Making global labor fair

Labor activist Auret van Heerden talks about the next frontier of workers’ rights — globalized industries where no single national body can keep workers safe and protected. How can we keep our global supply chains honest? Van Heerden makes the business case for fair labor.

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3 thoughts on “Making global labor fair

  1. I think he’s deliberately being very dishonest with some things. For example:

    (1) countries that have signed up to the Kimberly Agreement do work very hard to keep blood diamonds out of the market. For example you wouldn’t get a blood diamond from De Beers. You’d have to go to the underground market in the developing world somewhere if you really wanted a blood diamond.

    (2) international garbage is not dumped in places like that photo from the Philippines. There are all sorts of shenanigans going on with disposal of various classes of solid waste, but why choose a country like the Philippines where these things are not even being dumped?

    The history of modern pharmaceuticals is just full of fraud. People see an opportunity, for example, of making money by selling something such as calcium carbonate as penicillin. There’s no way of putting an end to that except by automated analysis of products (horribly expensive to set up, but this is done as part of the quality control in the (re)packaging plants).

    Slavery is still a big thing around the world too. People “own” their workers and treat them badly, but the cheap labor provided by these people who barely subsist yields huge profits for corporations who don’t care about how they make their money. One large part of the problem is that the client nations do not require their businesses to act ethically overseas. “That’s not our jurisdiction” is the usual lame excuse. My opinion is that goods which cannot be vetted should be confiscated and destroyed. Unfortunately that means establishing a costly international regulatory system, but that seems inevitable. Otherwise we will continue to use lumber which was acquired illegally from various countries, import milk spiked with melamine and so on. Well these contamination issues are not labor issues but production lines in foreign countries should at least meet standards back home.

    Things aren’t all bad; China is improving and its labor laws are slowly changing. Workers are even being paid more – so much so that some manufacturing is moving back to Europe. There are still huge problems in China though – many bosses still have the attitude that they own the people who work for them, but that attitude is certainly not unique to them. Things should improve more if governments require that the working conditions etc. of the people who provide goods to their market are properly vetted by independent groups. The producers must also comply with acceptable industry practices in the industrialized countries.

  2. @sc-mom: There’s a lot of crap going on at home as well – I never knew otherwise. People hiring illegal immigrants not because there’s a labor shortage but because they’re cheap and can be threatened with deportation (though frequently threatened with jail, which is something the feds don’t do) if they complain about wages or conditions. Of the industrialized nations the USA has one of the most aggressive anti-union lobbies and organized union busting gangs – Russia is probably the most comparable industrialized nation. So our own politicians sell their people down the river because someone who donates to their election campaign and invites them to hop on a private jet and take a trip to the golf course on Bermuda makes money off of exploiting others. Most other industrialized nations also have much higher tax rates on the rich. The only other exception I can think of is Singapore, but Singapore has a small government and a small land area and doesn’t need to spend as much to keep the infrastructure in good shape, so all their tax rates are low.

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