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Friday, October 13, 2006

Bull**** in the China shop

In a quick glance at the NY Times web site this morning, I saw this headline: China Drafts Law to Empower Unions and End Labor Abuse. That's a headline which could only be more shocking and unexpected if the first word were "Congress" instead of "China." Of course, there is opposition to the proposed law, and I'll give you one guess who it is:
China is planning to adopt a new law that seeks to crack down on sweatshops and protect workers' rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time since it introduced market forces in the 1980's.

The move, which underscores the government's growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here.
Yep, the cheap-labor conservatives never stop. Two hundred years from now, they'll be relocating from Mars to Pluto to cut labor costs. I could write volumes on this, but I see that Chris Floyd has beaten me to it:
The corporate elite are threatening to lash out because China is considering a few very belated and, as the story makes clear, most likely ineffective steps to provide a modicum of protection for its working people, many of whom labor in conditions of near-slavery in order to stuff the bellies and the wallets of foreign fat-cats. The elite are saying--openly, brazenly-- that they might choke off economic growth in China if they can't keep paying peon wages to defenseless people in hell-hole conditions.

Otherwise, the clear implication is that they will look elsewhere for drones to exploit. Hey, maybe Burma is ready for an "economic miracle?" Or North Korea? We could trade their nuke program for Wal-Mart sweatshops and Goodyear plantations, give a nice slice to Kim and let the good times roll.

This is the true face of "globalization"--predatory elites moving relentlessly, remorselessly around the world, swooping in wherever they're allowed to put profits over people, to treat human beings like so much meat to be chewed up and discarded, then moving on when there's the slightest hint of measure that might impact their already unfathomable riches by some infinitesimal degree. This is the true and ugly face of greed that lies behind the grinning masks of the great and good as they slap backs at Davos or grin for the cameras at G8 summits.
China has been their darling, despite its massive political repression--no, because of its massive political repression, which keeps workers docile. But any move by Beijing (and the new measure is still in draft form) to upset the golden applecart of slave-like labor will be punished by the corporate elite, just as they have punished, smeared, destroyed or marginalized anyone standing up for working people in the United States.
Floyd also points out that the (US) National Labor Relations Board just took away the rights of 8 million Americans to join unions. (Check out the Colbert video there.)

Yes, Thomas Friedman, the world is flat. And the cheap-labor conservatives, with the full support of the Republican and Democratic parties, are the ones who have flattened it.

"Free trade" is neither: it is theft, pure and simple.