Archive for February, 2009

Free Trade Labor — Comment

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

The impact of NAFTA on income equality across North America offers a good starting point for understanding the consequences of free trade labor on working people.

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A Close Look at the Far End of a Global Supply Chain

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

We must develop global vision if we are to comprehend the phenomenon of globalization that is stressing and straining the people and resources of the world.

This means that we must learn to look at events happening on the other side of the world and understand how they impact our own lives and fortunes.

The National Labor Committee offers us multiple  opportunities to do exactly that.  Their latest  offering, High Tech Misery in China, is a 60-page report  that takes a uncompromising look at the Meitai factory in Southern China.  The text of the report is highlighted by worker interviews, photographs of primitive dorm and factory conditions, and revealing internal company documents. 

Meitai produces computer keyboards and other peripherals for Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft, and IBM by mercilessly exploiting the labor of 2,000 mostly young women workers.

High Tech Misery details the low wages, long hours, and poor working and living conditions that these women must endure.  The report also reveals that Meitai is not some isolated sweatshop but a typical company in China.

High Tech Misery offers a clear view of the other end of one of the supply chains that have been developed by transnational capitalism.  It is easy to see the implications of globalization in this report–offshoring jobs boosts the bottom line of corporations at the expense of workers at home and abroad.

High Tech Misery is hard to look at but it must be done–the worldview needed to combat globalization can only be developed through full exposure to its consequences.

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The NCL website offers numerous excellent reports and the opportunity to get involved and support their work.  Check it out.

CATO takes a shot at Obama

Monday, February 9th, 2009

The CATO Institute has fired the first shot in the battle for the hearts and minds of America.  This conservative think tank that aided and abetted the neoconservative takeover of  US politics in the 1980s and 1990s recently ran a full page ad in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other major newspapers across the country.  The ad openly challenges the Keynesian economic principles behind President Obama’s economic stimulus package.

In the text of the ad the CATO Institute offers its solution to the economic meltdown of the US economy–more of the same free market policies, tax breaks, and privatization of social services that caused the meltdown!

The newspaper ad was signed by almost 250 academic economists, including 2 Nobel prize laureates, from universities and colleges across the country.  Given a conservative estimate of 100 students per professor, we can be sure that at least 25,000 American students will be exposed to this conservative economic free market dogma and be required to repeat it ad nauseam.

That’s how captive audiences are treated in academia.  Classrooms from kindergarten on up have always been the ideological boot camps of capitalism.

The CATO institute itself targets students with a dedicated website called CATO on Campus that offers academic contests rewarded with CATO publications and full scholarships to CATO University in San Diego.

As the nationwide newspaper ad campaign and massive website indicate, The CATO Institute is well funded for the battle to preserve capitalist rule. 

The left needs to develop a clear alternative that focuses on the needs of working people.   And we need to do it quickly.

Transnational Capital Seeks to Strenghten Its Position

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

In the midst of the current US and global economic meltdown, transnational capitalism is seeking ways to strengthen its position at the expense of working people in North America and worldwide.   We warned of this in Combating Globalization but did not expect to see capital’s initiatives launched so soon after the US elections.

It is reported in the newspaper article Cross-border truck plan is being revisited that pressure to allow US and Mexican carriers to make deliveries into the interior of each other’s country, a provision of NAFTA that was blocked by the actions of labor unions, independendent  trucking associations, and environmental organizations  in 2007,  is mounting on the US Congress.

The NAFTA Corridors: Offshoring US Transportation Jobs to Mexico presents an  in-depth analysis of transnational capitalism’s plan to employ free trade transportation labor from the South to undercut labor in the North.  This article exposes all of the facts that are obscured in mainstream news accounts.

The threat of this renewed globalization scheme against Northern labor in general and transportation workers specifically is very real.

Combating Globalization reports how a provisional victory for labor was won and offers lessons that are applicable today.  The struggle will be much more intense this time around.

If capital is allowed to strengthen its position vis-a-vis labor during this economic crisis, the increasing inequality and environmental damage that accompanied past neoliberal globalization is just a preview of the future.

To meet this clear and present danger, old alliances will have to be strengthened and new ones formed.

Times is short–congress is scheduled to begin meetings on this issue later this week.

Slash-and-Burn Capitalism

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

In Combating Globalization we define slash-and-burn capitalism as the practice of transnational corporations whereby they set up a factory in a cheap labor market, extract as much surplus value as possible from that operation, and then abandon the plant when it is no longer profitable.

We also point out that slash-and-burn capitalism leaves disrupted communities and environmental ruin in its wake.

This is happening all over Mexico today as a result of the global meltdown of transnational capitalism

The small town of Los Rodriguez in central Mexico offers a prime example of slash-and-burn. 

After the adoption of NAFTA, GM built a plant in Los Rodriguez to produce Chevy Suburbans, GMC Yukons, and Cadillac Escalades primarily for the US market.  More than 15,000 workers Mexican workers found employment in the assembly plant and the 70 satellite plants that supplied it.  

Now the jobs are gone and the workers are out on the dusty streets of Los Rodriquez with no prospects of local employment and opportunities for jobs in other parts of Mexico or across the international border in the US rapidly fading. 

This small Mexican town is actually in a worse situation that it was before  it became a boom town–the idle GM complex occupies the fields where Los Rodriguez’s farmers had traditionally grazed their livestock and planted their corn and bean crops.  Not even subsistence agriculture is possible now.

While GM might reopen the Los Rodriguez plant, there are indications that it is planning to invest the bail-out money that it hopes to receive in its Eastern European and Far East Asian operations where labor is even cheaper than it is in Mexico.

NAFTA was a classic neoliberal free trade policy that promised prosperity for workers on both side on the international border. 

As the full impact of NAFTA becomes clear so does the imperative to renegotiate the treaty with labor rights and environmental protection as central concerns.

The fight over NAFTA is a major skirmish in the battle against transnational capitalism that pits the workers of  different countries against each other.

Bailed-out Banks Onshoring Foreign Labor

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

In Combating Globalization we caution that transnational capital will turn to increasing globalization as part of their strategy for economic recovery and thereby undercut the working people of North America even further.

This is exactly what is happening in the financial sector of the US economy.

In the past six years the dozen US banks receiving the biggest rescue packages have requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers .

In the last three months of 2008, these same banks announced more than 100,000  layoffs.

Allowing these banks to replace US workers with foreign workers will contribute to the attrition of working people in the US and reinforce the trend of growing inequality in the nation.

The time to formulate an aggressive strategy for combating globalization is now.

Stolen Birthright — Comment

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The U.S. Conquest and Exploitation of the Mexican People

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The NAFTA Corridors — Comment

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Offshoring U.S. Transportation Jobs to Mexico

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Transient Servitude — Comment

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The U.S. Guest Worker Program for Exploiting Mexican and Central American Workers

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The Fight of Our Lives — Comment

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

“We are in the fight of our lives.  The hostile onslaught against U.S. labor that was launched after the Second World War and…”

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