Global trade agreements create sweatshop working conditions around the world while undermining the US Economy. These trade agreements reamin firmly in place despite the fact that the majority of US citizens are aware that trade agreements such as NAFTA, have had a negative impact on the economy. With trade agreements such as NAFTA and the upcoming TPP, corporations are allowed to move their production facilities overseas where they can replicate sweat shop conditions reminiscent of the 1900’s in America. Labor organizers in these countries are suppressed. Victims are forced to work for little or no pay, beaten and often killed due to unsafe working conditions such as the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh.
Sweatshops may seem like an issue that only affects people in developing nations but it affects Americans as well. As NAFTA opened the borders to “fair trade” it flooded Mexico with cheap pork and corn, leading Mexican farmers to lose their livelihoods. These displaced farmers flocked to America or ended up in border towns working in maquiladoras (AKA: Sweatshops). In the US more than half of the 22,000 sewing shops violate minimum wage and overtime laws. 75% violate health and safety laws. Most of the people working in these conditions are women between the ages of 15 and 25.
Today as the economy stumbles and unemployment rates stagnate, corporate after-tax profits are hitting an all-time high. This is because Corporations are writing the trade policies. They write them in order to increase profits while decreasing regulations. The outsourcing of local manufacturing jobs has led to a loss of the unionized living wage in the US and created sweat shop conditions abroad where workers can be easily exploited. Furthermore this creates an unfair advantage for companies who exploit workers’ rights, as they can sell a cheaper product than competitors that source ethically.
We as consumers support the actions of these corporations by purchasing products manufactured in sweat shops. To learn more about what you can do to help stop these atrocities visit the Washington Fair Trade Coalition website.
Thanks again to our speakers, Former State Rep. Velma Velora, trafficking victim advocate at API Chaya Emma Catague and Washington Fair Trade Coalition director Kristen Beifus.
By Jared Stewart