Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Global sweatshop lobby
April 6, 2007 5:55 AM   Subscribe

"In a historically unprecedented visit, the influential Chinese scholar and labor law expert Liu Cheng arrived in Washington, D.C. this week to garner support from US legislators and labor leaders for a law that is pending not before the US Congress but before the National People’s Congress in China."
Global Labor Strategies' recent report Undue Influence has prompted comment that US corporate advocacy in China is retarding democracy. The US-China Business Council rejects this characterization of their lobbying efforts (China Law Blog broadly agrees). Their European counterparts think better compliance and implementation are key to improving protection for Chinese workers.
posted by Abiezer (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
UNDUE INFLUENCE reveals that while publicly claiming to support the new legislation, companies like Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Google, General Electric and others have launched an unpublicized new attack demanding further gutting of the law's most important provisions.

Hmmm, another crack in Google's "do no evil" philosophy? And maybe Nike has learned something from the bad PR it earned in the child labor issue:

Such counter-pressure has led to splits among global companies operating in China. Nike has virtually repudiated the efforts of the United States Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai (AmCham) to lobby against the law. And the E.U. Chamber of Commerce has reversed its opposition to the law and renounced its threat that its member companies may leave China if the law is passed.

No great surprise to learn that the Bush administration would be leading the effort to oppose basic worker rights in China. As a nation, we continue in our rapid descent from any moral authority we might have once held in the world.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:21 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd heard about that. Sadly, it didn't suprise me at all.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 AM on April 6, 2007


That said, the law itself is certainly a good thing for china, and the world as a whole. Of course, for it to matter China is going to have to do a better job of making sure it's laws are followed by the government and corporations.
posted by delmoi at 6:25 AM on April 6, 2007


I tend to worry that Corporate Oligarchy is the emerging global government.

In some places the corporations rule by suborning and financing "democracy." They use their money to control via corruption and influence in pseudo-democratic states. Cooperate, influence and participate in goverment "management" of the people in non-democracies like China and maintain colonial-type hegemonies in the Third World.

/feeling pessimistic.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:11 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not to be a spoilsport, but both parties in the US aling themselves with big business and money interests and at the expense of labor.
Money drives elections. Elected people need that money to get in office and relelected. Even well-intentioned political figures find themselves supporting money interests and not the labor producing the goodies that make for wealth.
posted by Postroad at 7:16 AM on April 6, 2007


...both parties in the US aling themselves with big business and money interests and at the expense of labor.

Once again we get the false equivalences that those who want to muddy the waters employ to drive away voters. All candidates need money. It does not follow that all candidates align themselves with big business at the expense of labor and especially that they all do it equally.
posted by DU at 7:25 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fighting workers over there so we don't have to fight them here.
posted by srboisvert at 7:36 AM on April 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well said mjjj. Thanks for posting this Abiezer.

At times I've wondered what the USA would look like if there were no Made in China imports. The impact on American life would be staggering. In almost every area, not least electronics, clothing, bedding, cookware, just about anything for the house, tools of all kinds, toys, watches, jewelry, pens, shoes, furniture, glassware...our consumer dependence on things made cheaply in China is endless. I can only imagine there is a trillion dollar agenda to keep China in a sweatshop-working-for-the-USA economy, while our own factories, manufacturing industry and working class crumble.

Perhaps people who would have once been working in factories now line up to be cannon fodder for the army?
posted by nickyskye at 8:33 AM on April 6, 2007


Not to be a spoilsport, but both parties in the US aling themselves with big business and money interests and at the expense of labor.

Actually Edwards and Obama, as well as the democratic congress are courting labor pretty actively. In the 90s there was a movement in the democratic party away from labor unions and towards corporations, lead by Bill Clinton and the DLC. Those voices have been marginalized in the party, and my desire to keep it that way is why am so interested in seeing Hillary lose the nomination.

The last democratic president was Carter, who left office when I was seven months old, so I really can't compare.
posted by delmoi at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2007


Yeah, exactly delmoi. Clinton was a great conservative President. Now let's try a liberal.
posted by DU at 9:20 AM on April 6, 2007


MasonDixon - I tend to worry that Corporate Oligarchy is the emerging global government.

So when are these multinationals going to start hiring shadowrunners?

I too, fear these emerging overlords and only levity prevents me from sinking into catatonic depression.

