[afmdiscussion] Re: [saymaListserv] Outsourcing, sweatshops, and economic globalization

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Tue May 18 19:04:13 JEST 2004


Thanks to Julia Ewen for pointing out the role of the unions in the 
limited success of labor organizing that occurred in the South (the 
film "Norma Rae" tells that story).

from Julia's message on 5-18-04:

>"Today, if the workers in the LDC's are to experience fair wages and decent
>working conditions, raising costs of production to the point that jobs no
>longer are being drained from the developed countries, it will probably have
>to be by the same means as it happened here. People will have to band
>together and refuse to work for the wages and conditions currently being
>offered. And it will probably take "outside agitators" coming in to make it
>possible for the local workers to succeed. When workers go out on strike
>here they have been backed by the donations of money and food and clothing
>contributed by other union members outside the area of the strike. It will
>be necessary for the workers in the LDCs to be supported in the same way...
>
>The violence associated with union actions in this country have tended to
>make many Friends unsupportive of unions, even though deploring the business
>owners' exploitation of the workers.
>It must be possible to mount worker movements that are nonviolent. The
>principles of Ghandhi and Martin Luther King are applicable to any number of
>situations. However the response of those in the power positions is inclined
>to be violent even when the tactics of the movement are not violent.
>Sometimes people in the movement deliberately provoke violent response from
>the other side. It has happened in union action here. It has happened in the
>peace movement here in the 60's and 70's. So it becomes problematic for some
>Friends as to how and to what degree we participate in these secular
>movements.
>To what extent are we contributing to violence by being a part of movements
>in which violence is incidental to action? And in ignoring the incidental
>violence because the intended end is good, do we fall into the same patterns
>of thinking that contribute to good people supporting wars "to make the
>country safe" or to "spread democracy"? And yet "for evil to succeed it is
>necessary only for good people to do nothing"....What does the Spirit say to
>us in regard to situation of our brothers and sisters who labor in the LDCs
>for less than we believe their labor is really worth?"
>


The real problem, Julia, is that we actually believe that we have the 
right to determine whether our brothers and sisters in Less Developed 
Countries should work "...for less than we believe their labor is 
really worth?" and also that we believe that we should have a say 
about the conditions of their employment.  We have assumed that they 
cannot make informed decisions for themselves. They can and they do 
all the time, and many of them wonder how we can sit here well-fed 
and comfortable in our houses with electricity and indoor plumbing 
and tell them what they can not or should not do.

Most of them recognize on some level that their country has little or 
no infrastructure and that prospective employers will probably have 
to develop on-site water sources and large scale septic tanks for 
organic wastes, a really large electric generation system will have 
to be imported and installed, reliable mail and telephone systems 
will have to be developed, as well as computer hook-ups which are 
needed in order to do business.  There are also roads that will take 
truck traffic to be built, and shipping docks that will take cargo 
ships to construct.  Lower wages than those paid in the US are quite 
appropriate when the costs of setting up are so enormous and the 
prices of food and other necessities in the local area are usually so 
low. They know that, these poor people you want to protect from 
economic development, and they want the jobs anyway.   Janet





>Thanks to Janet Minshall for pointing out from the Northern viewpoint the
>"outsourcing" movement of the early 20th century, which I mentioned from the
>Southern point of view some weeks ago. Janet wrote:
>
>Subject: [afmdiscussion] Re: [saymaListserv] Outsourcing, sweatshops, and
>economic globalization

Janet wrote on 5-18-04:

>  > 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.
>
>However, the difference between the situation in the United States then and
>the would be protectors of the LDCs now is that there was a strong union
>movement in the North in the United States. And instead of leaving a clear
>field to sentimental "protectors" of the depressed Southern way of life, the
>Northern unions sent organizers south and made a serious effort to unionize
>the textile industry. Terrorism by both sides ensued, owners against workers
>and workers against owners and scabs. National guardsmen and sometimes
>federal troops were involved in putting down the violence. In the end, the
>unions were less successful in the South than in the North, and what worker
>gains there were could be seen as owners striking a compromise that did
>improve the workers' wages and conditions but kept the unions at bay.
>It was not just altruism that motivated the unions to attempt to organize
>the South. By raising the wages and working standards of Southerners, they
>hoped to protect their own jobs. They had struggled long and hard at the
>cost of much violent conflict and lives to secure the living wage and
>working conditions that they had.
>
>Today, if the workers in the LDC's are to experience fair wages and decent
>working conditions, raising costs of production to the point that jobs no
>longer are being drained from the developed countries, it will probably have
>to be by the same means as it happened here. People will have to band
>together and refuse to work for the wages and conditions currently being
>offered. And it will probably take "outside agitators" coming in to make it
>possible for the local workers to succeed. When workers go out on strike
>here they have been backed by the donations of money and food and clothing
>contributed by other union members outside the area of the strike. It will
>be necessary for the workers in the LDCs to be supported in the same way...
>
>The violence associated with union actions in this country have tended to
>make many Friends unsupportive of unions, even though deploring the business
>owners' exploitation of the workers.
>It must be possible to mount worker movements that are nonviolent. The
>principles of Ghandhi and Martin Luther King are applicable to any number of
>situations. However the response of those in the power positions is inclined
>to be violent even when the tactics of the movement are not violent.
>Sometimes people in the movement deliberately provoke violent response from
>the other side. It has happened in union action here. It has happened in the
>peace movement here in the 60's and 70's. So it becomes problematic for some
>Friends as to how and to what degree we participate in these secular
>movements.
>To what extent are we contributing to violence by being a part of movements
>in which violence is incidental to action? And in ignoring the incidental
>violence because the intended end is good, do we fall into the same patterns
>of thinking that contribute to good people supporting wars "to make the
>country safe" or to "spread democracy"? And yet "for evil to succeed it is
>necessary only for good people to do nothing"....What does the Spirit say to
>us in regard to situation of our brothers and sisters who labor in the LDCs
>for less than we believe their labor is really worth?
>
>Julia Parker Ewen
>Atlanta Friends Meeting




More information about the sayma mailing list