Former El Monte garment worker recalls imprisonment, forced labor
A recent exhibit at the Museum of Social Justice in Los Angeles brought attention to the anniversary of the El Monte Garment workers fight in 1995 – where a modern slavery compound was discovered and exposed.
At 4 am on August 2, 1995, Chanchanit Martorell, Executive Director of the Thai Community Development Center, met with government authorities and law enforcement at a doughnut shop in El Monte, California, blocks from the slavery compound that they would raid, a row of apartment duplexes on a residential street, eerily surrounded by barbed wire. The US Department of Labor, California Labor Commission, California Employment Development Department, Cal-OSHA, federal marshals, and the El Monte police participated in the raid.
Thai CDC mobilized a coalition of nonprofit organizations, attorneys, and community members to offer shelter, food and clothing, medical care, jobs, and legal services to the workers following their liberation.
El Monte was the first recognized case of modern-day slavery in the United States, leading to the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in the year 2000. This exhibition tells the story of the case from the perspective of the survivors, featuring their testimonies, images and maps of the compound, and other artifacts.