Monday, June 02, 2008

Sweatshop? Or economic development in emerging industrial countries?

Here is the link to the proposed Lucas County sweatshop policy and note that it does not include the budget impact nor the statutory authority/Ohio Revised Code reference that details where the Commissioners get the authority to implement such a rule.

And be sure to read the whole thing. It is outrageous to expect that a local vendor can certify that their wholesaler's foreign factories will be available for inspection by independent monitors of the sweatshop policy.

Further, this is just a backdoor way to implement 'living wages' in certain county contracts - a provision that they have no authority to do outright. Is it any wonder that this initiative's primary supporters are unions?

And since when do Ohio county commissioners have the ability to dictate employment provisions like vacation, holidays, work hours and overtime provisions in foreign countries???

John Stossel has some interesting things to say about sweatshops, indicating that 'sweatshop' to American unions and union-backed student protesters are 'economic development' to emerging industrial countries:

We caught up with an economist and several policy analysts on their way to the World Trade Organization Meeting in Cancun. Bibek DeBroy, an economist who lives in India, said he wishes the protesters would "think with their brains rather than with their hearts." DeBroy said, "I don't understand the expression sweatshops. There's nothing wrong with sweat. Sweat is good. Sweat is what people in the developing world, including India, do all the time."

Doesn't the United States have the responsibility to stop companies from exploiting people in countries like India?

Kenya's June Arunga, who studies trade policy, doesn't think so. She said nobody in her country thinks about companies exploiting them. "When there's a new company opening a factory people are excited about it," she said.

Arunga and DeBroy point out that in poor countries, the Nike factories that rich American students call sweatshops routinely pay twice what local factories pay, and more than triple what people earn doing much harder and more dangerous work in the fields. Arunga says people in Kenya would volunteer to work in sweatshops for free, just to have access to clean running water and electricity without carrying firewood. "I wish we would have more sweatshops, quote unquote, in my country," Arunga told me.

Most economists agree that "sweatshops" are what allowed people in now-thriving places like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore to work their way out of poverty.

Arunga said, "People get jobs in these places, their generation lives better than their parents lived. Most of them work for these companies for a while, go off and start their own businesses, it's a win-win situation for everyone," she said.

And that, she says, is why the students who protest are ignorant and clueless.

"They're comparing that to what they have in their rich homes," she said, "They're people who are very wealthy. They have no idea what they're talking about."
But Bibek DeBroy said if these students get their way, it won't help people in the developing world. "It would mean fewer jobs, lower incomes, more people in poverty," he said. Arunga agreed, saying, "By passing laws trying to improve the jobs by force, they will get rid of the jobs."

So when the Lucas County Commissioners pass their resolution tomorrow (which I'm sure they'll do even if they don't have any legal authority to do so - after all, who but me is questioning THAT point?) what impact will it really have? Vendors who are unsure about their subcontractors or wholesalers won't bid anymore. Vendors who don't want the hassle of agreeing to be 'inspected' won't bid anymore. If the County gets any vendors at all, they certainly won't get the lowest possible prices for the goods. And other businesses will be concerned that if they can get away with such a policy for clothes, what other product will be next?

This is not business (or taxpayer) friendly ... and the moral superiority they're invoking with this policy can have serious negative and 'immoral' unintended consequences for the people they claim they're trying to help.

Besides, absent clear authority to implement such a policy, it shouldn't even be under consideration. But this is Lucas County, so don't expect such common sense. It will certainly be overruled by emotions and 'feel-good' intentions.

Afterthought: Any speculation as to why this new policy was announced today with a vote scheduled for tomorrow? Is it possible (or probable) that the timing was intentional in order to prevent any opposition? Or am I just being a cynical constituent?


Tim Higgins said...


Why don't they just come out and say that no county contract will be accepted from any non-union employer? I would be illegal and disingenuous, but it would at least be refreshingly honest.

Maggie Thurber said...

LOL, Tim ... It's because liberals aren't as honest as conservatives:

Carol said...

I've been doing some reading and listening and I have come to this conclusion:

Apparently our commissioners have been doing such a smashing job for Lucas County that they feel the need to attempt to influence the rest of the world.

Think about it - what other rational reason could there be for this type of crap? Ooops! Did I just say that? ;)

Do the powers that be not realize that this is the type of interference in private enterprise that causes businesses and residents to abandon ship and move on?

I'm so disgusted. The potential for Toledo and Lucas County to be prosperous and forward thinking is there, but it will never be used. Apparently the current office holders are afraid that they will appear less than productive if put up against real progress. **sigh**

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