just started to break me down
from Flin Flon, Manitoba, Samantha Thomas spent two years
working as a computer pattern designer in a Winnipeg garment
factory. Two years later she's still trying to regain her
health. These days Samantha makes most of her own raiment
(clothing) by hand and needle.
I was against
a wall, there was florescent lighting, the windows were usually
covered because of the glare on the [computer] screens, the
air conditioner units were blowing cold air. Most of our work
was done on the mouse and the mouse wasn't in a place that
you could hold your hand comfortably. That's where it all
started for me.
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When I hit that
one year mark I started to notice the pain in my back and
in my shoulder. You can sit for so long, your body knows
how long you can sit for, and after that you have to get
If you break your
leg at a job it's obvious, but it was so gradual what
happened to me. I started to see different doctors:
chiropractors, an acupuncturist, massage therapist, a physical
therapist, and a doctor. I was going to the chiropractor
three times a week. I would do yoga 45 minutes to an hour
and a half every night on top of all the therapies.
It just started
to break me down. I could hardly sit up to read my son
a story. It started to affect him for sure. He was rubbing
my back a lot. Things that normally wouldn't set me off would.
I couldn't handle things anymore. It wasn't normal.
I used to go to
sleep at night and I would be up I guess the maximum was
about eight times a night because the pain in my back was
so bad. I wasn't remembering things. I didn't want to be
around people, just being out socially wasn't comfortable
anymore. Even now my back went out this morning. I often
wonder if it's ever going to go away.
This isn't just
happening in third world countries it's happening in Canada,
in your own province, in your own city. Nobody knows
it's happening, nobody goes in there, nobody sees, only
the people who work there.
I didn't know
a lot about my rights but I'd usually voice if there was
something not right going on. A lot of times I was the only
one who would speak up and actually say something. It was
mostly women sewing. Their conditions were horrible. I know
what it's like to sew, it's not an easy job. The majority
were not from Canada and they used to say to me that it
was easier for me to say something because I was English
and I was from Canada.
For my health
to be on the line, my well-being, just for fashion.
People don't realize it when they go into stores. Most people,
even me, I buy a pair of pants and you don't even picture
the person that sewed it. Your mind doesn't even go that
way. When I actually make something that's handmade for
somebody, and give it to them they go 'Gee, this is handmade'
but things you buy in the store it doesn't click in your
brain that this is handmade.
I usually only
go to the store if I absolutely need something because you're
just feeding that whole industry. I don't need 6 pairs
of pants, 10 skirts. I've always been very content with
very few clothes, just things that work. In 1989 I remember
when I graduated from school there wasn't nearly the selection.
Going to a thrift shops or to a second-hand shop was actually
kind of fun there weren't these huge corporate thrift shops. You
can see there's a problem when your thrift shops are
getting bigger than your stores. There's far more abundance
in clothing everywhere.
If we could
just sew and make what we needed and actually bought just what
we needed we wouldn't need so much.