Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Exploitation of Workers Here in the USA

I was going to write a little essay about how the "Effort vs Enjoyment" scale for many of my favorite pastimes seems to be shifting toward more effort, less enjoyment.

But as I was driving to the beach where I became a buffet for those huge green flies, (aka "beach flies", aka "sand flies" aka "horse flies") despite using "Off" which seemed to work for about fifteen minutes, I was listening to Tom Ashbrook on NPR.

Today's discussion was about a crawfish packing company in Louisiana that supplies Walmart with the delicacy.

The company uses "forced" labor and requires workers to be on 24 hour shifts, locks them in and threatens harm to their Mexican families should they be non-compliant.  The workers are here legally through the Guest Worker Program but the program is not able to monitor every host company.  In addition, guest workers cannot "quit" their jobs and work elsewhere.  They are under contract to a specific employer.

The gist of the discussion was that unscrupulous employers take advantage of their workers, forcing them to work unreasonably long hours in inhumane conditions and often even restrict access to paychecks/wages.  All so companies like C. J.'s Seafood can get lucrative Walmart contracts.   All so Walmart and companies like Walmart can offer the lowest prices on goods.  All so corporate America can make huge profits.

The exploitation of workers is utterly despicable.  The profits that are made at their expense are despicable. The Walmarts of this world are even more despicable.

They are not only keeping wages low, but such practices actually force wages downward for almost all working class jobs across the board.  Because the real income of average Americans has become less and less during the course of this recession and they even less buying power with that income, many average people have little choice but to shop at Walmart.

So the exploitation of workers in turn creates a growing base of customers for Walmart and the like.  Corporate greed just gets more and more ugly.

While I never shop Walmart, I do look for bargains elsewhere - I can't afford to shop at "Whole Foods" or even some of the big supermarkets.  So that makes me part of the problem.  See how complicated it gets?  But I'm not renouncing my citizenship!

Now we see the trend of the super-rich who have become super rich right here in the United States, renouncing their US citizenship rather than pay taxes!

Talk about skimming off the top!  This country will go bankrupt if these practices are allowed to continue.

Meanwhile drought conditions are forcing ranchers to sell off cattle because they can't feed them and many farmers are without crops to market.  Somehow this too must be related to corporate greed but I haven't figured out how.  I'm sure the right-wingnut refusal to believe in global warming has set us back in this regard.

And farmers are looking to the Federal government for help - a Federal government that is so far in debt but cannot get the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes!

We are getting closer than ever to becoming a "third world" country, though I'm thinking some other term might be more appropriate.  There may be a whole segment of our society relegated to "forth world" status sooner than later.


  1. I listened to the first half of the audio - in my old age now, I find it tedious to listen to things that don't have pictures for more than 10 minutes at time, grin.

    The good news is, the case is a major news story now (see http://www.thenation.com/article/168715/big-bad-business-fighting-guest-worker-rights), the Dept. of Labor is investigating, and WM has suspended the supplier.

    The bad news is, this is an old, old story - part of the tragic story of mankind. You read the Grapes of Wrath in high school like me, didn't you? Same stuff was going on back then. And you can trace the exploitation of labor back through the Gilded Age of the robber barons in the 19th century, and on back to the earliest years of the Republic.

    And before that, the same shit went on back in Europe - look up the Peasant's Revolt sometime, from the 13th or 14th century. Even the guys who built the pyramids said their bosses were real slavedrivers, too.

    And so it goes, on and on. Greed is part of the dark side of human nature, and must continually be fought against.

    At least this case is being dealt with. What I want to know is, why do so many people rant about "immigrants" taking away American jobs - which as the audio discussion pointed out, if those jobs paid what they should, there would be plenty of Americans in line for them - but why all the damnation on the poor immigrants, and never, ever a word about the evil bastards who HIRE the immigrants and pay them shit wages, huh?

    There's something very, very wrong with that picture.

  2. Russ,
    I know how audio on the computer can be tedious...in the car I was a captive audience.

    History duly noted, but I think most Americans believe such incivility a thing of the past. Not so, apparently.

    I think the slant of the discussion about the present exploitation is how corporate greed and consumer need go hand in hand and contribute to a viscous cycle of moving wealth into the hands of the few by keeping the many in poverty or in fear of poverty.

    As I write this I am hearing that Scranton, PA is forced to pay city workers, including firefighters and police, minimum wage because they are so strapped for cash.

    One by one, our cities and towns are going under and taking their citizenry along.

  3. It is tragic that history continues to repeat itself. This is the culture we knew a century ago. Changes were made but we came right back to it. And on and on. At least, with public awareness and lawsuits, Walmart is forced to changed practices (one awful practice at a time). But then they credit themselves with defending workers' rights, with supporting the environment, etc. Wonder if it will ever get better.

  4. I thought that we're all pass these practices, but I guess I was wrong. I hope that everyone will change for the better.



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