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Slavery is just prevalent in US today as it was in 1700

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Only free people have the time and resources to debate about whether they are slaves or not. The very fact that we have the electronics and free time to chat so much means we aren't slaves, else our master would be cracking the whip and forcing us to do his bidding every moment of our lives. This thread is too funny. Money is what gives us the freedom to trade in the first place. If we were all bartering we would be experiencing mass starvation from the inefficiency of the system. 

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Take it from me 90% of the workers in the West (except in Switzerland) are paid slave wages and are slaves.

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Only free people have the time and resources to debate about whether they are slaves or not. The very fact that we have the electronics and free time to chat so much means we aren't slaves, else our master would be cracking the whip and forcing us to do his bidding every moment of our lives. This thread is too funny. Money is what gives us the freedom to trade in the first place. If we were all bartering we would be experiencing mass starvation from the inefficiency of the system. 

 

No, I don't agree with that conclusion. Barter trade is not exactly efficient but it doesn't mean that we will be starving. The main reason is that we will be doing something in exchange for what we want. So when we want food, we will just have to work for it, instead of waiting for handouts. In a barter system, there is not much room for handouts.

 

Hmmm, maybe you are right after all. A lot of people will be starving under a barter system. You know, the ones who are used to living on handouts.

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Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work.[1] Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation

 

 

 

 

 

Again, it is a choice. And harvesting cabbages, okay,but how is that any different than harvesting tobacco, corn, wheat and many of the other back breaking jobs out in the hot fields that many of us have done to make money. And guess what, it is all our choice to do it, nobody forces you to. If you are so unhappy with how it is where you are call someone and report it, there are laws here for just that. It would be more beneficial than you ranting and spewing your own opinions on a forum. 

You have to be joking. Laws do not protect people from exploitation

Slavery Is Alive and Well in the U.S.
The new book <i>Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Global Economy,</i> goes after the U.S. companies that support slave labor.
October 7, 2007  |  
 
 
 
 
 

What do you call it when those who cross the Mexican-U.S. border get charged thousands of dollars for a ride to a job where their employer makes them pay rent for unspeakably bad living conditions and board for the food they can only buy at the company store and where that employer patrols with dogs, trucks and thugs so the workers can't leave?

John Bowe calls it slavery. And it's happening in the United States right now, he says. Bowe's newest book, Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Global Economy, makes the case using three specific cases and geographical areas to show just how much workers in the U.S. get undermined and hurt by these practices.

He's written about work before; he co-edited the book Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs. Besides co-writing the screenplay for the movie Basquiat, Bowe has won many journalism awards. But from a tip he got while writing Gig, he began to pursue this topic, and he's been working on it for over six years now.

"We never see what we do to other people," he says. In Nobodies, he pulls back that veil of secrecy and shows us just what we do in our quest for lower-priced goods. In the process, he and the book have gotten a flurry of interviews, reviews and even a moment with Jon Stewart. We interviewed him over the phone and email in a break on his book tour.

Suzi Steffen: Your book is getting a lot of attention. What was it like being on the Daily Show?

John Bowe: It's weird doing these things -- weird, powerful, exciting, frustrating. You don't say half the things you wanted to say. I felt like, "Oh damn it, I forgot to offer any solutions," I forgot to talk about why nonslavery people should care about this, for example.

But all anybody else cares about is your shirt and if you smiled. It says a lot about our political climate that it takes a comedian to address the issue of labor slavery. It was hard to have a serious discussion and talk, say, about the roots and implications of the problem, much less more solution-oriented stuff. But at the same time, I have enormous admiration for Jon Stewart for having me on the show. Slavery's not usually a great source of humor.

SS: You did have a nice shirt on. In the first part of the book, about the agricultural workers in Florida, you talk about the collision of your journalist New Yorker's irony with the earnest belief and idealism of activists. Did you change over the course of writing the book? Do you find yourself less ironic now?

JB: There really is a fundamental choice; you can't both believe and be ironic. It did make me get more earnest. Even if you don't care about politics, politics certainly cares about you. If you don't take part of your time to address the socioeconomic/political realities unfolding around you, it will come, and it will screw you over. There's no free pass. I have no patience for anybody who's whining about [politics] and not doing something about it. The more you read about history, the more you realize that's a luxury most people haven't been able to afford.

I've become much more clued in to the way irony is used by politically inclined people to salve their frustrations about political realities. Although I love humor like The Daily Show and The Onion , it's kind of sad that these have become the main conduits for so many people's political awareness. Unfortunately, sitting there, laughing (alone, by the millions) at people or things you know are bullshit or wrong isn't a replacement for voting, protesting, raising awareness, throwing rocks, defacing property or doing whatever real-life actions you find effective in achieving actual change in this world.

SS: What should average people do to find out more about the conditions under which their food was grown and to change those conditions?

JB: Read my book. (laughs) The Coalition of Immokalee Workers' website is certainly one place to go. And there's a tremendous book called The Fatal Harvest Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, by Andrew Kimbrell.

But also, ask questions. Always. All of this stuff I'm talking about sounds so serious and intractable, and it's easy to say, "Aggh, corporations rule the world and everything sucks. I might as well go home and do some bong hits." But it begins with you asking questions: Where did this apple come from? Who picked it? Where's the field? Do you mind if I go drive by the field some day?

SS: Many groups have tried to raise national awareness of worker or immigrant struggles, but the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has definitely succeeded. How do you think they did that?

