Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network Newsletter
February 12, 2001
Volume V, Number 1
Editor & Coordinator: Garrett Brown ("firstname.lastname@example.org")
Webmaster: Heather Block ("email@example.com")
P.O. Box 124, Berkeley, CA 94701-0124
Who We Are
Letter from the Coordinator
NAO hearing on Breed Technologies complaint and its aftermath
Maquila Network testimony at the NAO hearing
Mexican labor flashpoints: Duro Bag and Kukdong
CJM and UNT partnership formed
Asia Project update: China and Indonesia
Asia project slide show makes the rounds
Globalization issues: "monitoring the monitors"
Global Labour Inspection Network formed
Quotes of the Month
WHO WE ARE
The "Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network" is a volunteer network of 400 occupational health and safety professionals who have placed their names on a resource list to provide information, technical assistance and on-site instruction regarding workplace hazards in the over 3,200 "maquiladora" (foreign-owned assembly) plants along the U.S.-Mexico border. Network members, including industrial hygienists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, occupational physicians and nurses, and health educators among others, are donating their time and expertise to create safer and healthier working conditions for the over one million maquiladora workers employed by primarily U.S.-owned transnational corporations along Mexico's northern border from Matamoros to Tijuana. The Support Network is not designed to generate, nor is it intended to create, business opportunities for private consultants or other for-profit enterprises. On the contrary, Network participants will be donating their time and knowledge pro bono to border area workers and professional associations.
The Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network was launched in October 1993 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA). It includes occupational health specialists from Canada, Mexico and the United States who are active in the APHA, American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), National Safety Council (NSC) and the 25 local grassroots Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) groups in the U.S. and Canada. The Support Network is continuously seeking more health and safety professionals and activists to join the network, as well as looking for more border community organizations who can make use of the information and technical assistance offered. Please join us!
Return to TOP
LETTER FROM THE COORDINATOR - Garrett Brown
The moment of truth has arrived for the "NAFTA Success Story," the new presidents of Mexico and the United States, and for Nike and the international anti-sweatshop movement. In short order, we will all find out whether the oft-repeated promises of respect for the rights of workers to choose their own union, of simple respect for the law when it protects workers, and of a "new day of prosperity for all" in the global economy are more than empty words.
Three current cases the NAFTA health and safety complaint filed by workers at Breed Technologies Auto Trim and Custom Trim plants in Matamoros and Valle Hermoso, the Kukdong workers efforts to select their own union and improve conditions at the Puebla plant producing for Nike, Reebok and U.S. universities, and the Duro Bag workers two-year effort to establish their recognized independent union at the Tamaulipas plant producing bags for Hallmark cards illustrate the crossroads at which we have arrived.
The health and safety complaint filed with the U.S. National Administrative Office (see information below) by workers at Auto Trim and Custom Trim represents the "last chance" for the NAFTA labor side agreement process to demonstrate any capacity to improve the conditions of work and treatment of Mexican workers, and especially those working for U.S.-based multinational corporations on the U.S.-Mexico border.
This NAFTA complaint is the last of two dozen submissions presented in the three NAFTA countries, but the handling of the case indicates why many unions, environmental and community-based organizations in North America have completely given up on the process as nothing more than "window-dressing" and a "charade" designed to give the appearance of government action to protect workers. In six years, all of one illegally fired worker has been returned to work in the maquilas, and not a single contract or independent union has been officially recognized, despite all the lengthy submissions, hearings and reports.
NAO officials point out that the NAFTA side agreements were not designed to protect individual workers or resolve specific cases of illegal firings or unsafe conditions and indeed the process has not provided those protections but rather the NAO process is designed to identify areas where the NAFTA governments have failed to enforce existing laws and to improve the implementation of these regulations.
The most telling sign of the utter failure of this process is a January 31st letter sent to the attorney of the Auto Trim and Custom Trim workers from the U.S. NAO office at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington. In the letter, the head of U.S. NAO office reports that seven months after the July 3, 2000, filing of the NAFTA complaint, the Mexican government has yet to provide any documents regarding the submission. A process whose only purpose is to evaluate the activities of Mexican government agencies to protect workers has failed to even to obtain the cooperation of the Mexican government to provide photocopies of documents.
