Imagine sitting on an unevenly balanced stool and working 15 hours a day — with two 30-minute breaks — and earning $8 an hour, which is a couple of dollars below Santa Fe’s minimum wage. I was lucky: I only had to do this in a “factory” south of Santa Fe for three days, enough for me to get a sense of what sweatshop conditions are like and hope I never have to do it again. I sat on my stool folding boxes. Nearby, a woman wrapped and taped a paper towel around her wrist to support it as she used a heavy glue gun to glue together the boxes that I was folding.
I stood up and worked out the aching knot in my back every once in a while. “Don’t worry, it gets better. After a while, you get used to it,” the woman said to me in Spanish. I smiled politely, nodded my head, and thought to myself, “Does it really get better?” And then I went back to folding boxes.