Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh

12
Jun
18

Sexual Harassment Flourishes in Slave Labor Factories

Sexual Harassment Flourishes in Slave Labor Factories

Global Garment Industry Supply Chains Remain Rife with Gender-Based Violence and Harassment

New studies from international advocacy groups find that female workers face daily abuse.

Leading retailers H&M, Gap and Walmart continue to depend on overseas factories where harassment and abuse toward female workers runs rampant, according to new reports from leading union, workers rights and human rights organizations.

In three individual reports, a global coalition of organizations including Global Labor Justice and the Asia Floor Wage Alliance explain how much of the fast fashion produced for the retailers in overseas factories depends on conditions that breed violence and sexual harassment toward women.

“These are not isolated incidents,” Global Labor Justice reports on its website. “Rather, they reflect a convergence of risk factors for gender violence… that leave women garment workers systematically exposed to violence.”

The studies show that while major retailers have said they are committed to improving working conditions in the overseas factories that supply many of their products, much work remains to be done.

The findings also come at a time when discussion about the future of trade is taking place — and a reminder that while much attention has been paid to how shifts in trade relationships might impact companies’ bottom lines, free trade has meant real people around the world have suffered serious abuse.

In each report, researchers examine the ways in which female garment workers are routinely, and often violently, abused in their workplaces. Many also face unwanted sexual advances from their supervisors.

That abuse isn’t just limited to the factory floor, either — these workers also deal with violence and harassment during their commutes and in employer-provided housing, the reports find.

To conduct the studies, researchers held focus group discussions with female workers in garment supply chains and trade union leaders aiming to organize workers. They met with these workers in several countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Researchers then put together case and context studies to document the incidents described by the workers, “including case studies of sexual harassment, retaliation for reporting sexual violence, and barriers to seeking relief.”

Women serve as the vast majority of the garment industry workforce across the global supply chain, although they rarely hold management positions. Instead, they typically work long hours in unsafe working conditions for low wages (almost always without overtime pay).

They’re also forced to work very fast under extreme pressure to meet the production targets of the fast-fashion industry.

“Use of production targets and piece rate wages create sustained pressure among workers to meet targets at the expense of taking breaks to rest, using restrooms and even drinking water,” the H&M report states. It later continues: “Low wages bind women to grinding production targets and excessive overtime hours — and even, then, they may not earn enough to meet basic nutritional requirements for themselves and their families.”

When factory supervisors don’t think that workers are moving fast enough, violence is often the result.

Radhika, a female worker employed in a Bangalore factory that supplies Gap and H&M, described how she was assaulted after failing to meet production targets:

“[M]y batch supervisor came up behind me as I was working on the sewing machine, yelling, ‘you are not meeting your target production.’ He pulled me out of the chair and I fell on the floor. He hit me, including on my breasts. He pulled me up and then pushed me to the floor again. He kicked me.’”

Radhika filed a written compliant, and was called into a meeting with the supervisor and a human resources staffer. The supervisor apologized, and Radhika was warned not to mention the incident again.

The harassment from the manager didn’t stop. Radhika still works at the factory because she is a single mother working to support her physically challenged daughter, she said.

Meanwhile, verbal abuse is commonplace. In a Gap supplier factory in Indonesia, one woman described the typical treatment from her supervisor:

“If you miss the target, all the workers in the production room can hear the yelling: ‘You stupid! Cannot work? If you are not willing to work, just go home! Watch out you! I will not extend your contract if you cannot work… They also throw materials. They kick our chairs.”

The situation is similar in Walmart supplier factories.

“Women workers in Walmart suppliers in Bangladesh described constant and relentless verbal abuse that continues from the beginning to the end of their shift,” according to the Walmart report. “Similarly, Indonesian workers at Walmart supplier factories reported that verbal abuse was daily and ongoing.”

Even in the rare instances when women workers are hired into management positions, they still face harassment.

Sulatana, a skilled garment worker with 10 years of experience, was hired in January 2018 as a production-line manager by a Walmart supplier in Bangladesh. But Sulatana still found herself facing unwanted advances from the factory’s general manager, including flirting and touching.

