January 12, 2007



Responding to labor
by Jim Hightower

At last, the national government is responding to the widening income gap and the severe economic side effects of greed-fueled globalization by extending real power to labor unions and cracking down on sweatshop goods.

Unfortunately...this national government is not our own. It's China's. Yes, the Chinese rulers, who have a brutal record of repressing labor, have suddenly embraced a new doctrine of protecting worker rights. This is not altruism at work, but self-preservation — the ruling elites are in a sweat over massive social unrest there. So, they've proposed a new law to empower formerly toothless labor unions to negotiate on wages, safety protections and workplace rules.

Now, guess who is howling in protest? Dell, Ford, GE, Microsoft, Nike and other brand-name corporate giants that have been abandoning U.S. workers and communities for Chinese sweatshops. They have profited for years on the backs of China's impoverished workers, hiding behind the doctrinaire hokum that globalized sweatshops will somehow, sometime, raise the living standards of those workers. As the surge of Chinese social unrest indicates, however, workers are no longer swallowing the hokum, and the time for pushback is now.

Expatriate U.S. corporations are lobbying ferociously to get China's government to drop its labor reforms, wailing that the new law amounts to socialism. Socialism in a communist country? Imagine! Well, say the Dells and Nikes, these rules would make it more difficult for them to fire workers. Well, duh... yes! The corporations might ask their former American workers if that seems unfair.

What must the Chinese people think? Just as they might get a small break, here comes the U.S. of A. — represented by these greedheaded corporations — stomping on their dreams. Who elected Dell, Nike and the rest to do this in our name?

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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