Health Issues


"Health care is not a commodity, and therefore cannot be traded. It is a basic human right."


In the Dominican Republic, according to a study by the human and trade union rights project, workers in the zones work in conditions that fail to meet minimum industrial health and safety standards. The heat and noise exceed tolerable levels, and no space has been provided for meals, with the result that workers have to eat on the pavement. The employers also keep a check on how many times workers go the restroom by forcing them to ask for tickets. Management also delivers, reluctantly, authorizations for medical visits during working hours.


As you can see from these pictures, space and lighting do not seem to be a major concern:


Most common illnesses:

  • Respiratory
  • Eye irritations
  • Varicose veins from having to remain standing
  • Stress related illnesses like gastritis
  • Kidney and Urinary tract infections from not being able to use the restroom
  • Exhaustion and dehydration due to the lack of drinking water
  • Health deterioration--developing eye sight problems--possibly carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis

"...the conditions were really bad. We had to drink tap water, from dirty, greasy cups. The bathrooms didn't have doors, and the men made a hole in the wall that separated the bathrooms so they could look at us while we were using the bathroom...they gave us food that made us sick. I got parasites while I was there...The material that we sewed was like cat hairs. You'd have it all over your face and in your pores. Both my sister and I started to get throat infections."

Maria Mejia, Dominican garment worker

There is a lack of social welfare facilities. A single mother with a newborn child, in many factories, would have no place to take or leave her child while she worked (assuming family members don’t live close by). In some factories housing is provided, but the living conditions are more often than not horrendous. Maternity leave is supposed to be provided under labor law, but like most laws, it is not strictly enforced. As a result, pregnant women are terminated without pay or guarantee of returning to work in the same factory. If a worker is injured while working there is no guarantee of compensation like there is in the US. Like pregnancy, injury results in loss of employment.


Many factories use space to the maximum. Buildings have multiple uses as warehouses, production plants, dormitories, and kitchens—all in one. Emergency exits are therefore blocked, and if there was a fire or explosion, many workers would not make it out.


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