Presidents George Bush and Vicente Fox have stated that it is the "success of NAFTA" and its side agreements that make it imperative to extend NAFTA to the entire Western Hemisphere through the proposed "Free Trade Agreement of the Americas."
In the Duro Bag Manufacturing case, 1,200 workers have been trying for two years to get the Mexican government to implement its own laws protecting workers right to select their own union. Duro Bag is a Kentucky-based corporation who sells paper products to the giant Hallmark card company among others. The workers followed all the rules in electing a new union leadership in February 1999, but have suffered repeated attacks by the plant management, officials of the government-controlled national union, local political figures and the state police. The reform union presidents home in Rio Bravo was first ransacked and then later burned to the ground by "unknown parties" last October.
On January 31st, the independent union, formed by the workers in June 2000, was recognized again as a legitimate union with the right to represent Duro Bags workers. Another hearing will be held on February 19th to set a date for a secret ballot union representation election where the independent union will compete with government-dominated unions.
The Duro Bag case, like that of the Han Young case in Tijuana before it, is a classic example of Mexicos labor law has been used to victimize rather than protect workers seeking to exercise their rights under Mexican and international law. President Vicente Fox has declared that the "bad old days" of the 70-year rule of PRI party governments is over. He has a chance to prove it at Duro Bag.
At the Kukdong plant in Puebla state, the U.S. student anti-sweatshop movement, the international campaign around conditions in Nikes plants, and the Mexican-led movement to improve conditions in the maquiladoras have suddenly come together.
Kukdong, a Korean multinational that operates plants in Brazil and Indonesia as well as Mexico, produces U.S. university-logo clothing as well as other items for Nike and Reebok. The plant is a textbook case of how "protection contracts" in the maquiladora industry work, and it will be an acid test for implementation of university and corporate "codes of conduct," as well as for the Mexican government.
According to a January 25th report by attorney Arturo Alcalde, a widely-respected labor lawyer asked to investigate the case by the International Labor Rights Fund, the union contract between Kukdong and the government-dominated FROC-CROC union was signed before operations began at the facility. The contract also contained no wage scale provisions, according to Alcalde, but, as per Mexican law, prohibited any other union on site because a union (FROC-CROC) already existed when the plant was opened.
On January 9, 2001, the plants 800 workers struck over the firings of 25 workers, literally "rotten food" in the plant cafeteria, low wages (averaging $3.80 to $4.30 a day), forced overtime, and to establish an independent, member-controlled union at the plant. Police violence occurred later in the month, sending 15 people to the hospital emergency room with two being later admitted.
Due to an international outcry about the case, the plant management signed an agreement on January 13th to reinstate all the fired workers, but some strikers have been prevented from returning to work, according to Alcalde and others. Armed police are now inside the plant, according to reports.
In addition to Alcaldes report, the Workers Rights Consortium, established by the United Students Against Sweatshops and involving 67 universities, sent its Executive Director to investigate the case. The ILRF and WRC reports issued on January 25th both called for reinstatement of all workers fired since January, implementation of Mexican laws allowing workers to select their own union, and improvements in wages, working conditions and treatment of workers.
Nike, which has been the focus of an international campaign as Kukdongs major customer, is awaiting the report of a third investigative team to the plant put together by the Verite monitoring organization. The Verite report is to be given to Kukdong, Nike, Reebok, the universities whose products are produced at the plant, and the Fair Labor Association, on February 15th.
The Kukdong case is a classic example of how business is done in the maquiladora industry: using legal provisions to establish "protection contracts" between employers and government-dominated unions prior to the opening of the facility, then use of the arcane, lengthy procedures to make the establishment of member-controlled unions virtually impossible, and, finally, the use of firings, forced resignations and violence when all else fails.