JB: One, they work nights and weekends. Two, they're not afraid to be unironic. Although they are capable of being very funny, they're also not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, to insist upon being heard, to be unliked and unwanted, to get into people's faces. It's a special ability to be an activist; you are not in business to be liked. You're in business to bug people until it's easier to change than to resist. I think they're heroes. They changed my idea of democracy. I realized through them, through watching them work, that democracy is an incredibly tedious, frustrating job sometimes, and it's tedious and frustrating in a very specific way: It involves listening to people whose concerns you don't understand or share. It's often boring, and it's maddening.

And what I learned over time by watching them and also thinking about globalization is that if you're not bored and made mad sometimes by people you don't understand, you're probably not dealing with enough people who are different from you; you're probably just living in a bubble, hearing your own view of the world reinforced again and again. To bring it on home to the point of my book, if you're watching some guy on TV talking about globalization and how great it is for the world and for the millions of Chinese who now make our stuff, you should ask yourself why we never see these people on TV, telling us in their own words what their world looks like. It's probably less cozy than Thomas Friedman's view of things. We used to buy stuff from relatively free Americans. They could vote, speak up, organize, etc. Now we buy everything from Chinese who who can't vote freely, listen to/read a free media or speak up in public. And we're calling it "free" trade. How do you feel about that?

SS: When I talked about the relationship of companies like Tropicana to the slavery of workers in Florida, one woman in my office immediately said, "Well, I'll never eat an orange again." That doesn't seem like quite the right approach. Everyone needs food and clothing. What are your thoughts on this conundrum?

JB: Well, there are different strategies, and you need to employ or deploy as many as you can. I've been getting my clothes through thrift stores for 25 years. It's nice to say shop at organic and family-owned enterprises, but that's very elitist because only a few people can afford to do that. It's one option, of course. And it's sort of hard to imagine taking on the entire economy at once. The Coalition of Immokalee Worker's Campaign for Fair Food, which they have mounted with a lot of student and church groups, is huge. They've gotten Taco Bell and McDonald's to agree to pass on an extra penny per pound for the tomato pickers in south Florida. It doesn't sound like much, but it nearly doubles the workers' wages, and it basically doesn't cost the company or the consumer anything, nothing noticeable anyway. The next target is Burger King.

And every email, every body at the protest, every bit of news coverage is hugely powerful: Corporations who have spent bazillions of dollars on branding don't want to be associated with slavery. Although we love to imagine they're all-powerful, they're actually very vulnerable on this front. So join the campaign, and if you happen to feel superuppity some day and have the time, call a company that makes some food you like, and ask, "Hey, can you guarantee me that there's no slavery involved in getting this thing into my mouth?" If the answer's not yes -- uh-oh!

SS: The same woman told me that some people simply like farmwork because they like being outside and working outside.

JB: She should talk to the people I talk to. In Florida, it's a hothouse. It's not farms; it's a factory, and the leaves are full of chemicals, the soil is a chemical swamp, the fruit is full of chemicals. There's so little that has anything to do with nature. It's hotter than hell. Does she know the average farmworker in the U.S. dies at 47 years old, quite often from pesticide poisoning, and earns about $7,500 a year?

SS: You said in an interview on TreeHugger.com, "I don't think it's right to blame corporations. I do think that it's right to commit absolute war on them ... to reign them in." Can you elaborate on how that should be done?

JB: Public awareness, raising public awareness of their worst business practices, harrassment of management, certainly technological warfare. Do everything possible to disrupt their business. And violence and the threat of violence. Obviously, the art is in wielding the threat of violence. I mean, I'm sorry to put it so crudely, but does your dog listen to impassioned, complicated explanations about why it should or shouldn't poop here or there?

No. and a corporation is at heart less intelligent than a decent black lab. It's a machine that exists to make money. It has people in it, and the people might be smart, but the core mission is not smart: It's just steady. And the only thing it responds to is the threat of being unsuccessful. So that could mean loss of sales ... or some other kind of loss.

It's very complicated, and for now, my weapon is my laptop, so don't get me wrong; changing campaign finance law so that corporations can't overpower citizens' say in government is critical and would help a lot to change our world. But I don't know if it's possible to stuff that genie back into the bottle.

SS: Let's talk about Wal-Mart's place in this world of economic exploitation and slavery.

JB: If we -- as citizens and as consumers -- were all as obsessed with living wages and decent treatment of workers worldwide as we are with low prices, it'd be a different world. Wal-Mart is just reflecting our desires and lack of imagination. I said in an interview the other day: "If you think you're getting something for nothing, you probably are." What I meant to say was, "If you think you're getting something for nothing, you probably are exploiting some worker in some foreign country. And in doing so, you're setting a new low standard of labor. And now your kids are gonna be competing with those workers. So congrats!" Anyway, again, I'm not big on blaming corporations. You have to take your fight to them, not wait for them to become "good people."

SS: Do you see American unions helping in this fight for ending slavery? What could they do, and why should they do it?

JB: Well, the unions have caught up and gotten much smarter in the last 10 years. At first they'd be thinking anti-immigrant, and now, it's better for them to focus on, "If you're in this country, and you're working, this is how much you're supposed to be paid," and enforce the labor laws.

But unions have gotten a bad name, and money and corporations have done a lot to give them a bad name. Perhaps it will be tough going for unions until the economic inequality in the U.S. and around the globe gets worse, but eventually it will get bad enough so unions will look like a good idea again. The reason I wrote my book was to help people choose between the imperfections and current uncoolness of unions -- and the endpoint of the current trend towards inequality. Would you rather be in a union? Or would you rather be unpaid entirely and treated far worse?