The general manager eventually asked Sulatana to go out with him; the production manager even offered her a salary increase and promotion if she agreed. Sultana declined, and the production manager threatened to fire her. When she went to the police to file a complaint, they refused to help.

“Sulatana had no avenue for relief for ongoing sexual harassment at work. When Sulatana refused to spend time with the General Manager outside working hours, she was fired in retaliation,” the Walmart report states. “Neither factory human resources nor the police provided viable pathways to accountability.”

So what are the solutions to this unchecked crisis? The researchers laid out a series of recommendations, and the International Labour Organization is currently convening to set the first international labor stands on violence and harassment in the workplace.

But the reports also serve as a reminder that when textile production moved overseas, it might have led to lower prices  and fast fashion — but it came at a big cost.

American communities were hallowed out, and the workers who took their jobs throughout Asia are now forced to work unreasonably long hours for terrible pay and in terrible conditions. As these reports find, many of these workers face regular physical abuse and sexual harassment as well.

H&M, Gap and Walmart might be singled out in these reports, but they are hardly the only retailers who profit upon the cheap goods provided by the fast fashion global supply chain — and which depends upon the terrible mistreatment of its workers to survive. Retailers repeatedly have made promises to improve labor conditions, but it looks like they continue to break those promises.

So as big discussions about the future of trade continue, it’s important to remember that trade hasn’t just led to lower consumer prices and increased company profit margins  — it also led to the rise of sweatshop labor, workplace violence and even sexual abuse in countries around the world.


Editor’s Note

Violence, intimidation and sexual harassment are some of the drawbacks to globalization. In exchange for getting cheaper products, the United States has given up all standards on how things are produced: whether it is working conditions, wages, pollution, child labor, over-production and extreme waste, toxic products and, in this case, sexual harassment.

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21
May
14

For Bangladeshi Women, Factory Work Is Worth the Risks – Businessweek

For Bangladeshi Women, Factory Work Is Worth the Risks – Businessweek.  The following article is a Pro-Free Trade Article, which is trying to defend why its okay for Americans to buy from Bangladesh. I will not interfere with the article but I will put in my [ editor’s brackets] where it is appropriate.

From Businessweek May 21, 2014

For Bangladeshi Women, Factory Work is Worth the Risks

Akhter with her daughter, Riza, next to the shed they call home

Akhter with her daughter, Riza, next to the shed they call home

To give her daughter opportunities neither she nor her mother had, Nazma Akhter made the only choices possible for a poor, illiterate woman in Bangladesh [the only choice? She had children]. She fled her village, bolting the door behind her so her mother couldn’t chase her down. She moved to Dhaka, the capital, and began living in a shed the size of a parking space. She worked 12-hour days making jeans, T-shirts, and dresses, earning no more than $98 a month.

The income was just enough to allow Akhter to bring her family to Dhaka and put her daughter, Riza, in school. Then, on Nov. 24, 2012, a fire broke out in the Tazreen Fashions factory where Akhter worked. The blaze killed 112 of her co-workers. A worse disaster followed. On April 24 last year, 1,129 perished when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed.

For Akhter, who guesses she’s in her early thirties, the fallout from Tazreen has been severe. She unravels her sari to show the scar on her back from hours of surgery after she jumped out of the building, falling two stories, to escape the fire. She still can’t work. But she says she’d do it all again if it meant that Riza, now 10 and an excellent student, could get a good education and a shot at an office job—the girl’s dream. Nothing could be further from the life lived by Akhter’s mother, who still pulls stalks of rice in paddy fields. “God, she worked so hard,” says Akhter, whispering in the shed as her three children sleep in the afternoon heat. “My mother couldn’t stand straight anymore. I couldn’t live like that. I couldn’t make my daughter live like that.”

The paradox of Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry, where substandard practices have resulted in the deaths of at least 2,000 people since 2005, is that it’s virtually the only way for the nation’s women and girls to claw their way out of poverty and illiteracy. For some 3.5 million Bangladeshis, mostly women, the 10-hour shifts [it usually more like 12 to 15 hour shifts] spent hunched over a sewing machine offer a once-in-a-generation chance to better their lives.

