[saymaListserv] Outsourcing, sweatshops, and economic globalization

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Mon May 17 21:11:26 JEST 2004


Dear Larry Osborne, I appreciate your well-thought-out response.  My 
intention is not necessarily to change the minds of others in SAYMA, 
but rather to make room for discussion and information which is not 
consistent with "what everyone knows".

Actually, the process of globalization has been going on for a very 
long time.  The pace of globalization was even faster in the early 
part of the 20th century than it is now. Outsourcing, too has been 
happening for a long time.  It is only now, however, that many are 
noticing.  My spouse's father went bankrupt in New York City when the 
textile mills there began to close down and reopen in the South in 
order to take advantage of cheaper labor. In New York as well as in 
New England at the time there was rising unemployment, declining 
standards of living and community decay while the South began to 
industrialize and slowly to grow and prosper. What happened in New 
York was that new, more technologically advanced industries developed 
and eventually filled the gaps left by the loss of the textile mills 
to the South.

Many a Yankee close to the textile industry at the time complained 
about the exploitation of poor Southern workers and spoke of 
"protecting" them from the evils of economic development just as 
anti-globalization folks now speak of "protecting" the poor in Less 
Developed Countries from the evils of economic development.

Why is it that Friends Journal tends to publish articles which are 
full of misinformation on economics, globalization and capitalism? 
It may be because most of the people who write for Friends Journal 
are Friends.  It probably has  something to do with the fact that 
Early Friends were business people (who, as the old saw goes, came to 
the New World to do good and did very well indeed) while current 
Friends tend overwhelmingly to be teachers, social workers, 
therapists, academicians, etc who never actually learned about 
economics.  Much of economics is counter-intuitive but, nonetheless, 
true.  Popular and well-loved Quaker Economist, Kenneth Boulding is 
said to have commented in discussion at Boulder Monthly Meeting that 
"Quakers don't know anything about economics, and what they do know 
is wrong."

It is your very concern about deep caring for others and reducing the 
violence of poverty which is being expressed by many who have 
actually lived and worked in Less Develped Countries and seen the 
miraculous changes which come about from economic development. 
Simply having a job can dramatically change consciousness and promote 
commmunal concern. It is that reality which escapes many Friends and 
Friends'organizations.  It really is that simple.

You didn't mention the demonization and name-calling which occurs 
among Friends in regard to corporations and businesses.  Their 
ethics, integrity and motives are regularly impugned with no apparent 
eldering coming from those among us who should take that 
responsibility. Corporations and businesses are made up of and run by 
human beings.  Human beings have the faults and frailties common to 
the species. But corporations hire and employ more people in the 
world than any other sort of entity.  If jobs are indeed the key to 
massively reducing poverty and misery in the world as many economists 
are saying, and if simply having jobs, having a source of income, 
raises consciousness about the environment, about human rights and 
about ALL of our other concerns for social justice, then we need to 
work with, not against, businesses and corporations which provide 
those jobs.  And we need to become activist shareholders in those 
corporations to help influence the way they function. And we need to 
be sure that the boards and officers of those corporations ally with 
and function in our interests.

Please add one more name and web site to your list.  Rather than 
being an organization made up of Friends trying to solve economic 
problems without understanding economics, it is made up of people in 
business and working for corporations acting on many of the concerns 
of Friends, though they do vote to come to decisions, I think.   The 
group is Net Impact.  (You won't get anywhere with them if you start 
out calling them names and accusing them of all the ethical and human 
rights violations you think they must be part of.) There are also 
coalitions of businesses and corporations specifically working on 
reducing greenhouse emissions as well as cleaning up the seas, rivers 
and lakes of the world.  If you surf the net you'll find them.  Janet 
Minshall

NET IMPACT
111 Sutter Street, 12th Floor
San Francisco, California 94104
phone: 415-984-3300   FAX:415-084-3301
mail at net-impact.org




>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/>http://www.behindthelabel.org/campaigns/sfc/
>
>
>Sweatshop Watch: 
><http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/>http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/
>
>
>Co-op America's Guide to Ending Sweatshops and Promoting Fair Trade: 
><http://www.sweatshops.org/>http://www.sweatshops.org/
>
>B.  Some organizations that promote just and sustainable community 
>and economic development:
>
>
>Business for Social Responsibility: <http://www.bsr.org/>http://www.bsr.org/
>
>
>Business Ethics Magazine 100 Best Corporate Citizens: 
><http://www.business-ethics.com/100best.htm>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>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>http://www.newdream.org/consumer/index.shtml
>
>
>
>
> 
>
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