How the Kukdong case is finally resolved will show how much things have, or have not changed, in the new presidency of Vicente Fox; how serious U.S. universities are about enforcing their own codes of conduct for licensees; and how serious Kukdong, Nike and Reebok are about obeying Mexican and international law, and implementing their own codes of conduct.
The future of health and safety, as well as other labor practices, in the maquiladoras of Mexico will be plain to see in how these three cases are resolved. It will also be instructive to see what roles are played in this resolution by the U.S. and Mexican governments, the U.S.-based multinationals, the plants management and local political figures, and the international movement of non-governmental organizations working to end sweatshops in the global economy.
Return to TOP
NAO HEARING ON BREED TECHNOLOGIES COMPLAINT & AFTERMATH
On December 12, 2000, a dozen workers from the Auto Trim and Custom Trim maquiladoras in Matamoros and Valle Hermoso, Mexico, gave first-hand witness testimony before a public hearing of the U.S. National Administrative Office (NAO) about their four-year effort to improve health and safety in the plants. The workers were joined by occupational health and safety experts from the U.S. and Mexico, including ergonomist Lida Orta-Anes with the United Auto Workers union, health educator Linda Delp of the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) at UCLA, toxicologist Dr. Francisco Mercado of the CILAS research center in Mexico City, and Network Coordinator Garrett Brown.
The San Antonio, Texas, hearing was held in response to a complaint filed in July 2000 under the labor side agreement of NAFTA charging that three Mexico government agencies the Department of Labor, the Department of Health, and the Mexican Social Security Institute have failed to enforce existing workplace health and safety regulations at the two plants operated by the Florida-based Breed Technologies Inc. The U.S. NAO, housed at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC, is charged with investigating the complaint filed by the workers, the Coalition of Justice in the Maquiladoras (CJM), the Pastoral Juvenil Obrera (PJO), and more than a dozen other organizations in the three NAFTA countries.
The workers described in detail their workplace exposures to adhesives, solvents and other chemicals, and the ergonomic hazards of their work, all of which have produced widespread adverse health effects in the plants. The workers began working in 1996 to bring these conditions to the attention of plant management and to various Mexican government agencies, including filing formal, written complaints with government agencies in 1998 and 1999. Many of the workers at the hearing were fired in 1999 after the entire plant went on strike for several days to protest inaction by Breed to control workplace hazards. After repeated, unsuccessful efforts to get Mexican agencies to investigate their complaints, the workers filed the NAO complaint under NAFTA in July 2000.
The testimony of occupational health professionals centered on the known hazards associated with chemical exposures, and the impact of uncontrolled ergonomic hazards. The responsibilities of the Mexican government to enforce its own workplace safety regulations, which are roughly equivalent to those in the U.S., was also detailed (see Network testimony below).
At the hearing, Breed Technologies declined to present any information publicly but had its vice president of legal affairs and a local attorney observe the testimony. Following the hearing, however, Breed went on the offensive providing the U.S. NAO with numerous documents, including records purportedly documenting a dozen Mexican government inspections of the two plants, and inviting NAO staff members to a guided tour of the facilities. Breed refused to allow any representatives of the complainants to participant in the show tour of the plants.
NAO staff members were joined on the late January plant tours by two occupational health specialist from the Cincinnati headquarters of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The U.S. government delegation met separately with workers from the Auto Trim plant in Matamoros, but abruptly canceled a meeting outside the plant with workers from Custom Trim.
In January 2001 the NAO went back on promises made at the December 12th hearing in San Antonio that the U.S. NAO would immediately provide the complainants with all relevant documents received by the NAO. Attorneys for the workers had to file a formal Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the records. The documents had vital information blacked out when they finally arrived.
Some four inches of NAO documents were received on February 1st, but the NAO reported that it was already writing its report on the case, which it expected to be issued in final form within several weeks. The NAO also reported that seven months after the NAO complaint was filed, the Mexican government had not provided a single document requested by the U.S. NAO related to this case.