SS: The middle section of your book concerns the bizarre abuse of "training" programs, in this case for a group of welders from India. What other abuses have you heard about of this program, and how can the government or ordinary citizens help stop this abuse?

JB: Guest worker problems are bad, period. Go all the way back to the colonies and indentured servants from Germany, in which there was tons of abuse, up to the Bracero Program and the people brought to cut sugar cane. There's just always abuse. Guest worker programs don't work. I'm much more liberal than many people on the issue of admitting foreigners to become legal citizens of the U.S., but I'm probably much more conservative than most people I know about illegal immigration. Enforcement against employers who hire illegal citizens should be funded to the fullest possible levels. You can't have a fair or democratic society without the rule of law, and in my opinion, laws formed around the idea that we're all equal are wonderful. Don't have these halfway citizens. Having people around who have half rights leads to abuse.

SS: You mention that people have a hard time calling coerced work "slavery." Why is that?

JB: Because it hasn't happened to them. I had a hard time at first, I just didn't get what was the essence of slavery. It is a very complicated subject; thousands of people are earning their living writing about it. But really, it's as creative as any form of art. There are so many different tortures, punishments, rules; so many ways of convincing the slave this is the correct order of things. Someone else has control over you.

Some people said to me, "We're all slaves to consumer ideology," but you can't go throwing terms around. "Slavery" doesn't mean "suffering," or working at a job that's a bummer, or depressing or whatever. It means someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you or your family, and they are forcing you to work, and you can't leave.

SS: What do you think about the role of religious people in helping end slavery and corporate abuse, as in the middle portion of your book?

JB: I think religion gets reported on very badly in this country, because most people who tend to be reporters tend to be part of urban elites and tend to be "liberals" who don't report on religion because religious people seem to be uncool or "other."

Also, it is a mistake to think of them as only being conservative. If some leaders among them stood up and said, "There's a lot more in the Bible about helping poor people than about bashing gay people," they would be a huge resource. I think there are a lot of religious people out there looking for leadership on this issue, very energetic people with a lot of enthusiasm. Ditto with environmental issues. I think that no American, no modern person anywhere, wants to return to a world with slavery. Religion is a good guide to help people realize they have the strength to fight against the trend, the societal pressure and ideology in the U.S. right now that work and achievement and material success are the primary purposes of life.

SS: Talk about the wounds this kind of perpetuation of slavery inflicts on our ideals of freedom and, potentially, our real freedom, not to mention our national psyche.

Well, I think it's just that no one can ever compete. It's as radical as anything gets. You could say it's a few hundred or a few thousand cases in a country of 300 million. It doesn't matter; you're still toast, just like it doesn't matter if you have only a few HIV-infected cells out of the millions in your body. There shouldn't be any confusion about it: Slavery is an element that once you introduce into a polity, it's instantaneously infectious.

If we keep allowing the trends that are creating a Hispanic underclass in the U.S., or a highly ossified rich vs. poor divide, we're going to have to look at a lot of people suffering for our freedom. And I don't know what we do about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and all that marvelous rhetoric about "freedom." Do we rewrite it? I think the average person would be happier if the average person were treated more fairly.

SS: In your conclusion, you write that the first legal approach to make the world a fairer place "would be the establishment of global labor and environmental standards." How do you see this coming about?

JB: Can I be blunt? Probably through a lot of very boring discussions and some bloodshed.

Everybody acts like [establishing standards] is so difficult and so impossible. But I don't see another way. Everybody talks about the race to the bottom. What I found in my book is that the bottom is slavery, and most people don't want to live in a world of slavery. So if those assumptions are true, I don't see another solution than to create the standards. Peg the standards to the standard of living in each country. If people cared enough, it would be doable.

SS: How should media folks be responding to your work and to the conditions of inequality we see all around us?

JB: There's a fable where the king hired people to go out and circulate among the people and find out what was going on -- that's how journalism in a free country should work. But instead we're blinded by Britney getting fat, and we don't hear anything about regular life -- and no one really cares about it. Journalism about the poor is always done in this boo-hoo way. You have to go out and write about poor people, yes, but you have to be really good at it to make people find it interesting. No one wants to be sorry for people.

So get off your ass and get off your desk and get out there. Forget about the internet. Forget about other media. Go out into the real world. Go to places you don't know, talk to people you don't understand, whom you fear. Ask them what the world looks like through their eyes. Start from there. Surprise yourself.

SS: Do you have any hope that Democrats can help put an end to some of the labor violations and outright slavery? Or do you think the change will come from the workers?

JB: If there's anything I want to stress, it's why people should fear this for themselves other than just "I feel sorry for the little people." Unfortunately, that doesn't really seem to motivate people. The good news is it doesn't take such a material or financial change, but it does take changing people's attitudes. For garment production, it would cost 6 percent more at the cash register for people to have garments made by people getting a living wage.

And the change will come from whoever feels like helping. Ultimately, slavery is very, very bad for business. People who aren't paid can't buy stuff. If the global total of wages being paid out each week shrinks and shrinks, then so does people's ability to consume stuff that makes the whole world economy tick. Businesspeople are just as likely as corporate-fueled Democrats, I would think, to make change. And hyperorganized religious people on the right could be just as effective as handwringing Democrats who can't even end a war most Americans oppose.

SS: I realize that this subject matter can get rather depressing, and that people reading this interview (or your book) might start to feel overwhelmed. What suggestions do you have for action on the part of those who can, and want to, read this interview?