“My mother couldn’t stand straight anymore. I couldn’t live like that. I couldn’t make my daughter live like that.” —Nazma Akhter

In 2011 about 12 percent of Bangladeshi women ages 15 to 30 [did you note the ages of what they call women? I wouldn’t call age 15 a woman] worked in the garment industry, according to a study by Rachel Heath of the University of Washington and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University’s School of Management. Pay was 13 percent greater than in other industries that rely on manual labor. Perhaps most important, the researchers found, 27 percent more young girls were attending school than before the garment industry existed. [Are you saying that there is an increase of just young girls (not boys) because the factory workers can pay for schooling out of their own pockets now or are you saying it is because there are many more city-dwellers than in agriculture due to this massive shift in population due to the influx of factories?]

Young as she is, Riza, a poetry-obsessed math whiz, understands that her mother’s job was an essential step in her family’s quest for security and prosperity. “Tell me something,” she asks. “Do offices catch fire like factories do? Because I want to work in an office someday.” [Yes, offices can just as easily catch fire in Bangladesh due to substandard building codes and enforcement, too.]

For Bangladesh, a nation dismissed by Henry Kissinger as a “basket case” after its violent birth in 1971, and which has since endured several political coups and uprisings, garment making has been a godsend. It now accounts for 6 percent of gross domestic product and last year made up almost 80 percent of exports. “Don’t forget that this industry has allowed Bangladesh to cut poverty by a third. Don’t forget that it has created milions of jobs. [That used to be American jobs].  Don’t forget that it has helped put more young girls in school than ever before,” says Gilbert Houngbo, deputy director general of the International Labour Organization, which has funneled millions of dollars in the past year into inspections of Bangladeshi factories. [I find the word “funneled” to be a strange choice of words to do inspections] “On the other hand, you can’t do that at the expense of women’s basic rights—the right to feel safe, to be safe, to have decent work environments.”

On a steamy afternoon, Akhter relives the day she almost died. She waves with her hands as she describes the smoke filling the air on her floor of the factory. She feigns a limp to demonstrate how her leg was stuck in a pile of bodies. Suddenly she starts howling, the memories still sharp. The cries awaken Riza as neighbors crowd into the shed to hear the story. The girl slips off of a thin sheet on the floor and starts putting things in her school bag, even though classes are over for the day. Three notebooks, a small box with a pencil, a sharpener and half an eraser, a book of Bengali grammar, and an empty lunchbox barely fit into her used Hannah Montana backpack.

Conclusion from the Editor

Yes, it is certainly a feel-good story that should warm the heart of any major industrialist. But before we start patting ourselves on the back for improving poverty in Bangladesh, just remember that the original reason why American jobs were moved to Bangladesh had nothing to do with improving the poverty level of Bangladesh, it was about making money. If the corporations had the welfare of the people in mind, they would have funded all their schools and radically improved their infrastructure – none of this has been done.

So, in reality, we are left with a 30 year old previously healthy woman, who is now permanently and totally physically disabled and with a bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to boot. Plus, she has  three children that depend on her support. The problem is obvious, Akhter is without a job, and gets no disability pay and probably has some enormous hospital bills (unless she sues, which is highly unlikely). She has no visible means of support, and is unlikely to find work or a man that will support her, ever. Yes, happy endings. This story makes me so happy that we shipped our American jobs to Bangladesh. Long live “Free Trade” and the World Trade Organization.

 

24
Apr
14

The Photojournalist Who Happened Upon The Worst Disaster In The History Of The Clothing Industry

The Photojournalist Who Happened Upon The Worst Disaster In The History Of The Clothing Industry. This is one year anniversary of the largest disaster in garment manufacturing history. On April 24, 2013, 1138 garment workers died when the Rana Building in Bangladesh collapsed due to shoddy construction and incompetent management which kept people working in known dangerous conditions.  This is a 5 minute and 10 second video from photographer, Ismail Ferdous,  who was there at the time. The video is called “The Deadly Cost of Fashion.” (From Upworthy).

Don’t forget to see my original posts about the Bangladesh disasters under “Categories” – Bangladesh. See especially the two posts: “Second Massive Disaster to Bangladesh Clothing Factory Within 5 Months.” and  “Reform Follows Bangladesh Tragedies except Wal-Mart Refuses to Sign Up.” Wal-Mart has pretty much blocked any reforms that should have followed this disaster, while initially promising to change.