Representatives of the workers, CJM and PJO have strongly protested the U.S. NAOs handling of the complaint since the December hearing. Attorney Monica Schurtman noted that the NAOs delay in providing the documents until after the NAO report-writing was already underway; the invitation-only show tours of the plants years after the complaints were initially filed by the workers with the Mexican government; and the cancellation of the meeting with Custom Trim workers calls into question the credibility and truthfulness of the information being stage-managed by Breed Technologies on behalf of the Mexican government.
The NIOSH representatives are writing a report on the plant visits on the plant tours, but it is not clear whether the NAO report will incorporate this information. The U.S. NAO report will be reviewed internally at the U.S. Department of Labor, and is reportedly to be issued by March 1st.
Photo-journalist David Bacon wrote two comprehensive articles on the hearing and the status of the NAO complaint process, which were published in the December 29-January 4, 2001, Los Angeles Weekly, and the January 22nd issue of The Nation. These articles, and other useful background pieces, are available from Bacon at firstname.lastname@example.org . Larry Weiss of the Resource Center of the Americas in Minneapolis has also written an evaluation of the NAO process entitled "NAFTA Labor Side Deal: From Useless to Dangerous" in the last issue of the "Working Together" newsletter, available at www.americas.org .
Return to TOP
MAQUILA NETWORK TESTIMONY AT THE NAO HEARING
The following is an excerpt of the testimony presented by Network Coordinator Garrett Brown to the December 12, 2000, hearing in San Antonio, TX, by the U.S. NAO.
"The NAO has two fundamental responsibilities with regard to this submission:
o To determine what violations, if any, of Mexican law occurred at Auto Trim and Custom Trim, that is, violations of workplace health and safety regulations; and
o To determine if the Mexican government, as represented by several related agencies, failed in a persistent manner to enforce the appropriate regulations at the two plants.
The NAO will receive extensive testimony from workers at the facilities regarding the hazards on site, and from technical experts on what Mexican law requires of employers, and the Mexican government itself to identify, evaluate and control these hazards. The NAO may also receive testimony from Breed Technologies and from Mexican government institutions on their activities in these workplaces.
With regard to the NAOs first investigative responsibility, I have submitted a collection of written materials with this testimony to assist the NAO in this area. These materials are included in Appendices 1 through 6. The appendices consist of: possible questions the NAO may wish to ask Breed Technologies corporate managers, the plant managers at Auto Trim and Custom Trim, and officials on the corresponding Mexican government agencies (Appendix 1); toxicological information on the most commonly used chemicals on site (Appendix 2); the list from Breed Technologies website of "forbidden" and "restricted" chemicals (Appendix 3); copies of peer-reviewed articles on occupational health and safety issues in the maquiladora plants along the U.S.-Mexican border (Appendix 4); text and information on the reglamentos internos of the STPS and its Direccion General de Medicina y Seguridad en el Trabajo (Appendix 5); and relevant conventions of the International Labor Organization (Appendix 6).
The lists of possible questions for company managers and government officials are designed to elicit the specific information needed by the NAO to evaluate whether the company has met its responsibilities under the law, and whether the government agencies responded as required to the workers request for plant inspections.
In my experience, employer presentations on their health and safety programs are often long on generalities and expressed good intentions, and considerably less impressive in their actual implementation on the shop floor. My review of the submitted complaint and the worker affidavits indicates that this is the case with Breed Technologies facilities. The questions I have submitted will hopefully illuminate the actual implementation of health and safety protections at Auto Trim and Custom Trim, rather than corporate public relations statements and claims.
In particular, it would be interesting to know what precautions Breed Technologies has undertaken to protect workers with exposures to at least four chemical substances 1,1,1-tricholoethane, toluene, acetone, hexane and its isomers which appear on company lists of "forbidden" and "restricted" chemical substances (see Appendix 3). Toluene is regulated by the State of California as a reproductive health hazard, a toxin that would be of concern with the heavily female workforces at Auto Trim and Custom Trim.