JB: Take a deep breath and celebrate the fact that (a) the world hasn't ended, (B) you are alive, © the world might be dead one day, (d) you will be dead one day. You have nothing but possibility. And everything is just fine. So shut the fuck up and get busy. There is no reason to be alive except to do what you want. Sitting around feeling bad is a waste of time. There is a real thrill and a real power for standing up for what you believe in. Be cool. Be fashionable. Be ahead of the pack. Get busy. Globalization has already happened. Now it just needs to be made fair. If you're alive right now and you care about any of this stuff, then great: This is your job!

Suzi Steffen is a freelance writer in Eugene, Ore., and an arts editor at the Eugene Weekly .

I had a personal experience meeting modern day  slaves. While waiting at  Seattle airport, I met about a hundred young Turkish men and young Russians, who  came to US on a special visa to work in the canneries in Alaska, under unbelievable conditions, which I do not want to describe here. In addition to that they were not paid the promised wages, and were simply sent home after months of labouring in the canneries. If that is not slavery, I do not know what slavery is. All they had to eat  is peanut butter and stale bread.

Slavery Is Alive and Well in the U.S.
The new book <i>Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Global Economy,</i> goes after the U.S. companies that support slave labor.
October 7, 2007  |  
 
 
 
 
 

What do you call it when those who cross the Mexican-U.S. border get charged thousands of dollars for a ride to a job where their employer makes them pay rent for unspeakably bad living conditions and board for the food they can only buy at the company store and where that employer patrols with dogs, trucks and thugs so the workers can't leave?

John Bowe calls it slavery. And it's happening in the United States right now, he says. Bowe's newest book, Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Global Economy, makes the case using three specific cases and geographical areas to show just how much workers in the U.S. get undermined and hurt by these practices.

He's written about work before; he co-edited the book Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs. Besides co-writing the screenplay for the movie Basquiat, Bowe has won many journalism awards. But from a tip he got while writing Gig, he began to pursue this topic, and he's been working on it for over six years now.

"We never see what we do to other people," he says. In Nobodies, he pulls back that veil of secrecy and shows us just what we do in our quest for lower-priced goods. In the process, he and the book have gotten a flurry of interviews, reviews and even a moment with Jon Stewart. We interviewed him over the phone and email in a break on his book tour.

Suzi Steffen: Your book is getting a lot of attention. What was it like being on the Daily Show?

John Bowe: It's weird doing these things -- weird, powerful, exciting, frustrating. You don't say half the things you wanted to say. I felt like, "Oh damn it, I forgot to offer any solutions," I forgot to talk about why nonslavery people should care about this, for example.

But all anybody else cares about is your shirt and if you smiled. It says a lot about our political climate that it takes a comedian to address the issue of labor slavery. It was hard to have a serious discussion and talk, say, about the roots and implications of the problem, much less more solution-oriented stuff. But at the same time, I have enormous admiration for Jon Stewart for having me on the show. Slavery's not usually a great source of humor.

SS: You did have a nice shirt on. In the first part of the book, about the agricultural workers in Florida, you talk about the collision of your journalist New Yorker's irony with the earnest belief and idealism of activists. Did you change over the course of writing the book? Do you find yourself less ironic now?

JB: There really is a fundamental choice; you can't both believe and be ironic. It did make me get more earnest. Even if you don't care about politics, politics certainly cares about you. If you don't take part of your time to address the socioeconomic/political realities unfolding around you, it will come, and it will screw you over. There's no free pass. I have no patience for anybody who's whining about [politics] and not doing something about it. The more you read about history, the more you realize that's a luxury most people haven't been able to afford.

I've become much more clued in to the way irony is used by politically inclined people to salve their frustrations about political realities. Although I love humor like The Daily Show and The Onion , it's kind of sad that these have become the main conduits for so many people's political awareness. Unfortunately, sitting there, laughing (alone, by the millions) at people or things you know are bullshit or wrong isn't a replacement for voting, protesting, raising awareness, throwing rocks, defacing property or doing whatever real-life actions you find effective in achieving actual change in this world.

SS: What should average people do to find out more about the conditions under which their food was grown and to change those conditions?

JB: Read my book. (laughs) The Coalition of Immokalee Workers' website is certainly one place to go. And there's a tremendous book called The Fatal Harvest Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, by Andrew Kimbrell.

But also, ask questions. Always. All of this stuff I'm talking about sounds so serious and intractable, and it's easy to say, "Aggh, corporations rule the world and everything sucks. I might as well go home and do some bong hits." But it begins with you asking questions: Where did this apple come from? Who picked it? Where's the field? Do you mind if I go drive by the field some day?

SS: Many groups have tried to raise national awareness of worker or immigrant struggles, but the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has definitely succeeded. How do you think they did that?

JB: One, they work nights and weekends. Two, they're not afraid to be unironic. Although they are capable of being very funny, they're also not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, to insist upon being heard, to be unliked and unwanted, to get into people's faces. It's a special ability to be an activist; you are not in business to be liked. You're in business to bug people until it's easier to change than to resist. I think they're heroes. They changed my idea of democracy. I realized through them, through watching them work, that democracy is an incredibly tedious, frustrating job sometimes, and it's tedious and frustrating in a very specific way: It involves listening to people whose concerns you don't understand or share. It's often boring, and it's maddening.

