The Rust Belt is a region in the Northern U.S., primarily situated around the Great Lakes, that was once the backbone of the nation’s steel production and industrial manufacturing industries. However, the region has been in decline since the 1980s as industrial jobs have been increasingly outsourced or automated. Reading, Pennsylvania (where Sweat takes place), is one such Rust Belt city. In the play, its economic center has long been Olstead’s Steel Tubing plant, where most of the play’s main characters work (as have previous generations of their families). The events in Sweat are largely put into motion by the negative impacts of NAFTA on the Rust Belt’s economy.