Workers at the two plants are exposed to these substances when they use "Varsol 18" solvent, "Hallmark 7158" adhesive, Wilsonart "WA 110" adhesive, Loctite "X-NMS" solvent, and HBCC-brand 1,1,1-trichloroethane. The safety programs which the employer is required by Mexican law to implement include: hazard communication with employees to inform them of hazards and control measures; engineering controls, such as effective local exhaust ventilation, to reduce or eliminate airborne exposures; and appropriate gloves (which have different break-through times for specific chemicals) to prevent dermal exposures.
The NAO will need accurate, reliable information on these issues and I hope the attached list of questions will be of assistance.
With regard to the second investigative goal determining the adequacy of the response of Mexican government agencies I would like to make a comparison with the Han Young NAO complaint evidence.
As you recall, the NAO complaint at Han Young was based on an analysis of three inspections of the workplace conducted by the state and Federal STPS offices. The inspection reports indicated that at least 11 inspections (both state and Federal) had been made at that plant.
The inspection reports documented very serious hazards and regulatory violations at the Han Young plant, and also documented that the employer failed to correct these hazards over a period of at least two years. The reports also showed that the STPS failed in its responsibility to enforce hazard abatement and to levy financial penalties for employer non-compliance.
As bad as the Han Young case was, the Breed Technologies case is worse.
Despite two separate, detailed and specific complaints from workers about violations of Mexican health and safety regulations in their workplaces, the STPS has not conducted any inspections of the Auto Trim and Custom Trim plants, as far as anyone can ascertain.
There are indications that some type of official visit occurred in early August 1998, and that some type of inspection was scheduled for May 13, 1999. The employees of Auto Trim and Custom Trim, including those who were members of the plant health and safety committee during this period, have never been informed of any such inspections, did not participate in any such inspections, and have never received any written report or other notification of the results of these inspections, if, in fact, they occurred at all.
At Han Young, at least the STPS carried out inspections and generated reports, which, although not entirely comprehensive, were accurate and compelling in both their findings and the hazard controls they mandated.
At Auto Trim and Custom Trim, it appears the no inspections have been conducted in response to the workers complaints, or that secret "inspections" without the required participation of the workers and the plants health and safety commissions. Moreover, the unsafe and unhealthy conditions at Auto Trim and Custom Trim described by the workers and confirmed by their injuries and adverse health effects, have not been abated either by the STPS and other agencies, or by the company itself.
This persistent failure to identify regulatory non-compliance and order corrective action of the part of several Mexican government agencies violates numerous national and international laws and regulations adopted by the Mexican government, including the Reglamento Federal and Normas Oficiales Mexicanas related to workplace safety and health, the Reglamentos Internos of the agencies themselves, several conventions of the International Labor Organization, and, of course, the NAALC.
As I noted in February 1998, part of the Mexican governments failure to enforce its own regulations is due to the austerity programs imposed on Mexico by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and related institutions. The impact of these international financial agencies, and the process of "economic globalization" itself, severely undermines the political will of the Mexican government to enforce its regulations with transnational corporations (such as Breed) generating hard currency desperately needed to pay off foreign bankers. The dictates of imposed austerity, however, cannot be a justification for workplace conditions and the failure of regulatory enforcement that threaten the lives of Mexican workers.
The purpose of our complaint and my testimony today is not to "bash Mexico" or to attack individual STPS managers. In fact, the conditions at Auto Trim and Custom Trim are not unique among the more than 3,200 maquiladoras now employing 1.2 million workers along the US-Mexico border and other parts of Mexico.
Our purpose is to shed light on conditions and official inaction which pose a threat to workplace safety not only at Auto Trim and Custom Trim, but throughout the maquila industry, and through all of North America as the "lowest common denominator" of economic global integration drives down workplace health and safety in Canada, Mexico and the United States alike.
Return to TOP
MEXICAN LABOR FLASHPOINTS: DURO BAG AND KUKDONG
The history of both these cases is long and winding, and much too complicated to describe in detail here. However, the following websites have a wealth of information, from different perspectives, on the events and issues.
