For nearly a decade, Kwei Fong Lin tolerated numbness in her forearms. Like a great many Chinese immigrants who work in this city's cramped and poorly equipped garment factories, her neck and back ached from long days spent hunched over a sewing machine while perched on rickety folding chairs, stools or even crates.
"We just took the pain as it came," the 52-year-old Hong Kong native said in Cantonese.
But an unlikely revolution has taken root here. Today, dozens of women work in relative comfort while seated on customized ergonomic chairs. Simple table extensions relieve their tired shoulders. Wooden footrests keep their legs from dangling. Padded sleeves cushion the metal rods they must press hundreds of times a day with their knees to clamp and release fabric.
A city grant will soon bring the ergonomic equipment to other garment shops that dot Oakland's Chinatown and other commercial strips. And the project has spawned a much larger study now underway in Los Angeles County — the heart of California's rag trade.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Oakland Garment Workers Spark an Ergonomics Revolution
This is a wonderful story about a group of garment workers and teenage girls tired of seeing their seamstress mothers suffer, who joined with a team of medical professionals, ergonomics experts, state health officials and product designers to bring customized ergonomic chairs to Oakland garment factories.