And what I learned over time by watching them and also thinking about globalization is that if you're not bored and made mad sometimes by people you don't understand, you're probably not dealing with enough people who are different from you; you're probably just living in a bubble, hearing your own view of the world reinforced again and again. To bring it on home to the point of my book, if you're watching some guy on TV talking about globalization and how great it is for the world and for the millions of Chinese who now make our stuff, you should ask yourself why we never see these people on TV, telling us in their own words what their world looks like. It's probably less cozy than Thomas Friedman's view of things. We used to buy stuff from relatively free Americans. They could vote, speak up, organize, etc. Now we buy everything from Chinese who who can't vote freely, listen to/read a free media or speak up in public. And we're calling it "free" trade. How do you feel about that?

SS: When I talked about the relationship of companies like Tropicana to the slavery of workers in Florida, one woman in my office immediately said, "Well, I'll never eat an orange again." That doesn't seem like quite the right approach. Everyone needs food and clothing. What are your thoughts on this conundrum?

JB: Well, there are different strategies, and you need to employ or deploy as many as you can. I've been getting my clothes through thrift stores for 25 years. It's nice to say shop at organic and family-owned enterprises, but that's very elitist because only a few people can afford to do that. It's one option, of course. And it's sort of hard to imagine taking on the entire economy at once. The Coalition of Immokalee Worker's Campaign for Fair Food, which they have mounted with a lot of student and church groups, is huge. They've gotten Taco Bell and McDonald's to agree to pass on an extra penny per pound for the tomato pickers in south Florida. It doesn't sound like much, but it nearly doubles the workers' wages, and it basically doesn't cost the company or the consumer anything, nothing noticeable anyway. The next target is Burger King.

And every email, every body at the protest, every bit of news coverage is hugely powerful: Corporations who have spent bazillions of dollars on branding don't want to be associated with slavery. Although we love to imagine they're all-powerful, they're actually very vulnerable on this front. So join the campaign, and if you happen to feel superuppity some day and have the time, call a company that makes some food you like, and ask, "Hey, can you guarantee me that there's no slavery involved in getting this thing into my mouth?" If the answer's not yes -- uh-oh!

SS: The same woman told me that some people simply like farmwork because they like being outside and working outside.

JB: She should talk to the people I talk to. In Florida, it's a hothouse. It's not farms; it's a factory, and the leaves are full of chemicals, the soil is a chemical swamp, the fruit is full of chemicals. There's so little that has anything to do with nature. It's hotter than hell. Does she know the average farmworker in the U.S. dies at 47 years old, quite often from pesticide poisoning, and earns about $7,500 a year?

SS: You said in an interview on TreeHugger.com, "I don't think it's right to blame corporations. I do think that it's right to commit absolute war on them ... to reign them in." Can you elaborate on how that should be done?

JB: Public awareness, raising public awareness of their worst business practices, harrassment of management, certainly technological warfare. Do everything possible to disrupt their business. And violence and the threat of violence. Obviously, the art is in wielding the threat of violence. I mean, I'm sorry to put it so crudely, but does your dog listen to impassioned, complicated explanations about why it should or shouldn't poop here or there?

No. and a corporation is at heart less intelligent than a decent black lab. It's a machine that exists to make money. It has people in it, and the people might be smart, but the core mission is not smart: It's just steady. And the only thing it responds to is the threat of being unsuccessful. So that could mean loss of sales ... or some other kind of loss.

It's very complicated, and for now, my weapon is my laptop, so don't get me wrong; changing campaign finance law so that corporations can't overpower citizens' say in government is critical and would help a lot to change our world. But I don't know if it's possible to stuff that genie back into the bottle.

SS: Let's talk about Wal-Mart's place in this world of economic exploitation and slavery.

JB: If we -- as citizens and as consumers -- were all as obsessed with living wages and decent treatment of workers worldwide as we are with low prices, it'd be a different world. Wal-Mart is just reflecting our desires and lack of imagination. I said in an interview the other day: "If you think you're getting something for nothing, you probably are." What I meant to say was, "If you think you're getting something for nothing, you probably are exploiting some worker in some foreign country. And in doing so, you're setting a new low standard of labor. And now your kids are gonna be competing with those workers. So congrats!" Anyway, again, I'm not big on blaming corporations. You have to take your fight to them, not wait for them to become "good people."

SS: Do you see American unions helping in this fight for ending slavery? What could they do, and why should they do it?

JB: Well, the unions have caught up and gotten much smarter in the last 10 years. At first they'd be thinking anti-immigrant, and now, it's better for them to focus on, "If you're in this country, and you're working, this is how much you're supposed to be paid," and enforce the labor laws.

But unions have gotten a bad name, and money and corporations have done a lot to give them a bad name. Perhaps it will be tough going for unions until the economic inequality in the U.S. and around the globe gets worse, but eventually it will get bad enough so unions will look like a good idea again. The reason I wrote my book was to help people choose between the imperfections and current uncoolness of unions -- and the endpoint of the current trend towards inequality. Would you rather be in a union? Or would you rather be unpaid entirely and treated far worse?

SS: The middle section of your book concerns the bizarre abuse of "training" programs, in this case for a group of welders from India. What other abuses have you heard about of this program, and how can the government or ordinary citizens help stop this abuse?

JB: Guest worker problems are bad, period. Go all the way back to the colonies and indentured servants from Germany, in which there was tons of abuse, up to the Bracero Program and the people brought to cut sugar cane. There's just always abuse. Guest worker programs don't work. I'm much more liberal than many people on the issue of admitting foreigners to become legal citizens of the U.S., but I'm probably much more conservative than most people I know about illegal immigration. Enforcement against employers who hire illegal citizens should be funded to the fullest possible levels. You can't have a fair or democratic society without the rule of law, and in my opinion, laws formed around the idea that we're all equal are wonderful. Don't have these halfway citizens. Having people around who have half rights leads to abuse.

