy will become as heated as the one
surrounding the National Air and Space Museum's Enola Gay exhibit.
That exhibit was canceled after protests from veterans groups which
complained that that it was too sympathetic to the suffering of the
Japanese from the atomic bombs.

Action Needed:

Write or fax the Smithsonian Museum expressing your support for this
exhibit. In your own words, tell curators there that you believe that
the American public has a right to know its own history. Consumers
have a right to learn about the conditions under which our clothing
and our children's clothing is being produced. This controversy is
not just about history. It's about whether sweatshops are to be our

According to conversations with Smithsonian staff, letters will be
extremely useful to them in showing citizen support for the exhibit in
the face of industry protests.

Smithsonian Museum
Office of Public Affairs
National Museum of American History, Room 5104 - MRC623
Washington, DC 20560
Fax: (202) 633-8053

Send a copy to your Senators and Representative to help counter
criticism in Congress.
Their addresses are: United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510
United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515

Several organizations are putting out information on this issue. They
include: Corporate Watch, web site:
the Stop Sweatshops Partnership for Responsibility News, web site: and Campaign for Labor Rights.

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