Tag Archives | Labor

Breaking Apart An iPhone’s Cost

It’s still shocking to see just how little of the profits from an item go towards those who made it. From a piece on the power of transnational corporations, via Reports from the Economic Front:

The production of the iPhone offers one of the best examples of the logic and operation of these transnational corporate controlled cross border production networks.

Not surprisingly, the division of profits, as shown below, reflects the overall hierarchy that structures this and other cross border production networks.


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Alabama Looks To Replace Immigrant Workers With Prison Labor

JO3ND00ZA draconian law passed earlier this year has resulted in an exodus of illegal (and legal) immigrants from Alabama, and as a result, crops are rotting in fields on farms across the state. The solution? A return to chain gang days, reports AFP:

Alabama farmers have proposed using prisoners to work their fields to replace migrants who fled the state after it passed the country’s harshest anti-immigration law, officials said Tuesday.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry officials met Tuesday in Mobile with farmers to discuss their proposal. A statement by the department said the meeting with the farmers was convened “to help solve the chronic labor shortages created by Alabama’s new immigration law.”

Known as HB56, the new law requires local police to verify the immigration status of anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country illegally.

The law touched off an exodus of mainly Hispanic workers who moved to other states because of fears of being deported, prompting complaints by farm and construction industry groups of a shortage of workers in one of the poorest US states.

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South Korean Lawmaker Uses Tear Gas to Protest Free Trade with the U.S. (Video)

Now, why would a member of parliament in South Korea object so strongly to a free trade deal with the United States? Haroon Siddique reports in the Guardian:
An opposition MP set off a teargas canister in the South Korean parliament in a failed attempt to prevent the ruling party passing a free trade deal with the US. Proponents said the deal, the largest US trade pact since the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), could increase commerce between the two countries by up to a quarter. But the opposition claims it will harm South Korean interests, putting jobs at risk ...
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Prisoners Help Build Patriot Missiles

Patriot MissileFile this in the “in case you missed it” news cycle. Why should the government not hire unemployed Americans to do this …? Noah Shachtman reported back in March on the excellent WIRED’s Danger Room:

This [past] spring, the United Arab Emirates is expected to close a deal for $7 billion dollars’ worth of American arms. Nearly half of the cash will be spent on Patriot missiles, which cost as much as $5.9 million apiece.

But what makes those eye-popping sums even more shocking is that some of the workers manufacturing parts for those Patriot missiles are prisoners, earning as little as 23 cents an hour.

The work is done by Unicor,  previously known as Federal Prison Industries. It’s a government-owned corporation, established during the Depression, that employs about 20,000 inmates in 70 prisons to make everything from clothing to office furniture to solar panels to military electronics.

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Ikea Used Political Prisoners As Slave Labor

Photo: Alexander Kaiser (CC)

Photo: Alexander Kaiser (CC)

Like many global companies mass producing goods, Ikea has a past of unjust labor. The Telegraph reports:

Ikea developed strong links with the communist state in the 1970s, opening a number of manufacturing facilities, one of which, according to Stasi records discovered by German television company WDR, used political prisoners to construct sofas.

The factory in Waldheim stood next to a prison, and inmates were used as unpaid labour, it is claimed. Gaols in the Democratic Republic housed significant numbers of political prisoners, with some estimates indicating they made up at least 20 per cent of the entire prison population.

Quoted in a Stasi file, Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea’s founder, said while he had no official knowledge of the use of prison labour, if it did indeed exist “in the opinion of Ikea it would be in society’s interests.”

[Continues at The Telegraph]

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City Introduces “Sex Tax Meters” For Prostitutes

800px-10.3010_Torino-nightlife.v2Inspectors may be pulling prostitutes off the streets in Germany. Not because they’re trying to lower crime rate, but because they haven’t been paying their income taxes. Via Reuters:

Prostitutes in the German city of Bonn must carry a ticket purchased from a new parking meter-like machine while working the streets or face hefty fines from tax authorities in a scheme launched on Monday night.

In Germany, ladies of the night pay income tax — the level of which varies from region to region — but compliance is difficult to enforce with women seeking business on the street.

Germany’s first “sex tax meters,” from which prostitutes can purchase a ticket for 6 euros ($8.72) per night, will ensure the tax system is fairly implemented, a city spokeswoman said.

“Inspectors will monitor compliance — not every evening but frequently,” the spokeswoman told Reuters.

[Continues at Reuters]

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Foreign Workers In Baghdad Can’t Leave And Can’t Get Paid


Photo: Kjirstin (CC)

The New York Times reports:

For months, they have sat here, half a block from the prime minister’s palace in the Green Zone, essentially captives with little food, drinking water or electricity.

Humble laborers, they had come to Baghdad in January from Eastern Europe and Asia seeking better wages.

They had the important sounding assignment of building a dozen villas to house heads of state for the annual meeting of the Arab League, which was scheduled to take place here.

But the project was halted in April for reasons that are unclear, and a month later, as the Arab Spring rolled on, the Arab League meeting was postponed until next year.

Now the workers — 27 Ukrainians (including a woman), 7 Bulgarians and 1 Nepalese — are marooned here, living in one of the world’s hottest and most inhospitable cities in an abandoned building next to the construction site and lacking the documents they need to leave the country.

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Tricked Foreign Students Stage Walkout Of Hershey’s Chocolate Factory

hersheyRemember that Simpsons episode in which Bart is conned into becoming a slave on a French grape farm through an “exchange student” program? The New York Times reports:

Hundreds of foreign students, waving their fists and shouting defiantly in many languages, walked off their jobs on Wednesday at a plant here that packs Hershey’s chocolates, saying a summer program that was supposed to be a cultural exchange had instead turned them into underpaid labor.

The students, from countries including China, Nigeria, Romania and Ukraine, came to the United States through a long-established State Department summer visa program that allows them to work for two months and then travel. They said they were expecting to practice their English, make some money and learn what life is like in the United States.

In a way, they did. About 400 foreign students were put to work lifting heavy boxes and packing Reese’s candies, Kit-Kats and Almond Joys on a fast-moving production line, many of them on a night shift.

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Major Corporations To Hide Income Disparity

Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

A group of 81 major corporations believe that public knowledge of what their CEOs make in respect to the average worker is “useless” information. The Washington Post reports that more than a year ago (H/T Alternet), some of America’s biggest corporate movers and shakers began lobbying Congress to force changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, so companies needn’t bother disclose the wage gulf between executives and workers. A House committee approved the bill 33–21.

Rep. Nan A.S. Hayworth (R-NY), who sponsored The Burdensome Data Collection Relief Act (HR1062), said comparing a CEO’s wage to the average worker could “mislead or confuse investors” and that such a comparison “creates heat but sheds no light.” Tim Bartl, senior vice president and general counsel for the Center on Executive Compensation asked “You can already tell where a CEO falls relative to his peers, you can already tell where he falls relative to the average worker in the industry.… Read the rest

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The Pentagon’s Invisible Third-World Army

iraqWhen enlistment is down, what’s the military to do? Outsource. Seventy thousand of the people in the Pentagon’s war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan are not U.S. soldiers, but “third-country nationals” — Filipinos launder our soldiers’ uniforms, Bosnians repair electrical grids, Indians serve up iced lattes. Many say they are being held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by subcontractors who operate outside the law, the New Yorker reports:

In the morning of October 10, 2007, the beauticians boarded their flight to the Emirates. They carried duffelbags full of cosmetics, family photographs, Bibles, floral sarongs. More than half of the women left husbands and children behind. In the rush to depart, none of them examined the fine print on their travel documents: their visas to the Emirates weren’t employment permits but thirty-day travel passes that forbade all work, “paid or unpaid”. And Dubai was just a stopping-off point. They were bound for U.S.

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