SS: You mention that people have a hard time calling coerced work "slavery." Why is that?

JB: Because it hasn't happened to them. I had a hard time at first, I just didn't get what was the essence of slavery. It is a very complicated subject; thousands of people are earning their living writing about it. But really, it's as creative as any form of art. There are so many different tortures, punishments, rules; so many ways of convincing the slave this is the correct order of things. Someone else has control over you.

Some people said to me, "We're all slaves to consumer ideology," but you can't go throwing terms around. "Slavery" doesn't mean "suffering," or working at a job that's a bummer, or depressing or whatever. It means someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you or your family, and they are forcing you to work, and you can't leave.

SS: What do you think about the role of religious people in helping end slavery and corporate abuse, as in the middle portion of your book?

JB: I think religion gets reported on very badly in this country, because most people who tend to be reporters tend to be part of urban elites and tend to be "liberals" who don't report on religion because religious people seem to be uncool or "other."

Also, it is a mistake to think of them as only being conservative. If some leaders among them stood up and said, "There's a lot more in the Bible about helping poor people than about bashing gay people," they would be a huge resource. I think there are a lot of religious people out there looking for leadership on this issue, very energetic people with a lot of enthusiasm. Ditto with environmental issues. I think that no American, no modern person anywhere, wants to return to a world with slavery. Religion is a good guide to help people realize they have the strength to fight against the trend, the societal pressure and ideology in the U.S. right now that work and achievement and material success are the primary purposes of life.

SS: Talk about the wounds this kind of perpetuation of slavery inflicts on our ideals of freedom and, potentially, our real freedom, not to mention our national psyche.

Well, I think it's just that no one can ever compete. It's as radical as anything gets. You could say it's a few hundred or a few thousand cases in a country of 300 million. It doesn't matter; you're still toast, just like it doesn't matter if you have only a few HIV-infected cells out of the millions in your body. There shouldn't be any confusion about it: Slavery is an element that once you introduce into a polity, it's instantaneously infectious.

If we keep allowing the trends that are creating a Hispanic underclass in the U.S., or a highly ossified rich vs. poor divide, we're going to have to look at a lot of people suffering for our freedom. And I don't know what we do about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and all that marvelous rhetoric about "freedom." Do we rewrite it? I think the average person would be happier if the average person were treated more fairly.

SS: In your conclusion, you write that the first legal approach to make the world a fairer place "would be the establishment of global labor and environmental standards." How do you see this coming about?

JB: Can I be blunt? Probably through a lot of very boring discussions and some bloodshed.

Everybody acts like [establishing standards] is so difficult and so impossible. But I don't see another way. Everybody talks about the race to the bottom. What I found in my book is that the bottom is slavery, and most people don't want to live in a world of slavery. So if those assumptions are true, I don't see another solution than to create the standards. Peg the standards to the standard of living in each country. If people cared enough, it would be doable.

SS: How should media folks be responding to your work and to the conditions of inequality we see all around us?

JB: There's a fable where the king hired people to go out and circulate among the people and find out what was going on -- that's how journalism in a free country should work. But instead we're blinded by Britney getting fat, and we don't hear anything about regular life -- and no one really cares about it. Journalism about the poor is always done in this boo-hoo way. You have to go out and write about poor people, yes, but you have to be really good at it to make people find it interesting. No one wants to be sorry for people.

So get off your ass and get off your desk and get out there. Forget about the internet. Forget about other media. Go out into the real world. Go to places you don't know, talk to people you don't understand, whom you fear. Ask them what the world looks like through their eyes. Start from there. Surprise yourself.

SS: Do you have any hope that Democrats can help put an end to some of the labor violations and outright slavery? Or do you think the change will come from the workers?

JB: If there's anything I want to stress, it's why people should fear this for themselves other than just "I feel sorry for the little people." Unfortunately, that doesn't really seem to motivate people. The good news is it doesn't take such a material or financial change, but it does take changing people's attitudes. For garment production, it would cost 6 percent more at the cash register for people to have garments made by people getting a living wage.

And the change will come from whoever feels like helping. Ultimately, slavery is very, very bad for business. People who aren't paid can't buy stuff. If the global total of wages being paid out each week shrinks and shrinks, then so does people's ability to consume stuff that makes the whole world economy tick. Businesspeople are just as likely as corporate-fueled Democrats, I would think, to make change. And hyperorganized religious people on the right could be just as effective as handwringing Democrats who can't even end a war most Americans oppose.

SS: I realize that this subject matter can get rather depressing, and that people reading this interview (or your book) might start to feel overwhelmed. What suggestions do you have for action on the part of those who can, and want to, read this interview?

JB: Take a deep breath and celebrate the fact that (a) the world hasn't ended, (B) you are alive, © the world might be dead one day, (d) you will be dead one day. You have nothing but possibility. And everything is just fine. So shut the fuck up and get busy. There is no reason to be alive except to do what you want. Sitting around feeling bad is a waste of time. There is a real thrill and a real power for standing up for what you believe in. Be cool. Be fashionable. Be ahead of the pack. Get busy. Globalization has already happened. Now it just needs to be made fair. If you're alive right now and you care about any of this stuff, then great: This is your job!

Suzi Steffen is a freelance writer in Eugene, Ore., and an arts editor at the Eugene Weekly .