Bangladesh Factory collapse

Bangladesh Factory collapse

The Pope Speaks Out

On May 1, 2013, Pope Francis spoke out against the working conditions in the factory:

A Headline that really struck me on the day of the tragedy in Bangladesh was ‘Living on 38 Euros a month’. That is what the people who died were being paid. This is called slave labor. Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity. How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation?! Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!

Petition

There is a petition out to have Wal-Mart and Children’s Palace help with compensation for the 1,138 garment workers who perished in the Rana Building collapse. The link has the story of one employee who survived this disaster. His name is Aklima Khanam, who is 20 years old and has been working in garment factories since the age of 14 (Childhood Labor is legal in Bangladesh). Mr Khanam describes the working conditions at the Rana Building factory. People hear these stories all the time here in America, but, they, either, don’t believe them (denial) or they don’t care (apathy). I think it is a lot of both. (As long as it’s cheap). Petition to Fairly Compensate the Bangladesh factory Workers

CBS Money Watch Video

Here is another 2 minute 50 second video from CBS Money Watch called “The Bangladesh Factory Collapse One Year Later.” This interview basically says that nothing has changed and that something like this could happen again.

Conclusion

Do not buy from slave labor. It’s not worth it. I leave you with a quote from a Bangladeshi women after a factory fire that also killed 112 garment workers who were trapped inside due to chained up windows in November 29 2012, “They died for your clothes.”




																
29
Jun
13

U.S. to Suspend Trade Privileges With Bangladesh – NYTimes.com

Obama to Suspend Trade Privileges With Bangladesh – NYTimes.com. From the New York Times, written by Steven Greenhouse, June 27, 2013.

The Obama administration on Thursday announced plans to suspend trade privileges for Bangladesh over concerns about safety problems and labor rights violations in that country’s garment industry.

The administration has come under intense pressure to suspend Bangladesh’s trade privileges after a factory building there collapsed in April, killing 1,129 workers, and after a factory fire killed 112 workers in November.

In a letter to Congress on Thursday, President Barack Obama said the United States would withdraw trade privileges to Bangladesh because it was “not taking steps to afford internationally recognized workers rights.”

Labor unions and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pressing the Obama administration to take this step. Bangladesh is allowed to export nearly 5,000 products duty-free to the United States, which purchases about 25% of the country’s $18 Billion in annual apparel exports.

Bangladesh is among more than 125 countries that receives such breaks on U.S. tariffs under a Generalized System of Preferences, a World Trade Organization program that is intended to promote economic growth around the globe.

In recent weeks, officials in the Labor Department have called for revoking Bangladesh’s special trade status, saying the United States needs to take strong action. Labor officials have asserted that the garment industry has been dragging its feet in improving safety and ending violations of workers’ right to form labor unions. At the same time, some State Department officials have pushed against suspending the trade privileges, saying it would damage diplomatic relations and undermine the economy of an already poor country.

At a hearing in March held by the trade representative’s office, a top official in Bangladesh’s Commerce Ministry said, “Compliance with rights, including labor rights, will necessarily be gradual,” in poor countries like Bangladesh.

The administration’s move comes in response to an official complaint that the AFL-CIO filed in 2007. The labor federation was upset about factory fires and a 2005 factory collapse in Bangladesh, as well as the extensive efforts by that country’s garment manufacturers to suppress labor unions.

Administration officials took that complaint with new seriousness after the Tazreen factory fire November and after the Rana Plaza factory building collapse two months ago in what was the most deadly accident in the history of the world’s apparel industry.

Editor’s Note

These articles are sometimes very interesting in that they lift the veil off the secrets that dwell in all of our outsourcing. The one thing I learned is that the garments made in Bangladesh are not given a preferred tax rate, they actually are not taxed at all. And then there are 124 other countries that don’t pay import taxes at all.  No wonder American companies are leaving all the time. The U.S. actually is packing their bags and making them move.

