The man couldn't walk anymore. That's what sticks in my mind.
He'd been sold as a child into slavery. His new master had manacled his leg to an iron ring alongside a sewing machine.
Never once, in all those years, had he shifted from that small space. Making clothing and shoes for the West. Whatever contracts came in.
As he'd grown, the manacle had not been changed. When they found him, it was embedded into his ankle. But on the bright side, downtown shoppers in the USA got cheap shoes!
That image, shown as a presentation in the LeftField of the Glastonbury Festival, was my introduction to the world of sweat shops and slavery in the fashion industry. The dark underside that ensures Westerners can grab a good deal. The costs are paid elsewhere.
There is a reason that they're called sweat shops. They're hot and stuffy; deafening with the din of so many machines running at the same time. The people inside sit for long hours without a break. Often with overtime suddenly landed upon them, enforced by men at the doors with guns.
Stopping for a toilet break, or to grab a drink, is rarely permissible. These workers have quotas which, if not met, can result in beatings or the docking of a whole day's pay.
They don't even earn the minimum wage in their countries. The big Western corporations petitioned their governments for an exemption. They got it too. It's amazing how much legislation can be overlooked with the right kind of handshake.
As a rule though, big companies like that don't establish factories in countries with any kind of labor laws. They move out when such laws are passed.
There could be children at those machines. Working twelve hours as standard, half a shift more if the manager decides so on a whim. Verbal, sexual and physical abuse is endemic. They may be turning over two or three pieces a minute for between 20c and 80c an hour.