Model Cheryl Tiegs told a forum on sweatshops Tuesday that celebrities have decreasing power over how the goods that they endorse are made. With so many stars looking to put their names on products, the celebrities are no longer in the driver’s seat.
So Tiegs says people like her can do increasingly little to help people like Nancy Penaloza.
Penaloza, who has sewn for nine years in a Manhattan sweatshop, told an all-day forum sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor Tuesday that she works up to 66 hours a week in filthy conditions for $207. “When I’m working, I’m very afraid,” she said. “Big rats and mice crawl on my feet.”
The all-day gathering of about 300 apparel industry insiders and government officials took place at Marymount University in Arlington, Va.
The session was moderated by Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who noted that there are only about 1,500 federal and state labor inspectors, so elimination of sweatshops will come only with industry cooperation.
One of the driving forces in creating sweatshops, industry officials said, was public unwillingness to spend more for clothes made by people earning a living wage.
During Tuesday’s forum, Penaloza provided a firsthand point of view.
“For every suit I make I get $6,” she said of her work sewing garments that she said bear J.C. Penney and Ann Taylor labels. “The price tags on the suits are usually $120.”