THAI EL MONTE GARMENT WORKERS: The Return of Slavery and Trafficking Exhibition

“…this historic case was the first labor struggle of global proportions our city has seen… It was crucial as the first major case to receive national attention where the old divisions of race, class, language, and ethnicity were wiped away to form a single, united movement focused on the combined issues of human rights and social and economic justice for all workers.”
– Chanchanit Martorell and Panida Rzonca

About the partnership and team:

This exhibition was a partnership between the Museum of Social Justice, the Thai Community Development Center, and CSUN Impact DesignHub and was located at the Museum of Social Justice in Los Angeles. The team included Professor Vesna Petrovic, Professor Paula DiMarco, and 8-20 student designers.

About the design:

The team developed a visual exhibition design display of graphics, colors, images and panels to raise awareness on this historical California story of human trafficking and modern day slavery in a make-shift garment factory in El Monte, outside of Los Angeles. The goal was to engage the public by creating an experience that tells the story of the El Monte Thai Garment Slavery case through various panels that guided the participant/attendee and provided context for what happened back in August 1995 from the workers’ point of view. The exhibit allowed the student designers to specializing in museum presentations and style which made the exhibit more appealing and accessible for museum-goers.

A visual timeline (Infographic) was also created to engaged the participants by allowing them to place the events in order to see what impact the case had on our society and laws in the United States. Participants were able to view original photos taken at the time of the events that were not previously published and see quotes in an engaging way with the picture of each speaker printed on hanging fabrics throughout the event.

The in-person exhibit encouraged each participant to read through the text of the panels, whereas a more passive outlet like a book or website does not provide the same level of engagement and interaction.

Description of the Organization:

Thai CDC initially began providing legal and emergency relief services, crisis counseling and intervention, advocacy, cultural orientation and language assistance when it was first founded in 1994. These programs and services targeting low-income Thai immigrants included our Self-Sufficiency Services, Family Services, Housing and Community Economic Development, and Youth Services. Their Self-Sufficiency Services helped Thai immigrants overcome the language and cultural barriers preventing them from successfully integrating into mainstream society and becoming independent and self-reliant.

These services included case management, crisis counseling and intervention, cultural orientation, information and referrals, language assistance and instruction, legal consultation, survival skills development, and housing and job search and placement assistance. Our Family Services included an Immigrant Family Adjustment Program, Immigrant Families Matter, Immigrant Schooling Counts, Family-Based Advocacy and a Parent Education Program.

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