Another item, which I find entirely hilarious is that there are people in the State Department who do not want to take action after two of the worst factory disasters in history. If you suspend Bangladesh, you can always “unsuspend” them when they make the recommended changes, right? But, I find their excuses so funny. They are afraid that it will undermine an already poor economy. These people at the State Department could give a rat’s ass about the economy in Bangladesh, they are worried that some of their Fat Cat friends and CEO’s might have to make other arrangements to produce their cheaply manufactured garments. And worried about diplomatic relations with the U.S? The people in Bangladesh blame the United States for running these labor camps. They feel that their own Bangladeshi people die, just so Americans can have cheap clothes. Bangladesh would have more respect for the United States if they make these garment companies do the right thing (that had been agreed to many years ago).

The World Trade Organization is sometimes a villain when it comes to outsourcing from the United States to other countries. The WTO is also another reason why the U.S. doesn’t do anything about the outsourcing, plus the fact that we don’t have any political movement within Washington, DC.  But here are some of the major objections to the WTO: 1) WTO is run by the rich for the rich; 2) WTO is indifferent to the impact of free trade to workers’ rights, child labor, the environment and health; and 3) WTO lacks democratic accountability in that its hearing on trade disputes are closed to the public and the media.

Conclusion

It is absolutely the right decision to suspend Bangladesh’s preferred trade privilege status. The American companies, especially WalMart and the GAP, who were not making changes even after these terrible disasters. This is the only course of action that will change the constant state of neglect within Bangladesh. Also, maybe the United States should re-think being within the World Trade Organization. The U.S. needs to stop outsourcing and the hemorrhaging of  jobs. The U.S. lost 2,053,000 jobs overseas in 2012.

08
Jun
13

What is the effect if we stop buying from Bangladesh?

I received a great comment on my blog entry: “Reforms Follow Bangladesh tragedies“, from Rebekah. She said: “I have been working to be more conscious of where I spend my money when I buy clothes, for this very reason. I got to thinking, does anyone know if we also hurt these very poor people when we stop buying from the countries that do use child labor? Are these kids working so their families have money to survive? How are we helping them by not buying from those countries? Any information on this?”

These are great questions and it brings up issues that I have heard before, but have never formally addressed, such as: Is globalization truly lifting people up out of poverty in these far-away poor countries? Well, China, for certain, has benefited, as for the others, the jury is still out.

How are we helping them by not buying from those countries?

First off, I will answer the last question: How are we helping them by not buying from those countries (that use child labor)?

Before we get started, just a little primer. Specifically, regarding Child Labor, The United States government behind Senator Tom Harkin and the United Nations have been trying to eliminate child labor since 1992, and have had a great impact. As far as Bangladesh, which has a high precedence of child labor, has still not signed the UN amendment on The National Child Labor Elimination Policy of 2010. Bangladesh did pass a lesser  “Labor Act” in 2006 which prohibits employment for children under 14 and hazardous work for children under 18 years of age. However, this legislation is easily bypassed, allowing children to work in subcontracted or “informal”  factories.

So, what happens when we stop buying clothing from a certain “bad reputation” country is reform. By seeing a drop in orders and income, owners will try to find out why – and if they find out that is is because of child labor, they will support and pass laws prohibiting child labor. The United States has led the crusade against child labor, but it is up to the citizens of the United States to see that these laws and ideas are enforced. The United States has prohibited child labor since 1880, it is time for the rest of the world to catch up. If this child can no longer work in the garment factories, I would actually feel better for the Bengladeshi child that he/she could no longer work an average works six days a week at a minimum of 10.5 hours a day. See, also, the article from The Daily Beast 10/21/09 called Born To Work.

Born To Work 10/21/09 Daily Beast

Born To Work
10/21/09 Daily Beast

Other reforms from boycotting products would be implementing safety precautions and upgrading factories with investment from the multi-national companies that employ them.

For more information about child labor and child labor laws in Bangladesh, plus a study of the children’s work hours, see “Child Labor in the informal Garment Production in Bangladesh.”

Is Outsourcing or Globalization helping poverty?

This is an extension of the first question. If we are no longer employing the child, what about the rest of the garment factory and Bangladesh as an entire nation? Wouldn’t they suffer without the jobs?

