Warehouse G

World Out Of Balance

Slave System Enhanced By World Trade Deals

By James Donahue

There was a time during the early period of the industrial revolution when most operating factories were sweat shops where people of all ages, even children, slaved for 12-hour days for low wages in extreme heat and unhealthy environments.

It took a century or more of worker rebellion, sit-down strikes, violent clashes with police and other events before workers in the United States won the right to collectively bargain for improved working conditions, better wages, paid vacations, paid health insurance and in doing so, create what has become known as the American middle class.

The first major hurtle was crossed in June, 1938, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Fair Standards Act. The act affected plants with a combined employment of only about one-fifth of the nation’s labor force but it was a start. It banned oppressive child labor and set a minimum hourly wage at 25 cents. The maximum work week was set at 44 hours.

It seems incredible today to realize that blood was spilled by a lot of American workers to get a meager law like that on the books. It was fought by industry, by the judicial system and by members of congress who, even then, were obviously in the pockets of the nation’s industrialists. It was said that Roosevelt waited until Congress adjourned for a summer break before signing the act into law just to avoid the chance of pocket vetoes designed to weaken the bill.

World War II brought a lot of changes to the nation’s industrial system. While the men went off to war, the women took their places on the assembly lines. Instead of manufacturing automobiles, trucks and garments for fashion, they made tanks, jeeps, bombers, naval ships, bombs, bullets and military clothing. By the end of the war the United States emerged as the most powerful nation in the world and the nation’s labor unions were in power to force better and better contract agreements for workers. It was a brief time of prosperity for everyone in the country.

Those were the years when the things manufactured in the United States were shielded from competition by overseas companies by tariffs, or taxes that raised the cost of the product to keep American made products, produced in union shops, competitive with foreign non-union made products.

But talks were underway even then to work out international trade agreements so that goods could be moved between nations without tariffs. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was signed by several nations in 1946 and it remained the main force until 1995 when the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created.

When the United States signed a special free trade agreement with Israel in 1985, it received little media attention. But when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico followed in 1994, there was public alarm. The labor leaders claimed it would break the back of American industry. Supporters of NAFTA argued that the agreement opened the door for even more and better business opportunities for everybody.

Since NAFTA the United States has been busy signing free trade agreements with Jordan, Australia, Chile, Singapore, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman, Peru, the Central American nations, Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Even more are in the works.

The effect has been a disastrous strike against established labor agreements in the United States. American factories were quick to move plants to Mexico, Indonesia, India, China and anyplace where there existed a vast supply of workers glad to have the opportunity to work in the American sweat shops for meager wages and without the protection of labor contracts.

While the political issue in the United States has been the loss of jobs, and the vast unemployment rolls that are now drawing heavily on federal assistance programs, established after the Great Depression, Americans are benefiting from a supply of inexpensive imported products being sold in chain stores everywhere.

It is the old war between the corporations and workers over money, but now expanded to a global scale.

There is irony in all of this. The workers in China, Indonesia, India and Mexico began using the money they earned to buy the products they were making, which included the new I-pads, desktop computers and other communication devices. They quickly joined the world conversation via the World Wide Web, and discovered that servitude is not something they must accept without question.

Unlike the surfs who broke their backs laboring for the monarchs and rulers of kingdoms of old, these workers are beginning to rebel. We are hearing stories of mass suicides by Chinese workers at the Foxconn factories that manufacture Apple computer products, workers walking off their jobs at Pizza Hut and KFC restaurants in Kathmandu, labor unrest in an automobile plant in India and strikes by workers at a clothing manufacturing plant in Bangladesh.

The power figures are beginning to resist the growing resistance. In Johannesburg, South Africa, police recently shot into a mob of striking platinum mine workers, leaving more than 30 miners dead. And workers at a General Motors plant in Colombia have sewn their mouths shut in a hunger strike to protest backbreaking labor conditions.

It looks like a repeat of history, only instead of taking a few centuries this new labor movement is operating at high speed. The belief by some anthropologists that the human race has evolved to a higher mental and spiritual level appears to be proving itself out. The poor may be willing to grasp at straws at first to climb out of poverty, but once they have a chance, they are totally unwilling to be slaves to the masters.

It is only going to be a matter of a short time before a balance is achieved throughout the world. The end result must be a new one-world system of cooperation and a sharing of the remaining world wealth. The alternative is the annihilation of the human race. No matter how hard they try to convince us otherwise, the power figures of today must fall. It is time for unity and equality for all.

This was the dream Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he penned the Declaration of American Independence. What a shame that so many greedy bastards got in the way of reaching that great goal for all these years.