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An Industrial Sewing Machine

An Industrial Sewing Machine


Lyka Thorn

At the age of fifteen I started working in a factory. This was three years before the law allowed. I was able to work there because it was a small family-run garment factory in the city, not a big multinational one, and they did not worry about such things. I worked about twelve hours a day from 7am until 7pm. I didn’t know anything about the work but I tried hard and they came to teach me how to work the machines. It was very dangerous; I had to be careful all the time. The factory was in a big house with no windows. It was very noisy, and we couldn’t talk to each other.

After about three months, I was moved to another factory owned by the same family, and at the same time I changed from working days to the night shift. This factory was in a villa on the outskirts of the city. It had a lovely garden, although we couldn’t see it when we were working because, again, there were no windows. This was partly to keep the noise in, and partly to stop people looking in. It was a bit quieter, and I met a lot of new friends. We worked hard for just US $3.50 a day – 7 days a week until the order was completed. After that we had to wait up to a day without pay, before starting on the next order. The industrial sewing machine I used was large and cumbersome, encompassing twenty individual sewing devices. I had to stand up and walk from one side of the machine to the other, checking for problems for about 12 hours a day. In the first two and a half years, I got the needle of the machine stuck in my finger three times. When this happened, my workmates would remove the needle with a pair of pliers, making sure that none of the needle was left inside my finger. One of these times, I had to go to see the doctor because my friends couldn’t find the point of the needle. Fortunately the doctor couldn’t find it in my finger, either.

One night I went to work and felt pain of all over my body. I knew I was sick but I carried on working until I fell over, the result of being on my feet every day for extended periods, and eating irregularly and inconsistently. I had to go to the clinic where the doctor gave me medicine to build me up. He asked me why I had rheumatism at such a young age. I was off work about a week in pain and with a fever. For each day I was unable to work, $3.50 was deducted from my wages.

After three years, I started studying English when the night shifts were over. I had only seven hours free time a day. Life was tough. After studying for a year, I had to give it up at the age of nineteen because a marriage was being arranged for me. We never actually got married but started living together.

Soon, I discovered I was pregnant and had to give up work because of morning sickness. I decided to stop working until the baby was born. When I was seven months pregnant my partner left me after a big argument with my dad, and after a month I moved back to my family home.

My baby was born on the 19 September 2007 at 11 am, after I had been in labour for twelve hours, and when I saw her I forgot about all the pain. She looked very cute and all my family loved her because she was the first grandchild.

Three days after she was born, her dad came to the hospital and begged me to take him back. He said he would stop lying to me and would look after me and our daughter. By the time Rita was nine months old, she was costing us a lot of money, and her dad’s wages as a motorcycle taxi driver were not enough. I therefore decided to go back to work in another factory near my family home. The factory employed more then a thousand workers. I worked about eight hours a day- six days a week for US $ 2 a day and I had to work longer hours if they told me to. I had to get up at 4.30 am and often did not get home until 10 pm. I earned about $130 a month but I was exhausted. If I was off for one day they took $5 from my wages.

Factory life is very hard, especially for women. We worked for peanuts until we dropped, and we never ate well, with just one hour a day break at midday. To go home and come back to the factory took about forty minutes, so I had to eat cheap food, which I bought outside the factory gates. This was dirty, of poor-quality and very unhealthy.

Although my partner gave me next to nothing from his wages, and all my wages went on looking after us and our daughter, he accused me of giving my wages to my family. When I denied this, he left me again. I stayed in the factory for another 3 months, then I got very depressed, I couldn’t work, and I decided to stop working there.

Soon after he came back and again asked if we could get back together, but I said, “no”. He nagged me until I agreed to live with him again. I went back to work in the factory for the third time.

I worked there a year, after which we split up again. I tried to commit suicide but even that didn’t seem to bother him. My family looked after me until I felt well. After all this I was totally fell fed up with the factory and my life. I had spent about seven years of my life there, and I decided to end factory life, and start a new one. I just wanted to start again and try to forget about the past.