Another way to look at this would be to ask the question: Is outsourcing a social good?

1) The Real Reason For Outsourcing

First, one must understand that corporations have absolutely no interest in producing social benefits. They only move their companies to poor countries simply is to maximize profits. The Heads of these multi-national corporations never argue this point. Only the apologists for the multi-national corporations try to make this weak point.

2) World Poverty – Mostly Rural

One fifth of the world’s population is affected by poverty – people who live on less than $1 a day. Of these 63% of the people live in rural areas (90% in Bangladesh are also rural). Globalization/outsourcing jobs are in urban environment, therefore at least 63% of these people are excluded. Globalization may help a small community of people, in part of one city, of an entire nation.  I think that selling the idea that globalization is a cure for for poverty and a social good is over-hyping and downright misleading. Now, if you came from another direction, and said that we are starting globalization to improve poverty as a social good, then some people might say, “Well, there is some potential, but the organization needs to be majorly reorganized with addition of education and infrastructure (roads, plumbing, electricity, etc.)”.

3) The Location of the outsourced factory

And if you think corporations pick out a certain location to bring their American jobs to Bangladesh, so that this one particular area of Bangladesh can be lifted out of poverty, then you are simply living in a fantasy world. Corporations look at a location by studying their access to and from the factories, plus if there is an overabundance of very poor but willing workers (other factors include tax breaks, government cooperation, etc). In essence, the corporations are looking for a “captive” audience, like starting a business in a prison. By employing this strategy, they can exploit these workers with wages deathly low (but normal for the area), without worrying about: safety concerns; health concerns; or environmental concerns. These workers will endure abuses not tolerated by many other civilizations. So, I wouldn’t thump my chest about improving poverty in far-away places.

4) Outsourcing of American jobs to other nations is severely detrimental to the US economy.

One important factor that people fail to realize is that the United States is drowning under an ever-expanding trade deficit. That means the country is losing money exponentially. The downturn in the U.S. economy and the start of outsourcing started in earnest in 1980. It is impossible for a debtor nation to continue to fund the finances of all the other countries in the world. The United States needs to strengthen its own economy by: adding jobs; improving education, both, vocational and secondary schools; and increasing manufacturing jobs to provide at least 20 – 25% of our needs. We are currently down to 5%, down from 80% in 1975. By improving our economy, we can improve the economy of other countries. The doctor needs to heal himself, so he can heal others.

Conclusion

I believe that child labor is wrong, period. I don’t think you should feel bad if the child can no longer work full-time at a factory, he should be in school, and he will live like the rest of the children in his area. Poor, but not exploited. Outsourcing to countries like Bangladesh are simply a way to maximize profits for the CEO’s in New York City. They didn’t intend to improve the working conditions in those far-away countries and they haven’t, except for maybe a rare case. Thanks, Rebekah, for the great comment.

13
May
13

The Anti-Manufacturing Forces in Washington

The Anti-Manufacturing Forces in Washington – The Made in America Movement. I think I am in good company when I say I would like to buy goods made in America (see National Survey), and that I would like to see more good paying jobs in America, especially in manufacturing. So, I find it hard to believe that there are people out there that do not want the United States to start manufacturing again. And it is not only China. It is actually  groups from within the United States. So, who are these contrarians? How can they exist when we never see any of these people speak out publicly against U.S. manufacturing except someone like John Stossel (instead of linking his post, I will link my rebuttal)? If they never speak, how do we know who these secret traitors are? Answer: By their actions, just follow the money.

Loss of manufacturing jobs with a slight increase due to the stimulus

Loss of manufacturing jobs with a slight increase due to the stimulus

The top link from the Huffington Post is written by Gilbert Kaplan, Former Deputy Assistant and Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The article lists the five groups who are against U.S. manufacturing and insourcing. (Click this link to read the article and learn whom they are. Reposted in madeinamericamovement.com.) The following is more of a summary of the link, plus a few of my own comments about the above article. (It is actually quicker to read the article than to read my arguments).

