Wednesday, October 14, 2009

But we'll pay you in shiny beads...

After hearing about a former company that I used to work for moving all of their jobs to Mexico because of the cheaper labor, my urge to write about such things is strong. I think it is an injustice to allow companies to shop for the cheapest labor despite circumstances and without responsibility.

We allow companies to export their labor costs to countries that pay extremely low wages, like 2 dollars per day, hiring of underage workers, and work conditions that are deplorable. The laws that we have created that regulate the handling of manufacturing waste and pollution, safe working environments, a decent wage, doesn't really mean anything if all the companies have to do is shop around for some country poor enough to accept any kind of conditions.

I know that some think that if the companies didn't do this, they wouldn't have any jobs at all. But isn't this like saying that the slaves were getting a warm cooked meal and a roof over their heads? If the laws are good enough for us aren't they good enough for other people?

Also it is not just the cheap labor that is sought after. A good example is the recycling of used electronic parts like computers, monitors, etc. These scraps are sent by the ship load to third world countries and they are basically cooked off or chemically dunked to retrieve precious metals such as gold and silver. It takes huge amounts of scrap to get just a little bit of metal so it is very crappy work. In the process, a smorgasbord of hazardous materials and by-products are in need of disposal, so it is just dumped in a field where it will get in the water table and create a heinous cesspool.

In addition, companies are allowed to do things that would get them in a whole lot of trouble here. Products such as pesticides, outlawed chemicals used in manufacturing, and medical trials are allowed to circumvent proper steps, even tobacco marketing to youths.

Some companies are doing the right thing but others only correct when reported on. Plus the only reason is bad publicity, not the breaking of U.S. laws.

To what extent can the US companies get away with exporting such nastiness or increasing profits at the extent of poorer nations? Could we not say that the laws that apply to the company headquarters here apply to wherever their products are made? Is the almighty pursuit of profits the sole decision maker of right or wrong in this?

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