My new job was a cashier in a bar. I worked from 7pm to 7am every night. I did not have time to look after my daughter, from whom I had never been apart before but because I needed the money I had to leave her with my mum. When I woke up late afternoon, she would say, “mum I miss you, can’t you stay with me tonight?”. I was very sad and told her, sorry I couldn’t, I had to work because of her.

I had been working about six months in the bar, when my ex-partner came back again, and I told him it was too late. I could take care of myself and my daughter. I was fed up with our life together. He left and never came back. He never came to see his daughter. I know she is sad about this, and she used to tell everyone that her dad is dead.

After we split up for good, my sister went to England with her partner and all our family took her to the airport and stayed there for about two hours until she left. When we got back home, we realised we had been burgled. I went straight to the place I had hidden some jewellery, bought during the four years I had worked in the factory before living with my partner – worth about $2000. It had gone. I was very sad. I had worked hard for nothing.

Life is a story, but this was not the end. I worked as a cashier for another year and I met a man from England. He is a good man, and very kind. We got married a year ago, and I now have a spouse visa, and can live in England until 2015, when I need to apply for another visa. My husband looks after me and my family. My daughter, Rita, who is now six years old, and my husband get on very well, and she now thinks of her new-step-father as her only father and calls him ‘papa’. Two months ago, she visited us for six weeks, and we are now waiting for the result of a settlement visa application for her.

An Asian factory worker who knew nothing about the world, I am now studying English and learning more and more about life every day. At last my life is good, and full of happiness and laughter.

© Lyka Thorn, 4th December 2013


Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

Education Crisis

Education Crisis



2013 Theme: Geographies of Labor
Oct. 24-26
Detroit, Michigan

Over the last several centuries, transformations in technology and in economic, social, political, and cultural practices have created new spatial regimes within and across geographic boundaries. Whether negotiating the changes around them or taking advantage of new possibilities to shape alternatives, workers have been central to remapping this emergent environment. Inspired by the “spatial turn” in the social sciences, this conference will explore the myriad ways in which workers have interacted with a variety of geographic categories.

More info:



Back by popular demand!

Friday October 11, 2013
8 pm
Winchevsky Centre
585 Cranbrooke Ave., Toronto

Tickets: $20.00 at the door
$15.00 in advance (by Oct 10)
Reserve today!

For more info: (416) 789-5502 or



Saturday October 26
1:00 pm
USW Hall, 25 Cecil St., Toronto

Three prominent UAW shop floor activists describe current life on American assembly lines and keeping resistance alive.

– At the height of the recent economic crisis auto companies were bailed out while workers’ concessions were accelerated and working conditions made even more brutal.
– Profits are now at record levels again but pressures on workers continue. What are the barriers to fighting back?

Intro: Sam Gindin, former Research Director of the (former) CAW

– Gregg Shotwell: 30 years at General Motors. Machine operator turned rebel. Generally recognized as one of the most articulate voices of the U.S. working class. Author of Autoworkers Under the Gun.
– Scott Holdieson: Electrician at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, writer and editor of the local union paper, long-time activist for union democracy and equality among workers.
– Sean Crawford: Great grandfather was Vice Chair of the Flint sit-down strike and great grandmother and great aunt were part of the Women’s Emergency Brigade. Hired on as lower-waged (‘second-tier’) worker at GM.

Sponsors: Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly at, Centre for Social Justice



Book lovers know that the fall is a time of new books, book events, and great deals. Our September book sale goes until the end of the month and you can get 50% off all of our labour/union titles and free shipping on ALL Between the Lines books. Click on our “labour and unions” category tab on our website to order your copies. We’ll have new books on sale and older books on deep sale.

Order here:



Thursday, October 3rd
Sociology Common Room / Vari Hall 2101
York University, Toronto

– Dr. Nicole Cohen: Assistant Professor, Institute of Communication Culture and Information Technology, University of Toronto Mississauga
– Andrew Langille: Lawyer, Andrew Langille Law Firm; founder, Youth and Work blog
– Katherine Lapointe: Canadian University Press Associate Member Program; Coordinator, Communication Workers of America Canada
– Sean Smith: Mobilizing Coordinator, Unifor Local 2002 (Airlines)

A collaboration of York University’s Global Labour Research Centre, Work & Labour Studies Program, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy, Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Gender & Work.




Bankers get bailed out, corporations get incentives, workers get attacked… and ‘right to work’ laws threaten to take this much further.

Moderated by Tracy Macmaster, President of the OPSEU Greater Toronto Area Council.

Presentations by:
– John Cartwright, President of Toronto and York Region Labour Council
– Sonia Singh, Workers’ Action Centre
– Sam Gindin, Retired research director, CAW

Organized by the Labour Committee of the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly.

Watch the video:



Over the next week, will be publishing a series of interviews with Unifor union leaders, staff, and rank-and-file members.

We kick off our series with Bruce Allen, an outspoken member of the CAW/Unifor.

Bruce is Vice-President of the former CAW Local 199 (now Unifor) representing St. Catharines General Motors workers. He is also a Vice-President of the Niagara Regional Labour Council. On August 31, he nominated Lindsay Hinshelwood for Unifor president from the floor of the founding Unifor convention.

Watch the video:



Author(s): Nora Loreto

From the Introduction:

“This book seeks to explain unionization to my generation; to my friends who distrust civil society organizations as much as they distrust government; to my unemployed friends who are living from contract to contract and who would kill for a stable, unionized job; for the workers who have never had the benefit of being represented when facing injustice at work; for the workers who would rather not think of what would happen if they were injured on the job.

“It’s a reminder to unionized folks that many of the truths that they take for granted are not obvious to others and that the labour movement must change how it reaches out to its members, its communities and to non-unionized workers if it hopes to grow. It’s a call to action for activists to share their stories, debunk the existing right-wing, anti-union rhetoric, re-engage in their communities, and build a movement that can defeat neoliberal policies and their political proponents.”

See more at:



By Sam Gindin, The Bullet

Discussions on the left about the economy might be summarized as warning that things are going to get a lot worse before they get…worse. This is not just a matter of the sustained attacks on the labour movement but as much a reflection of the crisis within labour. For some three decades now, labour has been stumbling on, unable to organizationally or ideologically rebut the attacks summarized as ‘neoliberalism.’ Though the Great Financial Crisis held out the promise of finally exposing the right and its supporters and potentially opening the door to a union offensive and possible revival, the attacks on labour actually intensified and labour continues to have no coherent counter-response. As a prelude to directly addressing that impasse in labour, it is useful to begin with something that Greg Albo recently posed: What is the larger historical significance of this particular crisis?

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Are you passionate about film, workers’ struggles, activism or all three?

If you said yes please join us, the CLiFF Board of Directors. The Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF) is a publicly attended free film festival, which is national in scope. The first iteration of CLiFF was held in 2009 across Canada in nine provinces and all three territories. The Board of Directors is made up of volunteers from across Canada.

We are currently recruiting for people with any of the following experience:
– individuals from Atlantic Canada, Northern Canada, Quebec, Western provinces
– individuals with event planning experience
– individuals with fundraising experience.

Directors commit 3-5 hours per week and get to work with like-minded individuals who are passionate and committed to the success of CLiFF. Volunteers are also needed to promote and run the Toronto location of the film festival November 22 – November 24, 2014. Please forward all inquiries to:, 416-550-8694, or



Adult Learning is interested in publishing empirical research and conceptual papers and is actively soliciting manuscripts of 4,000-4,500 words.

