November 2004 (v7 i3)
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This sweatshop internship totally blows
by Mike Maguire, Sweatshop Intern

In today's global economy, getting to work abroad is practically a privilege, which is why I jumped at this opportunity in "manufacturing logistics" at one of Indonesia's largest textiles firms. I thought it'd be the perfect way to jumpstart my career as a major player in the business world. Boy, was I wrong.

I thought I'd be taking in all the action, talking to clients and rubbing elbows with the bigwigs, but it seems like all I'm doing is sitting around this cramped, sweltering Indonesian sweatshop, mass-producing brand-name merchandise.

I've heard horror stories from my friends who were forced to get coffee and make copies all day at their internships, but I'd be surprised if any of them had to endure my job of hand-embroidering 2,900 leather purses a day. At least I'm getting paid 100 Rupiah notes an hour. I used to only make $20 mowing the lawn.

Before this internship, I didn't even know what six in the morning looked like. But now that I work 18-hour days, I get to see the sun rise and set on my coworkers' malnourished 6-year-old faces every day. And I don't even get overtime.

What's more, the health conditions are just sick. You wouldn't believe the stink when the poop and vomit bucket in the corner fills up during our five-minute dysentery break. I keep telling everyone that some Febreze and Lysol would make the working environment a lot more pleasant, but no one ever listens. I tried suggesting it to my boss, but he just whipped out a bamboo rod with glass shards glued on the end. I guess there was some sort of language misunderstanding.

The living accommodations are definitely not up to par, either. Not only does my lean-to not have running water or a suitable mattress, it also happens to be built on top of a cobra breeding ground. And I thought dorm life was bad.

That said, I've gained some valuable communications skills and networking links. Government inspectors come every other Tuesday, and they always spend some time interviewing me on various aspects of the job. I just wish my manager wouldn't stand close by with a pistol in his pocket and his finger on the trigger every time. I'd really appreciate some independence to make my own decisions.

Which leads me to my next point: my boss, Mr. Hutauruk, is such a tool. I feel like I have some really good ideas to share, but the last time another employee said something to my manager without being spoken to first, he had his head doused in boiling water.

And just the other day, my work partner cut his fingers on the sewing needles and ended up passing out due to a combination of blood loss and heat exhaustion. But when I tried to give him some water, Mr. Hutauruk threw a lamp in my face and said, "He gets water when he meets his quota. Now make more tech vests!" What a D-bag.

This internship really blows. I want to quit, but if I do, I think they might throw me in prison, which would totally suck. I'm pretty much stuck at this job until the summer ends, but hopefully it'll look good on my résumé.
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