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Again Soko, in the United States, individuals choose the jobs they do, whether they like the job or not, it is a choice. Nobody is holding a gun to their heads and forcing them. If they are in a crap job, it is up to them to seek other suitable employment. Perhaps if the many illegals working the hard field jobs are not happy then maybe they should return to their home country and realize how well they have it here, crap job or not! Again, it a choice, that we have to work where we do, like the job or not!

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...People choose to do the work. Nobody says they can't scrape together their ownings to start their own business. I have seen first-hand the day workers walking into the gas station and picking up a 6 pack at the end of the day (Not cheap). People need to be smart with their earnings, and I don't exactly see the "slaves" doing that. Nobody said you had to support big business, you can not support them by boycotting their products. I don't see it as slavery. 

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...People choose to do the work. Nobody says they can't scrape together their ownings to start their own business. I have seen first-hand the day workers walking into the gas station and picking up a 6 pack at the end of the day (Not cheap). People need to be smart with their earnings, and I don't exactly see the "slaves" doing that. Nobody said you had to support big business, you can not support them by boycotting their products. I don't see it as slavery. 

That is nonsense, you have never been to the Imperial Valley or Umukale. Most of these people have no choice but to slave for their daily bread. No six packs there.

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Besides there is no difference if US uses slaves in US or overseas:

Target often offers prices that seem too good to be true - so how do they keep their prices so low?

It turns out some of Target's products might be so cheap because they are made with slave-picked cotton from Uzbekistan and/or purchased from Daewoo International, a company that accounts for approximately 20% of all cotton processed in Uzbekistan.

Tell Target to sign the Daewoo Protocol, a serious step toward fighting modern slavery in Uzbekistan.

Thanks for all you do!

Bob Fertik

walkfree_logo.png

Dear Activist,

walkfree-target-sm.jpgWe know - a great deal can be hard to resist. And Target often offers prices that seem too good to be true. It makes you think - how do they keep their prices so low? We’ve recently learned that some of Target’s products might be so cheap because they are made with slave-picked cotton from Uzbekistan and/or purchased from Daewoo International, a company that accounts for approximately 20% of all cotton processed in Uzbekistan.

Every year, during the harvest season, over a million children and adults – including teachers, nurses and doctors – are ripped out of their homes, schools and jobs, and forced to work in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan to meet daily picking quotas.

While Target has signed the pledge to not buy slave-picked Uzbek cotton, they are still doing business with Daewoo, a company that clearly profits from the exploitation of children and adults in Uzbekistan.

If Target is truly serious about keeping slavery out of its stores, Target needs to stop doing business with Daewoo and agree to implement the Daewoo Protocol – a series of steps companies need to take to eliminate slave-picked cotton from their supply chains.

Call on Target to eliminate the threat of slave-picked cotton in their stores by joining the Daewoo Protocol.

We expect more from Target, a company that takes pride in holding the highest ethical standards for itself and for its business partners.

So we called and asked Target to join the Daewoo Protocol which is supported by retailers declining to do business with Daewoo until it takes serious steps to stop sourcing slave-picked Uzbek cotton.

Target said they didn't need to sign the Daewoo Protocol because they have a “No Uzbek Cotton” policy. But such a policy only works if you're willing to enforce it.

Tell Target to sign the Daewoo Protocol and stop supporting modern slavery in Uzbekistan.

After you take action, please take a moment to spread the word by forwarding this email to 3 of your friends.

Thank you,

Debra, Nick, Jacqui, Jessica, Hayley, Jess, Mich, Amy and the Walk Free Team

Walk Free is a movement of people everywhere, fighting to end one of the world's greatest evils: Modern slavery.

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While not necessarily ethical or right, I don't think that truly counts as slavery...

Unless a worker is paid fair wages for his work so that he can provide himself and his family necesities of sustaining life, that is what I call SLAVERY

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SLAVERY TODAY
 
 

1367878597_1ff9e80c4a_m.jpgYes, we mean real slavery. People held against their will, forced to work and paid nothing.

Sometimes the slave holder ‘pays’ a few grains of rice to keep the slaves alive, or uses a bogus payment that the slave holder reclaims at the end of the month. But the end result is what slavery is today and has always been—one person controlling another and then forcing them to work.

Through Free the Slaves’ research, first published in Kevin Bales’ Disposable People, our conservative estimate is that there are 21-30 million people in slavery today. This means that there are more people in slavery today than at any other time in human history. Slavery has existed for thousands of years, but changes in the world’s economy and societies over the past 50 years have enabled a resurgence of slavery.

Three trends have contributed most to the rise of modern-slavery.
 

  • The first, a recent population explosion has tripled the number of people in the world, with most growth taking place in the developing world.
  • The second, rapid social and economic change, have displaced many to urban centers and their outskirts, where people have no ‘safety net’ and no job security.
  • The third, government corruption around the world, allows slavery to go unpunished, even though it is illegal everywhere.

In this way millions have become vulnerable to slave holders and human traffickers looking to profit through the theft of people’s lives. This new slavery has two prime characteristics: slaves today are cheap and they are disposable.

 

Cheap, Disposable People

  • An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90.
  • In 1850 it was difficult to capture a slave and then transport them to the US. Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world are potential slaves.

This “supply” makes slaves today cheaper than they have ever been. Since they are so cheap, slaves are today are not considered a major investment worth maintaining. If slaves get sick, are injured, outlive their usefulness, or become troublesome to the slaveholder, they are dumped or killed. For most slave holders, actually legally ‘owning’ the slave is an inconvenience since they already exert total control over the individuals labor and profits. Who needs a legal document that could at some point be used against the slave holder? Today the slave holder cares more about these high profits than whether the holder and slave are of different ethnic backgrounds; in New Slavery, profit trumps skin color. Finally, new slavery is directly connected to the global economy. As in the past, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining, and prostitution. From these sectors, their exploited labor flows into the global economy, and into our lives.

