NMASS (National Mobilization Against Sweatshops) is a workers membership organization that was founded by young working people in 1996 in New York City. We have a Workers’ Center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and members and supporters all over the country. Some of us are:
- Injured workers fighting for our right to compensation and medical benefits
- Working people from Lower Manhattan suffering health and economic problems because of the government’s discrimination against low-income people following the 9-11 disaster
- Mothers demanding recognition for the work we do raising kids
- Garment, restaurant, construction, office and other workers standing up to long work hours and other sweatshop conditions
- Students, white collar workers, and others feel the system is more and more limiting our choices, downsizing our dreams and channeling our lives.
- We are people born in this country and we are immigrants from many regions of the world.
Together, as working people, we are taking back the right to control our work, our health, our time and our lives. One central demand that unites is the right to a 40-hour workweek at a living wage for all. This does not mean that we are fighting for everyone to work the same hours or for there to be a cap on hours. Instead, we are demanding control over our time — the right to say “no” to hours beyond a 40-hour workweek and the right to have the hours we put in raising the next generation of workers in our homes compensated as part of that 40-hour workweek. We recognize that working people taking back this kind of control means ending what we call “the sweatshop system.”
The United States today resembles the brutal sweatshop system that existed in the garment industry over a hundred years ago. Financiers and employers are sweating immense wealth out of us without any accountability, using downsizing, subcontracting, outsourcing, and temporary and contingent labor. We are working longer and longer hours, leading to injuries and occupational diseases. Our human rights to medical attention, to compensation, to rest and recovery are increasingly violated. This sweatshop system also fails to compensate the hard work we do outside of our jobs, such as raising children in our homes. It is stealing away our freedom and our lives, turning us into disposable work machines.
In its first few short years NMASS played a leading role in forcing the scandal of sweatshops to the forefront of national and international consciousness. We’re getting people to see that sweatshop conditions exist right here in the United States. Sweatshop conditions, such as long hours have spread to every corner of our economy. We’ve begun to popularize the idea that long hours are the key issue facing U.S. workers. We are organizing in many ways through fighting campaigns and building a new working people’s culture through videos, theatrical productions, music concerts, poetry slams, art shows, social events. We are educating people with presentations, our website, and publications such as Sweatshop Nation.