Monday, April 05, 2004

I got the following from a letter in the reader response section of Salon;


You disappoint me greatly in that you do not ask why wages are so low in India. Indians pay less for food, housing and services because many of their agricultural, construction and menial workers are held in debt bondage and victimized by caste discrimination. This is common knowledge, which you ignored.

I feel sure that you are aware of the very good information on bonded labor and the denial of civil rights to one in every six Indians at the Human Rights Watch Web site. Check the "Broken People" document. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both recommend sanctions against India. Check the Amnesty site also. The book "Disposable People," by Kevin Bayles from Antislavery International, also explains the bondage practiced in India.

"Red China Blues," by Jan Wong, details some of the abuses of workers in China. Even better, "China's Workers Under Assault," by Anita Chan, includes accounts by Chinese journalists working undercover in sweatshop factories. Including accounts of beatings and murder. Amazon sells these books.

Offshoring jobs to countries that have low costs because of their repression of their citizenry brings that repression to bear on Americans. People have made the point that U.S. companies buy a lot of services already from Europe. Well, Europeans no longer shoot labor organizers. They no longer practice slavery or feudal bondage. They must compete on their innovation and energy, not their willingness to send out a goon squad. Competition with any country that maintains labor and civil rights will never cause massive unemployment or drop the floor out from under wages.

Apologists for India say that their tech workers are not bonded or oppressed. I agree. Their tech workers come from the hereditary higher castes. But check Arundhati Roy's book "Power Politics" for a description of emaciated workers digging ditches by candlelight -- to lay fiber optic cable. A bonded workforce cuts costs for infrastructure. And for food and housing. So Indian professionals can charge less for their work.

You probably know that the U.S. Congress passed sanctions against trade with Myanmar (properly called Burma) last year. Coerced labor, often unpaid, contributed to the building of a pipeline there for an American oil company. American companies will readily take profits that rest on violence done against the poor.

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