The 5 groups against U.S. Manufacturing

Number 1 – The People Making money by off-shoring. This is the most influential group because they have the most money and they own the most lobbyists working in Washington, DC. That is why there are continued tax breaks for the companies that outsource their jobs to other countries, even though everybody thinks these breaks should disappear. The group is composed of mostly multi-national corporations. And with multi-national corporations, they definitely have no loyalty to the United States of America. The only thing they worship is cold hard cash. That is their only allegiance. If we help them, we become their our current friend, if we make it more difficult for them, we become their lifelong enemy. So, if we want to increase manufacturing in the United States, and it costs them a nickel in total – we are now their enemy, and they will spend 1,000 times more to get their money back. And as long as the United States allows these corporations to buy our politicians, they will always get their way. The people of the United States don’t exactly like this arrangement, but they don’t really think this is corrupt, “it’s just the way our country works”.  However, all the other countries, not calling themselves the United States, think this is one of the most corrupt practices in the world. And they would not be wrong. Corporations run the world and the U.S. About 95% of what passes in Congress is blessed by this group. This is in truth, the real power and the group that needs to be outed. So,why is the Made in America movement avoided in the news, when every day more and more people are asking for items Made in the USA?

The Multi-National Corporate Pledge

The Multi-National Corporate Pledge

Number 2 – Free Trade Extremists. Actually numbers 2, 3 and five are very closely related, and all are heavily influenced with powerful propaganda financed by Number 1. Number 2 – The Free Trade extremists, believe in the ancient theory of Adam Smith. They are actually small in number and their argument is heavily flawed. The theory is that trade will become more efficient and cheaper if nothing inhibits it. The problem is it never worked, and it never will. The best chance that this theory could have worked was when monopolies were outlawed and the United States, at the time, was a bunch of small businesses. But the United States is now run by a conglomeration of Mega-Multi-National Corporations (they are all like monopolies). Just look at your own city and your own town, and count how many of your businesses are a mega-business, like WalMart, Lowes, McDonalds, H &M? The only rules that will come out of Congress now are ones that favor the large corporations – that is not Free Trade.

Chinese Sweatshop

Chinese Sweatshop

The second argument against Free Trade which is well-explained in the Huffington Post, is that the United States is “trying” to play the game of Free Trade. While countries like China, in order to further its “Exports First” Policy, clearly breaks the rules by: subsidizing multiple “private” companies; increasing tariffs on competitor’s imports; strong-arming foreign corporations into manufacturing with their own country; and artificially de-valuing its own currency, making imports more valuable. It is like The United States is playing a card game with everybody but it has to deal with different rules made up by each country, but playing their own cards with the original ‘very narrow’ rules. So, we are not dealing with Free Trade – not even close. Free Trade is a policy worth dropping.

Number 3 – People who Believe that Trade is Less Important than Foreign Policy. These people are what some people call political apologists. They are afraid that if the U.S. raises some of its zero percent tariffs on some Chinese imports, the China will increase their tariff rates on some U.S. product like wheat. The apologists argue that China is too powerful to negotiate with. (There is a trade deficit with China of $239 Billion a year. The US is China’s favorite chump..er customer). This brain-washed argument and solution of number 3 is exactly like the solution of number 2 which is to do less than nothing, but to bend over and take it.

Number 4 – The Ruling Body Of Trade Policies, the WTO, does not enforce trade infractions. The World Trade Organization is supposed to have the power to enforce trade infractions. However, recently the WTO is not enforcing anything including clear infractions by China (see the Huff Post article). So what does this mean? This means there are no referees. Only the combatants make up the rules. Here is the scenario: In one corner is China ( a no-holds-barred-government-involved-country who is determined to do all the manufacturing in the world) wearing the red trunks and wearing boxing gloves and taped feet. In the other corner, is the USA, wearing pajamas, getting advice from the mega corporations to stay passive. The bell rings, China is hyper-agressive. The U.S. walks around in a daze, watching the clouds drift by, while its economy is pummeled. The result: 10 million manufacturing jobs lost since 1980. Upstart China is the number 1 manufacturing power in the world since 2010.

