HuaShang, China. Despite the unfavorable view many Westerners have of the cramped, poorly ventilated working conditions that many Chinese laborers are forced to deal with there is a growing trend among the young “urbanite” population of America to travel to China to participate in the traditional Chinese “sweatshop” labor scene.
Brent Piers is a personal trainer at University Fitness in Reading, PA. He orchestrates fully guided trips to China with an emphasis on what has been dubbed “Sweatshop ‘Till You Drop” exercise regimens. The tours visit participating factories and exchange places with the usual assembly line workers. Many fitness buffs claim that the hot, humid conditions and the fast paced environments help them lose weight and stay focused. “Plus,” Piers says, “It’s nice to have what we call ‘Drill Instructors,’ or factory managers, keep us on task and motivated with threats of physical violence if we don’t meet our quota.” Piers added that they rarely see any of the tourists actually get physically punished for not meeting deadlines but it can happen. “We recommend that you are in shape before you participate in our tours,” He said.
“You can’t get this kind of work environment in the U.S.” says Dixie Young, an avid workout buff and exercise enthusiast who participated in several different Sweatshop ‘Till You Drop tours. “We have too many laws regarding working conditions and it prevents us from getting all those variables like the temperature, the humidity, the duration of work, the focus, just right.” She also blamed lawyers for the lack of an exercise filled workplace. “Too many weak people can’t keep up with the pace and sue for ‘unfit work environments.’ It’s a shame they can’t power through the burn.”
Advocates of the fitness tours it’s easy to get through the red tape of the Chinese immigration system if you explain on your visa that you’re entering the country to work in their sweatshops for free. “They just rubber stamp our visas,” Dixie says, “They don’t even require a passport.” She says that this has increased the appeal of the traveling tour to illegal immigrants. “It’s great to see so many cultures working together for the common goal of fitness. It’s nearly utopia.”