 

How does slavery affect us?

  • Since slavery feeds directly into the global economy, it makes sense that we would be concerned by the ways in which slavery flows into our homes through the products we buy and the investments we make. Slaves harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast, make charcoal used to produce steel in Brazil, weave carpets in India—the list goes on. These products reach our stores and our homes. Click here to learn about what businesses and consumers can do to fight slavery in our products and investments.

In addition, there may be people held in slavery in your community. Slavery happens in nearly every country in the world, and the US and Europe are not immune. Research that Free the Slaves conducted with the University of California, Berkeley found documented cases of slavery and human trafficking in more than 90 cities across the United States. To learn about the warning signs of slavery and what you can do to combat slavery in your community, click here.

 

SLAVERY TODAY!

 

Somaly Mam And The Cult of Glamourized Victimhood
Yes, the famous anti-sex-trafficking activist fudged certain facts to gain attention for her cause—but this sorry tale should make us concerned about our own need for photogenic girls to save.

Somaly Mam, one of the world’s most famous anti-sex-trafficking activists, resigned as head of the Somaly Mam Foundation on Wednesday, after Newsweek published an expose by Simon Marks accusing Mam of lying about her background and fabricating some of the sob stories of underage sex trafficking she used to gain attention and funding for her cause. Marks detailed how Mam’s story of being forced into prostitution as a child—her age for when she first started shifted in each telling—didn’t jibe with the memories of her from classmates and family members. More troubling, Marks also accused Mam of encouraging young women who had not been trafficked to lie about it, coughing up lurid stories of rape and abuse in order to get wealthy donors to open their wallets.

 

Are there larger lessons to be learned from this whole sordid tale? Marks resists anyone who might use this to deny that sex trafficking is a serious problem, though he does argue that “the scale and dynamics of the situation are often misunderstood, in part because of lurid, sensationalistic stories such as those told by Mam and her ‘girls.’” But this should be a wake-up call, an opportunity for people in the feminist and non-profit world to seriously consider some troubling trends that may hamper the long-term ability to enact change. Namely, there’s way too much emphasis being put on heroic figures overcoming adversity and too little attention paid to systems of oppression. In addition, there’s a serious problem of issues being highlighted not because they are the most pressing or widespread issues, but because they are the least likely to draw controversy that might run off wealthy celebrities who only want the safest causes to publicly support.

 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/29/somaly-mam-and-the-cult-of-glamourized-victimhood.html

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I am surprised no one mentioned the American sweatshops that many congressmen actually have investments in!

 

http://www.nytimes.com/1993/07/18/world/made-usa-hard-labor-pacific-island-special-report-saipan-sweatshops-are-no.html

 

Made in the U.S.A.? -- Hard Labor on a Pacific Island/A special report.; Saipan Sweatshops Are No American Dream
By PHILIP SHENON,

Published: July 18, 1993

 

On this tiny, tropical outpost of the United States, many people describe what happens to foreign workers here as something close to servitude.

 

Every year, thousands of laborers from China, the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia are flown here. The workers are often bused straight from the airport to squalid barracks where they live -- sometimes for years -- as many as a dozen to a room.

 

They are put to work almost immediately in nearby factories within view of Saipan's pristine beaches, many of them laboring six days a week at about half the Federal minimum wage, stitching together American brand-name clothes. Familiar Labels

 

The labels would be familiar to anyone who has strolled through an American shopping mall. Over the last year, Arrow, Liz Claiborne, The Gap, Montgomery Ward, Geoffrey Beene, Eddie Bauer and Levi's have all made clothes on this palm-fringed island that is part of the American commonwealth in the Western Pacific, 5,000 miles from the continental United States.

 

AND THIS!

 

SOLVING WORKER ABUSE PROBLEMS IN THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS

Karen M. Smith*

Abstract:  
The garment industry has long been criticized for treating workers poorly. Despite the attention that this problem has received in recent years, abuse continues to occur, even in a territory of the United States (U.S.), the Northern Mariana Islands. This Note considers two legislative solutions that have been considered in the United States Congress, applying to the territory (1) U.S. minimum wages laws, and (2) U.S. immigration laws, and argues that better control over immigration to the Northern Marianas may reduce the problem significantly.

Introduction

In recent years, interest in combating unfair labor practices has increased in the United States.

 

1 For example, in response to its observations of labor in the People’s Republic of China, the Clinton Administration authored a set of Model Business Principles for U.S. companies to follow when dealing with overseas manufacturers

 

.2 Similarly, the Apparel Industry Partnership was created by U.S. labor, consumer, industry, and human rights representatives for the purpose of fighting sweatshop conditions in overseas workplaces “related to the U.S. apparel and footwear industries.”

 

3 Finally, U.S. multi-national companies such as Levi-Strauss, the Gap, Wal-Mart, and Nike have established internal codes of conduct that define standards for working conditions to be met by their suppliers.

 

http://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/schools/law/lawreviews/journals/bciclr/24_2/06_FMS.htm

 

http://sarahheidebrecht.com/post/47992102396/sustainability-cnmi

 

It is one of those things that is so well hidden that you have to dig deep to find more on the story as reporters are arrested and cameras taken away. You cannot just visit these sweatshops either as you need to have a permit to visit.

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