El Monte Sweatshop

1995

72 Thai garment workers are found enslaved in an El Monte sweatshop, held behind barbed wire and under armed guard, some for as long as seven years. An additional 22 Latino garment workers are discovered in a front shop. After years trapped in a sweatshop, the workers are placed into detention by the federal immigration agency. APALC works with other community activists to free the workers from detention and to secure their legal status in the U.S. In Bureerong v. Uvawas, APALC leads a legal team that files a lawsuit on behalf of 102 garment workers, including eight Thai workers who had escaped from the compound prior to 1995, against the operators of the sweatshop and front shop, as well as the retailers and manufacturers that profited from their labor. This is the first federal lawsuit of its kind, and the case sets a precedent in holding manufacturers and retailers accountable for the conditions in which their clothes are made. In May 1999, the case ends after a final settlement is reached – total settlements from more than 10 manufacturers and private label retailers exceed $4 million.

Area of Work: 
Impact Litigation