Once fair labour laws become de facto in China, I wonder where the production will move next? Africa?
posted by porpoise at 10:03 AM on April 6, 2007


Say what one wants about corporations becoming governments, but at least they are accountable to someone unlike governments; it seems most people are complaining about corporations and supporting bigger government, which of course is used by corporations to wipe out competition, which leads to a call for more government, which is of course lead by people with experience in leadership and guess where those people come from? Either the Military or corporations
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2007


it seems most people are complaining about corporations and supporting bigger government
This is a strange way to frame the debate. I take a similar view to that of Han Dongfang:
People ask about the role of foreign investors promoting good labour practices in China. This is not a logical question. The goal of investors is to make a profit, not to protect labour rights, and similar questions are not asked to foreign investors regarding the protection of labour rights in Canada. Workers rights can only be protected by organised workers...
...It must be reiterated that multinationals do not promote good labour practices. In fact, they must be made to comply with Chinese law. If they do not, Chinese workers must hold foreign companies responsible and take legal action insisting on the protection of workers' rights. The most fundamental element of democracy is people's participation. The future of China must be built on a new foundation of the rule of law and participatory civil society.
The Role of Foreign Investors in Promoting Good Labour Practices in China
posted by Abiezer at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2007


This is a strange way to frame the debate. I take a similar view to that of Han Dongfang:

I agree with him. Corporations and investors are not activists. Their gifts to society take the form of goods and economic expansion (i.e. jobs). It is the duty of civil society to organize (and this is almost always opposed by the government). I must shut up, anyway, if I go on long enough my old Gramscian views will belie my conservatism.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 12:41 PM on April 6, 2007


Right, but you can see here that corporations are "activists;" actively lobbying to prevent measures becoming law that are (weak) concessions to demands from civil society. In authoritarian China, civil society makes its demands at peril to life and liberty; corporate entities stand to perhaps lose a slice of their profits.
posted by Abiezer at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2007


Right, but you can see here that corporations are "activists;" actively lobbying to prevent measures becoming law that are (weak) concessions to demands from civil society.

I agree. I would also add that whenever you see these concessions, it is almost always corporations and their buddies in government agreeing on such measures. These sorts of things don't happen when only 18.3333% of the population supports them.

In authoritarian China, civil society makes its demands at peril to life and liberty; corporate entities stand to perhaps lose a slice of their profits.

Once again, I agree. I would add that it isn't the corporate elites that are taking their lives as a whole: it is the government. Now, the government, any government, will always be staked by those who are friendly to leadership (i.e. corporations). Even in Sweden. The difference between Sweden and third world countries is a difference in cultural morality and not political or economic philosophy. You can take one political (i.e democracy in Shiite dominated Iraq) or one economic (i.e. Free-Market) philosophy and come up with results due to exogenous cultural factors.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 1:09 PM on April 6, 2007


Since nobody else said it-
Metafilter: Retarding Democracy
posted by pantsrobot at 4:41 PM on April 6, 2007


That seems like a valid conclusion. It sure as hell retards democracy over here.
posted by blacklite at 9:49 PM on April 6, 2007


Gnostic Novelist,
Could you clarify what you are saying here? From what I'm reading, you seem to be saying that because the government is already in the pocket of business, then non-corporate efforts at change are pointless, as only corporations can influence the government.

I agree that you have a point that businesses will probably always have a bigger say than any citizen. But I think you're over-generalizing the relationship between governments and corporations. Different forms of government do provide more (or less) ways to minimize this influence, and citizens can make a difference even if businesses don't want a change. Just look at America in the late 19th/early 20th century when corporations and men like Morgan, Carnegie, etc almost literally controlled the government. Progress was made in regards to regulating trusts and monopolies, working conditions, child labor, etc. It can be done, it just takes will.

No one is saying it'll be easy, because you're right, government is not just influenced by business, many ( or most) government leaders come from that sector. It just seems like saying "government is in the pocket of big business, so let's just give up civil efforts and resign ourselves to working through the corporations" is already admitting defeat.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2007


Could you clarify what you are saying here? From what I'm reading, you seem to be saying that because the government is already in the pocket of business, then non-corporate efforts at change are pointless, as only corporations can influence the government.

On the original point, I was pointing out that governments don't have to be accountable, corporations do have to be, due to market demands. Fascism, or corporate socialism, exempts them from this because they have merged with the government. This is why supporters of big business hate the free-market more than any leftist. And in terms of unity, a corporation cannot stifle a group voicing for change the way a government can. At most they can threaten to fire people or not bring jobs to a community. A government can, and does, jail, torture and execute those who try to bring change.

Just look at America in the late 19th/early 20th century when corporations and men like Morgan, Carnegie, etc almost literally controlled the government. Progress was made in regards to regulating trusts and monopolies, working conditions, child labor, etc. It can be done, it just takes will.

This is mostly due to a lot of factors. Namely, the fact that others were not getting a piece of the pie. I wouldn't say we have progressed: we morphed. A few men don't have the influence, but corporations or groups of men do. This is evinced by the spike of lobbying. We can't say so and so controls the government, but we can say such and such industry (Telecommunications, Defense, Oil) controls it. Now corporate heads are beholden to investors and not strictly to themselves. While "Robber Barons" are a myth, I can say that more people simply became barons. Barondom has been diversified.

It just seems like saying "government is in the pocket of big business, so let's just give up civil efforts and resign ourselves to working through the corporations" is already admitting defeat.

I was being descriptive and avoiding the great problem
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 1:54 PM on April 7, 2007


« Older Trick-shot bowling...  |  An Open Letter to Devs:... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments