Freedom Folks

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Free Trade: Global slavery

Source: nytimes
Propelled by a free trade agreement with the United States, apparel manufacturing is booming in Jordan, its exports to America soaring twentyfold in the last five years.

But some foreign workers in Jordanian factories that produce garments for Target, Wal-Mart and other American retailers are complaining of dismal conditions — of 20-hour days, of not being paid for months and of being hit by supervisors and jailed when they complain.

An advocacy group for workers contends that some apparel makers in Jordan, and some contractors that supply foreign workers to them, have engaged in human trafficking. Workers from Bangladesh said they paid $1,000 to $3,000 to work in Jordan, but when they arrived, their passports were confiscated, restricting their ability to leave and tying them to jobs that often pay far less than promised and far less than the country's minimum wage.
I've never really bought into the whole free trade thang, let me tell you why. Corporations are bereft of consciences, it is the nature of things, we've all seen it so before you start with the "but Jake" stuff do me a favor and shut your pie hole, you know it's true.

So what happens when these ginormous corporations go country shopping for the best deal on labor? Will they care whether or not it amounts to the new slavery? Will they really investigate the human rights record of the country in question (China).

Or will they see this as a feature not a bug?

This keeps happening over and over and over to the point of nauseum, yet every time the same players flutter their hands and act shocked, shocked that this sort of thing could happen in this day and age.

Here's a news flash doofuses, the world is a fairly savage place. In fact non-savage countries are a distinct minority on this planet. So why does it come as a surprise every time we're confronted with this unsavory fact?

What do we think will happen when we communicate to the world so clearly that our true bottom line, our only bottom line is profit? And we communicate this message on a daily basis in the one way that counts, by turning our heads away from the horrors we have a hand in creating so we might purchase a cheap tickle me Elmo toy from China-mart.

I have a radical notion, how about we stop businesses from driving our policies to such a large degree. I can't speak for you but I'm uncomfortable with amoral B-school grads making decisions for us as a nation. Do they have the best interests of the nation at heart, or are we merely another fallow field for them to plunder and move on like some sort of broken harvester run amok?

In fact, why don't we stop this whole disgusting practice? I presume I'm not alone in my disgust with how our businesses have been more than happy to profit on misery and slavery, and yes I mean exactly that.

I think it's time to put a choke collar on these unethical operators, both here and abroad. I think it's time to make businesses that put their bottom line before our welfare as a nation pay an enormous price. If a business chooses to move it's production abroad I think they shouldn't be allowed to conduct their trade in this country. If a business is found using illegals here, or, importing cheaper H1-B visa types they should be put out of business (my beef is not with H1-B's exactly, but rather their use to drive American citizens out of certain fields to be replaced with cheaper more compliant labor). I don't care if it's Microsoft or Cisco systems, they are not above the law.

Though they would have every reason to believe they are. Our enforcement in this area has been every bit as embarassing as the internal enforcement of our immigration laws.

One final thought. I am personally uncomfortable with unassimilated aliens holding the reins of some of our largest businesses. I am reminded of Indra Nooyi who managed to fit both of her tasty, tasty feet in her over-sized cakehole...
After beginning her speech with words of praise and recognition for the graduates and their families, Ms. Indra Nooyi began to make the political statement du jour. After talking of her childhood back in India, Ms. Nooyi began to compare the world and its five major continents (excl. Antarctica and Australia) to the human hand. First was Africa - the pinky finger - small and somewhat insignificant but when hurt, the entire hand hurt with it. Next was Asia - the thumb - strong and powerful, yearning to become a bigger player on the world stage. Third was Europe - the index finger - pointing the way. Fourth was South America - the ring finger - the finger which symbolizes love and sensualness. Finally, the US (not Canada mind you) - yes, you guessed it - the middle finger...
I just spent about twenty minutes perusing several bios online. They talk about how she was born in India, her degrees, her drive, but they never mention one thing. Is she a citizen?

I'm curious, if she isn't I'm not crazy about anyone who isn't a citizen of this country wielding the vast power that most definitely accrues to the CEO of an enormous company like Pepsico. I think of them like daggers pointed at the heart of our nation. Who and what do they represent as they offer our foolish politicians their mammon?

My question from an earlier piece still stands: Are we still a nation or have we become the United Economy of America?

I believe in an actual free market, I also know beyond the shadow of a doubt that what we see all around us these days is anything but. A free market is a fair market, anything else yields what we see here: slavery, profiteering, and cruelty masquerading as a natural outgrowth of market economics.

And that's a lie.

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