Adult Learning is a practitioner-oriented journal sponsored by the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) and published by SAGE. The journal publishes empirical research and conceptual papers for researchers and practitioners that approach practice issues with a problem-solving emphasis.  The audience includes those who design, manage, teach, and evaluate programs of adult and continuing education.

To learn more about the journal, go to

For information about submitting a manuscript, go to

To submit a manuscript, go to

If you have any questions, please contact Cathy Cherrstrom, managing editor, at




1) Academic Program Manager for Labor Studies. The person in this position will oversee all labor programs at the Murphy Institute. These include a) graduate and undergraduate degree programs in Labor Studies, b) undergraduate and graduate certificates in Labor Relations (including the Institute’s joint Cornell/CUNY certificate), and c) New York Union Semester – a paid internship program for college credit. The Program Manager will supervise a Labor Studies team and will work closely with faculty, unionists, and university staff to the build labor programs. S/he will also be involved in other aspects of the Institute’s work, i.e., public programming, our journal (New Labor Forum), and non-credit training. The ideal candidate should have considerable experience in the labor movement and higher education administration. For more information, go to:

2) Coordinator, Union Semester Program. The individual in this position will supervise all aspects of Union Semester – the Murphy Institute’s internship program for visiting college students. S/he will work closely with faculty, union mentors, and Institute staff in such areas as admissions and registration, internship placement and mentor selection, student orientation, and academic progress. S/he will also be responsible for developing and implementing a recruitment plan to expand the program nationally and internationally. For more information, go to:



Closing Date: October 15, 2013

The Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto invites applications from outstanding scholars for a tenure-stream appointment in Organizational Learning in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education. The appointment will be at the rank of Assistant or Associate Professor and commence on July 1, 2014. The position resides in the Adult Education and Community Development program which is internationally recognized. We seek applicants with a doctorate in adult education or a related field, a distinguished record of research and teaching excellence in the area of organizational learning that fosters sustainable social change, both locally and globally.

The ideal candidate will have expertise in the growing range of theories, policies, and practices which promote, define and regulate learning opportunities for adults through organizations in Canada and internationally. In particular, we seek a dynamic educator with critical research and practice in some or all of the following areas: organizational learning, workplace leadership, team-based and professional learning, organizational development and change, and sustainable, collaborative and equitable practices in organizational settings.

For more info:



LEC’s Employment Service Program is part of the Employment Ontario (EO) network and plays a vital role in assisting workers and employers to meet the needs of the labour market.

We are currently seeking a highly motivated and experienced job developer to work with the Employment Service team to ensure the Youth Employment Fund (YEF) and Job Matching Placements and Incentives services (JMPI) are provided to employers and job seekers in the GTA.

The position is for 14 hours per week (or 2 days) and will run from October, 2013 to March 31, 2014 with the possibility of extension. The deadline for receipt of applications is October 4, 2013. Please send your resume and covering letter to in a single file with the filename in this format: (YOUR NAME) JD POSTING

More info:



Head: Peter Sawchuk
Co-ordinator: D’Arcy Martin

The Centre for the Study of Education and Work (CSEW) brings together educators from university, union, and community settings to understand and enrich the often-undervalued informal and formal learning of working people. We develop research and teaching programs at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (UofT) that strengthen feminist, anti-racist, labour movement, and working-class perspectives on learning and work.

Our major project is APCOL: Anti-Poverty Community Organizing and Learning. This five-year project (2009-2013), funded by SSHRC-CURA, brings academics and activists together in a collaborative effort to evaluate how organizations approach issues and campaigns and use popular education. For more information about this project, visit

For more information about CSEW, visit:




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‘Cheerful Sin’ – a song by Victor Rikowski:


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19th and 20th February 2011
Location: The Manchester Museum , The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester



9.00-9.30 – Registration

9.30 – 11.00 – Restructuring and Unions

‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Culture? Industrial Restructuring and Culture Change: The Strategic Response of Organised Labour’ – Discussion generated by Bill Gray, Convenor, (Tata, Corus UK, Scunthorpe) and Ian Greenwood, (Leeds University Business School, Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change, CERIC).

