Home Institution

University of Oregon

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


All over the world, so called, “sweatshops” have become a talking point on the social justice soap box due to some key incidents that have caught the public eye. These sweatshops are known for being informal labor subcontracted by large brand names, paid unsustainable wages – the brands score big as consumers indulge in the cheap fashion clothing. However, fires, disasters and recent discoveries of dangerous slave-like conditions have brought new debates to the surface about what is to be done. Initially one might desire to end the injustice in a rapid sweep of the poorest parts of the world, saving victims of the harmful work conditions. However, justice is never so simple. As nonprofit organizations and government programs have turned their attention to the violations of moral codes, human rights, and international laws, it has become clear that shutting down factories has been an unsatisfactory attempt at justice leaving vulnerable workers without a job, in a new, but still unjust, situation. This is the root of what I am asking: what are the interpretations of justice as they pertain to labor in sweatshops?

The debates on the topic are many, but with the opportunity to do investigative work in Buenos Aires for four weeks, I have decided to do a representative study of the work of Bolivian talleristas that are informally employed in Buenos Aires. In this study I am seeking to understand how the core actors of society – the state, social organizations and the workers themselves – view justice and how the varied interpretations of justice clash creating conflict. Therefore through analysis of legal documents and interviews of workers, professionals, academics and organizations I present an exploratory investigation of “talleres textiles” in Buenos Aires. Specifically I found that the ideological clashes have concrete evidence and concrete consequences, justice is not done simply, especially in such a tumultuous framework as this labor in the margin of the law.

This study leaves many questions for more research in the future but completes a cross-examination of interviews with the involved actors, finding justice and exploitation to have a wide array of irreconcilable ideological differences that are manifested in conflict relations.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change | Work, Economy and Organizations



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