Exclusive: Sweatshops and Imperialism by Gary Sudborough

by Gary Sudborough
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
Aug 22, 2009

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Charles Kernaghan, an anti-sweatshop activist noted for his confrontation with television hostess Kathie Lee Gifford, has vividly described conditions in Third World sweatshops.

He describes the factories as uniformly austere concrete buildings topped by razor wire and with armed guards who search the employees on entering and leaving. Employees are often teenage girls made to work as fast as possible by brutal foremen. These foremen verbally abuse or beat the girls to enforce compliance or sometimes use the threat of firing for sexual favors. The workers are allowed only two bathroom breaks a day. Hours are very long and forced overtime occurs with violations costing a day’s pay or termination. If a girl gets pregnant, she is fired. If workers attempt to form a union, they are fired and blacklisted, or even become the victims of death squads. There is presently a case in a US court brought by the United Steelworkers of America on behalf of workers in Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, who have had several of their union leaders assassinated by death squads. Toxic chemicals are used in these sweatshops with no precautions. and the air in garment factories is filled with dust and lint.

The multinational corporations make absolutely obscene profits from these operations. Charles Kernaghan uses the example of one Nike product that workers get paid six cents for producing and which sells for over seventy dollars in the United States.

The argument is used that these ridiculously low wages are actually good wages for the countries where these workers live. Mr. Kernaghan has analyzed this claim and found that workers get paid about one-third the cost of living. Whole families must work to survive and babies are even raised on coffee because milk is too expensive.

What is the difference between these conditions and outright slavery? Certainly millions more people live under these conditions than during the period of 18th and 19th century slavery. It is true that people can leave, but leave to what? They can’t go back to the land because rich landlords and big agribusiness companies have taken the land, either by force or by flooding the country with cheap imported food, which undercuts the local markets. So people can become beggars, come to the US or Europe as illegal immigrants or simply lay down and die of starvation and disease. That’s real freedom brought to these unfortunate people by the leaders of the “free world,” who constantly lecture them on the benefits of “free trade,” “free markets,” and “free enterprise.”

These countries are called “developing countries” in the US corporate media. Developing what?- misery, disease, death and millions of children who had their childhood stolen by brutal sweatshop labor. These people were better off centuries ago, when they were hunters, fishermen and farmers.

There is a relationship between sweatshops and huge US military and CIA budgets and foreign soldiers being taught torture techniques at the School of the Americas. There is a relationship between sweatshops and clean-cut American boys dropping bombs from high altitude on Third World people.

It is not about the Soviet Union. It never was. The Soviet Union was only an impediment and an excuse. It is about these private tyrannies called corporations dominating the Earth and extracting as much wealth from it as possible and at any cost!

from the archives:

Exclusive: Rob Us if You Must, But Socialism Scares Us by Gary Sudborough

A World of Paradox and Contradiction by Gary Sudborough

Exclusive: The World’s Largest Parasites by Gary Sudborough

The Corporation (must-see video)

13 thoughts on “Exclusive: Sweatshops and Imperialism by Gary Sudborough

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  8. Terrific and very poignant article.Thank-you!

    Those of us who fought long and hard against NAFTA knew it would only exacerbate this exploitation.

    Chinese prisoners making the stuff you buy in Wal-Mart …miles of empty factories here in the States, huge unemployment and creeping desperation among us growing daily, here in the land where the rich have never richer and the middle class evaporates.

    Remember it was like the Third World here too, once.

    My Uncle Joe used to like to show us kids the scars he still had where the thugs hired by the factory-owners in the 30’s beat him up for petitioning for an 8-hr work day.

    My Mom worked in a woolen mill for $12/wk when she was 15, where people would all show her where their fingertips had been cut by those unsafe machines…

    It’s all about organizing. They learned it. We need to re-learn it. And teach it internationally.

    These Third-World people will also have their Haymarket Square someday. Just as my relatives all carried Union cards proudly and were all officers in their Locals, these folks too will get there.

    And what about here in the States? Talk to the average call-center employee making 11 bucks an hour in a windowless cubicle where they cant even go to the bathroom unless scheduled, and the very word Union will get them fired! Look how the clock rolls back here, too.

    NAFTA is an abomination. And President Obama is not making it easier for us to organize. He golfs with the plutocrats who own those foreign sweatshops.

    It’s time for empowerment. It’s time to re-invent Organized Labor. It’s time for a third political-party here that marries the best of the Libertarians and the best of what we on the Left have to offer.

    And its time to make THAT our main export to the Third World!

    Remember the words of the writer Jerome Corsi:
    “The attitude of the multi-national corporation is: if I can find a slave somewhere in the world to do it cheaper than you, I’ll go get one.”

    You bet they will. Time for action. Thank you.

  9. I reiterated once again: the 1886 Supreme Court decision granting coporations the rights of individuals needs to be revisited. We have cprporate fascism, fascism of a wealthy elite which have used alleged “free enterprise” to turn the entire world into a sweatshop. A revolution in thinking and in fact is long overdue against the moneyed interests.

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