‘Changing union and management strategies in a context of restructuring, marketisation and privatisation – the CWU in Royal Mail’ – Stephen Mustchin, David Beale, (University of Manchester )

‘Milking the Masses for Inspiration’: The Outsourcing of Creative Labour by Apple and Google’ Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn (Luleå University of Technology) Debra Howcroft (University of Manchester)

11.00-11.15. Coffee and Tea

11.15-12.15 Migration, Exploitation and Labour

‘Networks of Support for New Migrant Communities: Institutional Goals versus Substantive Goals?’ Robert MacKenzie, Chris Forde and Zinovijus Ciupijus, (Leeds University Business School)

‘Lets get back to normal’? Migrant workers, sectarianism and some problems with the labour movement in the north of Ireland ” Brian Garvey, Paul Stewart, Jolanta Kulinska, Sherley Dolo, Andrius Cislikaukas

12.15 – 1.00 Lunch

1.00-2.00 Activism and New Agendas in the Current Climate

‘Who is The Activist?   Biographies of worker activists from the North East’ John Stirling (University of Northumbria) and Jo McBride (University of Bradford), Discussant: Shirley Winter

‘Prevailing languages of class – fairness and equality in trade union discourse’ Sian Moore (London Metropolitan University)

2.00-3.00 – Communities, Renewal and the Worker Representation

‘Active unions, active communities: a local example of trade union/community engagement’ Jane Holgate CERIC Leeds University and John Page, Secretary of Hackney Unite

‘The Role of Trades Councils’ Geoff Brown Secretary of Manchester Trades Council

‘Developing the Trade Union Branch: the case of the UCU’ Beverley Woodburn UCU

3.00-3.30 Coffee and Tea

3.30 – 4.30 Politics, Academics and Worker Struggle

‘The BA Dispute in 2010’ – Speaker from UNITE BASSA

‘Objective but Not Detached: In Defence of Partisanship in Employment Relations Research’ Professor Ralph Darlington University of Salford

4.30 Book Launch

Tommy McKearney IWU – organized labour and politics in Northern Ireland ‘From Insurrection to Parliament’ (Pluto Books)



9.00-9.30 Coffee and Tea

9.30-10.45 Left Behind: Young Workers

‘Young workers in crisis’ – three presentations – Lef Kretsos (Coventry University), Mel Simms, Manuela Galetto (Warwick University)

‘Emerging prospects and constraints on getting labour history into the schools: a US perspective’ Anthony Tambureno (West Virginia University)

10.45-12.00 Internationalism and Work

‘International Political Economy of Work and Employability‘ Phoebe Moore, Salford University

‘Flexicurity and atypical employment as integrated parts of the new neoliberal employment agenda: a view from Greece and the European South.’ Stelios Gialis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

‘China and the International Labour Movement’, Charles Umney, University of Leeds

12.00-12.30 LUNCH

12.30 -2.00 – The End of the Public and Free University Britain ?

Cases from the frontline: UWE (Andy Danford, UWE) and Sian Moore (London Metropolitan),


2.00- 3.00 CLS Meeting

Finish 3.00

Organisers: Jane Holgate, Debra Howcroft, Miguel Martinez Lucio, and Jo McBride
Contact:, or

Cheques for £60 (waged) or £40 (unwaged) (which includes all food and refreshments) should be made out to ‘Critical Labour Studies’ and sent to Miguel Martinez Lucio (staff), Manchester University , PMO Division, Manchester Business School, Booth Street West, Manchester M15 6PB.

Please do confirm you are coming so we can plan the catering and support

For Updates, Changes and Accommodation Links Check –  
For Hotels in Manchester you can try:
Manchester Business School has some cheaper accommodation:

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