The term sweatshop describes exploitive, low-wage workshops, both historical and contemporary, domestic and international. Long hours, unsafe conditions, child labor, and physical abuse have often characterized sweatshops. The sweatshop today is likely to be a large-scale enterprise in which job tasks are repetitive and narrowly defined, but sometimes has been a small workshop improvised in cramped quarters. The existence of sweatshops has stimulated concern from reformers, has inspired debate among ethicists, and has met with a spirited defense by free market advocates.

In 1988, the U.S. General Accounting Office defined U.S. sweatshops as repeat violators of wage, child labor, and safety and health standards. Chief among the laws violated has been the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets minimum wages and maximum hours. From a ...

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