Number 5 – The Economic Theory of 1980. There was a “hot” economic theory running around in the early 1980’s – which was that manufacturing was “Old Hat”, but the new “hip” thing was technology. So, the US would just let its manufacturing go under and we would all become “service” people. At first, things were seemingly going O.K, we were silent about all the factories closing and jobs going overseas because we had a plethora of manufacturing jobs. And with the “tech boom” in the 1990’s, the U.S. was busy making computers and microchips. But the outsourcing was so much greater than anybody had ever anticipated (fueled by a unquenchable greed) that the economists failed to foresee some important points (which now are glaringly obvious): 1) the loss of affiliated jobs transportation, complementary services and community business that catered to the manufacturing population/workers; 2) the real costs of an enormous manufacturing trade deficit (the trade deficit is costing the U.S. an additional 1.5 million manufacturing  jobs every year); 3) the destruction of research and development; 4) the loss of the American middle class – a long time ago, there was only two economic classes, the “rich” and the “poor” until manufacturing came along, and with better wages through negotiating, a new third class called the “middle class” emerged. However since 1980, the rich have gotten richer and the middle class has lost income and buying power to inflation, with much of the middle class falling  into the “poor” class;

The rich get richer, the middle class joins the poor.

The rich get richer, the middle class joins the poor.

5) a feeling of dependence and uncertainty – “dependence” on foreign countries to furnish what we used to make and “uncertainty” – because as we have seen – just about all “service” jobs are outsourcable  and actually “service” jobs are easier to outsource than manufacturing jobs; 6) the loss of the ability to come up with an economic boom – I was talking earlier about the “tech boom” in the 1990’s, but now a tech boom is impossible for the United States to benefit from – in fact, we are in one of the largest economic booms ever in the history of the world with smart phones, electronic readers, iPads, Androids, wi-fi compatible devices – and yet the United States has been totally bypassed by this enormous boom, because we do not manufacture one of these devices at all; 7) the “high tech” things made by the Chinese: the computers, the cell phones, the solar panels were all supposed to be made only by the USA, but China now does all of this and is easily expanding further into high tech adventures like airplanes, aerospace, automobiles and military weapons (currently the meat of American manufacturing – did you expect Chinese manufacturing to stay pat? Did you think our remaining manufacturing jobs are still safe?); and 8) the decimation of the American family and communities.

This outmoded theory of economics still exists with staunch believers. They are considered dinosaurs. If you happen to listen to one of these dinosaurs defending the US should be only a service nation, just laugh right in their face.

Conclusion

It is totally insane that the United States of America is the only major country with absolutely no manufacturing policy. It is like trying to open a business without having a business plan. The United States used to have a plan, the government imposed regulations to protect the country from unfair trade practices. Some hard-right economists called this “protectionism” and that any form of protectionism is just “evil”. Therefore, since 1980, the U.S. government has deregulated and let the chips fall where they may. Not a very wise plan. The plan is called “No Clue”. Here is an analogy of how the “No Clue” policy works: it is like the U.S. economy has been placed on a boat, but the boat has no engine or motor or sail. In fact it has no rudder, no maps, no GPS, no plans and no one in charge. The U.S. economy boat is constantly buffeted by outside forces, such as multi-national corporations and by “exports-first”-mentality of countries such as China. The U.S. responds to this constant buffetting by dropping all of its assets overboard. The inside of the U.S. economy ship looks like it has been attacked by the plague and the outside does not look much better.

The current American policy on manufacturing

The current American policy on manufacturing

The United States needs a plan for to improve its economy and its ability to compete in the future. It means the people of the United States need to take action and elect responsible people who will do “something”, instead of “do nothing” to improve U.S. manufacturing and its economy.

My Solution

So what is my solution to the above problem? As far as clothing, I would start by making three classifications of clothing, all boldly printed on the inside of the garment: 1) Fair Trade garment – fair wages and fair working conditions, 2) Barely Adequate Working Conditions, and 3) Slave Labor and ethically questionable (this is where most of the present clothing would be classified). For garments made from unacceptable places like the Bangladesh Fire Garment Factory and most lately the Bangladesh Building collapse – clothing produced in those facilities would never even reach our shores. Surprise inspections would be required from all manufacturing factories to participate. My second solution, develop a national strategy to improve American manufacturing like this one from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and third, make all lobbying illegal. Remember to keep America strong and buy American.




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