[saymaListserv] Fwd: misrepresentations, innuendos and errors on sweatshops, globalization and economics in Friends Journal article

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Sat May 1 17:08:47 JEST 2004


Dear Susan Jeffers,  Thanks for your response.  I think Jack 
partially answered your question in his article.  He worked in the 
countries he writes about over many years.  He didn't just read about 
what existed, take a guided tour or quote others to make his case 
about conditions in "lands far away".  In the pieces I have posted on 
the SAYMA list I have talked about my economic development efforts, 
supported by monthly meetings and yearly meetings all over the 
country, in East Africa. I visited textiles factories in Nairobi and 
a paper mill near Lugulu.  These would, I think, all be considered 
"sweatshops" by those who wish to try to end outsourcing of US 
processing and manufacturing to other countries. I have also traveled 
extensively in Europe, the Middle East and briefly in Eastern Europe, 
Mexico and in Central America.  I agree with you about the 
shortcomings of tours where people are guided and accompanied by a 
person or persons who are "selling" a particular political position. 
I understand that some labor unions and others who support them 
sponsor such tours of so-called "sweatshops".

I won't attempt to answer for Jack, although I have forwarded your 
response on to him.  I have said repeatedly on the SAYMA list, 
however, that slavery and the traffic in women and children for 
prostitution do certainly exist and are most reprehensible.  The 
dishonesty I see, however, is that when so-called "sweatshops" and 
the issue of outsourcing are mentioned they are often equated with 
slavery and the traffic in women and children for prostitution.

So-called "Sweatshops" are simply the places where people work in the 
rest of the world.  Sometimes they are electrified and have plumbing, 
sometimes not.  Often they have fans and adequate natural lighting. 
They are not, to my knowledge, air-conditioned and in many parts of 
the world (like Atlanta) there are times when the conditions are hot 
and sticky without air conditioning. If visitors are brought to visit 
at such times, the working conditions are hot and sticky.

Most people, the vast majority in my experience, who work in 
so-called "sweatshops" or for companies under outsourcing contracts 
with US corporations do not run the risk of being taken in slavery or 
being kidnapped for purposes of prostitution.  It is a false 
connection which has been made in order to try to keep the good, 
high-paying jobs in the US for relatively affluent US-born workers 
rather than sending them out into the rest of the world to be filled 
by people who are usually considerably poorer than either workers or 
the unemployed in the US.  The fact that you found site after site on 
chocolate slaves while using Google simply confirms that slavery 
exists and that there are many, many good people trying to end it. 
It has no relevance whatsoever to the focus of Jack's article (see 
Subject above).

Jack and I are both Friends.  We both take the Gospel-based 
testimonies of Quakers seriously. If you wish to look for 
publications which proclaim differing opinions and points of view I'm 
sure you can find them. Janet Minshall




>Thanks to Janet Minshall for forwarding Jack Powelson's article, 
>submitted to Friends Journal.
>
>I have a long-standing question for Friends (including myself) 
>"eager to be of assistance to the less fortunate" and trying to "act 
>in light of actual circumstances of various situations in order to 
>offer real, long-term solutions."
>
>My question is -- how do we "know" what we "know" about "actual 
>circumstances" in lands far away, involving people we've met only 
>through highly developed mediated sources such as organizational 
>websites, magazine articles, and even study tours/delegations (which 
>are, in the nature of the thing, themselves well-scripted).
>
>Jack Powelson criticizes David Morse's piece, writing "I know of no 
>slave-worked chocolate plantations. These jobs are taken by free 
>choice, meaning that the alternative (in the eyes of the workers) is 
>worse."
>
>I just went on Google and typed in "chocolate slave" and got site 
>after site with photos and interviews and of course plenty of 
>exhortation about the evils of African children being kidnapped 
>and/or sold into slavery to work the cocoa plantations.  Who's to 
>know what's real?  and how can we know?
>
>Many of us just choose whichever news media we deem "trustworthy" 
>and take their word for it; I have a hard time doing that, myself... 
>I always feel the urge to go see for myself somehow, and if I can't 
>then I just reserve judgment.  I seem to have plenty of problems to 
>work on that are right under my nose, in any case...
>
>Any thoughts?
>
>Grace and peace to you all --
>
>Susan Jeffers
>
>-----------------------------------------------
>EMail: susan at read-the-bible.org
>Peace Church Bible Study Home Page: www.read-the-bible.org
>
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