[saymaListserv] Outsourcing, sweatshops, and economic globalization

Larry Osborne losborne at cn.edu
Mon May 17 13:21:47 JEST 2004


RE: Outsourcing, sweatshops, and economic globalization

 

Friend Janet's contributions have been helpful in calling into question
mean-spirited, uninformed, and broad-brush criticism of outsourcing,
sweatshops, and economic globalization.  I sense also a personal hurt
among some business persons and professional experts who feel their
ethics and integrity have been impugned and their experience negated by
activists within the anti-sweatshop and anti-globalization movement,
especially when the activists are Friends and express themselves through
Friends' publications, groups, and Meetings.

 

 Although as a relatively new Quaker I have not experienced a lot of
blanket negativity about business per se, I have heard and in fact share
many of the negative pre-conceptions about outsourcing, sweatshops, and
globalization that Janet has addressed-that they often involve the
exploitation of poor workers, especially women and children; that they
often result in environmental degradation; that they directly contribute
to rising unemployment, declining standards of living, and community
decay in the United States.  

 

Based on the information she has provided, I am prepared to accept
Janet's points that most sweatshops do not involve slavery, that most
probably are consistent with the norms of the host country and culture
within which they exist, and that given the way things work, there are
real benefits to this type of community and economic development. 

 

Why do I continue to hold predominately negative views about
outsourcing, sweatshops, and globalization?  I have read a fair amount
of information on the topics from sources such as Friends' Journal, The
Other Side, and Sojourners.  I am familiar with a number of social
justice organizations and activists in my area such as the Highlander
Center and the Tennessee Industrial Renewal Network, who oppose these
trends.  I also tend to think the way I do from growing up in a textile
town in South Carolina that, thanks to free trade, is turning into a
ghost town with personal loan and check-cashing services as the local
growth industry.  On visits home over recent years, I have seen the
mills close and leave as they follow cheap wages and the absence of
environmental and occupational health regulations to other countries.
My Mother-in-Law, hoping to work until full retirement age,  was
recently laid off from her job in a North Carolina textile mill under
similar circumstances.  Likewise in Southern Appalachia, where I have
lived for the past 25 years, so many different industries have closed I
have lost count.  One of my friends, an African American man in his
mid-50's and native of my county, has been laid off for over a month now
from the TV cabinet and assembly plant he has worked at for over 15
years.  His future work opportunities are uncertain at best.  

 

I resist framing the debate about outsourcing, sweatshops, and
globalization as who needs the jobs the most.  I do not believe this
pattern of economic development is an ideal or justifiable way of
addressing poverty in the developing world, although I realize the
people receiving the jobs do benefit from having them in the sense that
even low wage work under difficult conditions is preferable to no wage
work and starvation.  Indisputably, their poverty is more desperate and
destructive than what I see the this country.  However, there are other
ways to think about and approach community and economic development, and
that is what I believe Friends' organizations and publications are
trying to help us do.

 

I am not in sympathy with the intimation that professional experts
supportive of "good" outsourcing, sweatshops, and economic globalization
should exercise editorial control and decision-making about what
Friends' Journal should publish.  I would like to see articles and
letters to the editor by such persons as well as other sources of
information that represent the "pro" side of this debate. 

 

I also would like to see us discuss these matters without impugning the
ethics, integrity, motives, and knowledge of those with whom we
disagree.  In particular I would like to recognize the deep caring for
others and commitment to reducing the violence of poverty that motivate
persons who acknowledge benefits to outsourcing, sweatshops, and
globalization.  Our debate is about strategy, not who cares and who
doesn't.  

 

I am attaching below a relatively brief list of organizations of which I
am aware that fight sweatshops and globalization and promote
alternative, just and sustainable development.  If there are problems
with these groups or organizations, I would be extremely interested in
the details.

 

Larry Osborne

West Knoxville Friends Meeting

 

A.  Some organizations critical of the exploitative aspects of
sweatshops and globalization:

 

*	Sweat Free Communities:
http://www.behindthelabel.org/campaigns/sfc/

 

*	Sweatshop Watch: http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/

 

*	Co-op America's Guide to Ending Sweatshops and Promoting Fair
Trade: http://www.sweatshops.org/

 

B.  Some organizations that promote just and sustainable community and
economic development: 

 

*	Business for Social Responsibility: http://www.bsr.org/

 

*	Business Ethics Magazine 100 Best Corporate Citizens:
http://www.business-ethics.com/100best.htm

 

*	The Calvert Social Index-a broad-based, rigorously constructed
benchmark for measuring the performance of large, US-based socially
responsible companies: http://www.calvertgroup.com/sri_calvertindex.asp

 

*	The Conscious Consumer Project of the Center for the New
American Dream: http://www.newdream.org/consumer/index.shtml

 

 

 

 

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