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June 10 @ 10:00 am - September 5 @ 3:00 pm PDT

Thai El Monte Garment Workers: The Return of Slavery and Trafficking in The Modern Era

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.

The Thai workers had labored for 18 or more hours every day inside rat-infested buildings where they lived crammed into bedrooms with ten of their fellow slaves. Their captors controlled them by confiscating passports, hiring armed guards, and physically threatening them and their families back home.

They made clothes for brand-name manufacturers and nationwide retailers. Garments bore the labels Anchor Blue, Tomato, Clio, B.U.M., High Sierra, Axle, and others—labels owned by well-known retailers, such as Miller’s Outpost and Montgomery Ward, or sold on the racks of Nordstrom, Sears, and Target.

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.​

(June 10- September 5 2021)

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June 10 @ 10:00 am - September 5 @ 3:00 pm PDT


Los Angeles United Methodist Museum of Social Justice
115 Paseo de La Plaza
LA, CA 90012 United States


Thai CDC
Museum of Social Justice LA