Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mayday! Mayday!

I wrote this on May 1st, never finished it because we are in garden mode.

Watching an article on BBC world about the Bangladesh factory tragedy. The latest one where a building collapsed, not the fires that are exactly like the one in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in 1911. What turned that situation around? Oh yes, something called labour unions. Remember those?

And I am sick and tired of  the comments that  guilt-trip shoppers in the until-recently-rich world into believing it's all their fault for insisting on cheap shirts. Let's see, first International Capital moves manufacturing to the most desperate people it can find, leaving behind the devastation of rust belts. Then the people in the hollowed-out economy get chewed out for shopping at Walmart. Spare me!

It seems like yesterday that we in the until-recently-rich world were told that the misery in the third world was partly due to our tariff barriers. The best thing the West could do for the poor was to get out of the way and allow the free market to function properly, so countries with cheap labour could sell us cheap shirts. Sorry, I have no references, just winging by memory here. But I do remember the argument and it had some merit. So here we are. As soon as workers start to get some clout the industry  moves to the next cheap labour place. Worse case scenario: by the time the textile workers in Africa (it will be next) start getting uppity the people in the North will be desperate enough to work for peanuts.

It is May 1st, in many parts of the world a day to celebrate labour.

Workers of the world, Unite! seems a darned good idea.