The HBO Documentary “Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags,” directed and produced by award-winning filmmakers Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson, premieres on Monday, October 19, at 9:00 p.m. (Eastern).
Brian Lowry writes in Variety: “Opening to the lively strains of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, ‘Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags’ is a loving and sobering look at the demise of the New York garment industry, where the loss of manufacturing jobs to nations with cheaper labor represents ‘a microcosm of everything that is going on in this country.'” (See linked reviews from Variety and Womens Wear Daily).
The documentary tracks how the garment industry, once the largest employer in the U.S., helped build the middle class through organizing strong unions. Today, 95 percent of all garments sold in the U.S. are made offshore, mostly in sweatshops in China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. Once the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy is unleashed, and corporations are free to pit workers against each other, there is no way to go but down. The documentary is a wake-up call, as manufacturing jobs all across the U.S. are under siege.
The race to the bottom will only end when we have enforceable laws that prohibit the import, sale, or export of sweatshop goods in the U.S. Goods made by children, by workers beaten and forced to work grueling hours while being cheated of their wages, and by workers denied their legal right to organize should be prohibited from entering the U.S. If corporations can have enforceable laws to protect their corporate products and trademarks, we sure as heck should have similar laws to protect the rights of the human being who made their product. Right now the corporate product is protected, but not the human being who made it.
(See the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act and how you can help.)