Campaign for Labor Rights: www.summersault.com/~agj/clr
Fair Labor Association: www.fla.org
International Labor Rights Fund: www.laborrights.org
Nike Inc.: www.nikebiz.com
United Students Against Sweatshops: www.usasnet.org
Workers Rights Consortium: www.workersrights.org
Duro Bag Co. case:
Campaign for Labor Rights: www.summersault.com/~agj/clr
Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras: email@example.com
Duro Bag Co., Ludlow, KY: 800-879-3876
Return to TOP
CJM AND UNT PARTNERSHIP FORMED
In October 2000, the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras (CJM) and the National Union of Workers (UNT) of Mexico issued a joint declaration establishing collaboration to improve the conditions of work of the more than one million maquiladora workers on the U.S.-Mexico border. This marks the first time that a Mexican union federation and a tri-national organization including members outside of Mexico have joined forces to establish independent unions and improved working conditions in the 3,200 maquila plants.
The three objectives of the new alliance were stated as: a living wage; defense of the rights of women (end to discrimination and sexual harassment); and healthy and safe workplaces, with an emphasis on reproductive health hazards for the majority female workforce. Other areas of joint work included the promotion of the rights of workers to form unions free of company or government control, and the right to member-controlled collective bargaining to eliminate the widespread practice of "protection contracts" signed by government-controlled unions without the consent, or even knowledge, of the plants workers.
A joint meeting of leadership bodies of the UNT and the CJM was held in Mexico City in January 2001 to elaborate specific projects and areas of collaboration. A report on the fruits of the leadership meeting is expected shortly.
The CJM was formed in 1989 and includes over 100 labor, religious, community and environmental groups from Canada, Mexico and the United States. The UNT, which claims 1.5 million members, was formed in 1997 as the major federation of Mexican unions independent of the government-controlled CTM, CROC, CROM federations. The UNTs most prominent member unions include the telephone workers, social security workers, flight attendants and the FAT federation.
Return to TOP
ASIA PROJECT UPDATE: CHINA AND INDONESIA
In November 2000, Betty Szudy of the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at UC Berkeley and Network Coordinator Garrett Brown spent a week in Hong Kong and southern China meeting with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international shoe companies about a proposed health and safety training project in China.
Agreement in principle was reached to hold an four-day, in-plant training in Shenzhen Province involving production workers, supervisors and representatives of Hong Kong NGOs to build the capacity of participants to recognize, evaluate and document workplace hazards, and to establish the groundwork for plant health and safety committees including worker members. The project will include post-training technical assistance for the workplace health and safety committees and an evaluation of the projects successes and applicability to other parts of Asia and the world.
A Coordinating Committee to organize the project, with representatives of the NGOs, factory managers and brand-name retailers, will be formed in February. Szudy and Brown will travel to Hong Kong and Shenzhen Province in early March to conduct a needs assessment with the 75 designated participants for the June-July 2001 training, and to work with the Coordinating Committee on the logistics of first-of-its-kind training.
Szudy and Brown will also travel to Jakarta, Indonesia, in March to meet with staff members of the LIPS labor information center who coordinated the June 2000 training with Indonesian unions and NGOs. The Jakarta meetings will include discussions with training participants to develop plans for a one or two day follow-up, "refresher" training, and for a second four-day training with a new group of union and NGO staffers and activists. The Indonesia trainings are tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2001.
Financial support for these projects comes from a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to MIT Professor Dara ORourke and Network Coordinator Garrett Brown.
Return to TOP
ASIA PROJECT SLIDE SHOW MAKES THE ROUNDS
A slide show from the June 2000 Indonesia training and visits to sports shoe factories in China was presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Boston in November 2000. Speaking at the presentation were Diane Bush and Betty Szudy of the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at UC Berkeley and Network Coordinator Garrett Brown. The event drew a large audience from APHAs Occupational Health and Safety Section, the original sponsor of our Maquila Network.
Bush, Szudy and Brown previewed the slide show in September at an event at the state office building in Oakland, CA, hosted by the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Health Services and the California Public Health Association-Norths Occupational and Environmental Health Section.
Later in November 2000, Brown presented the slides again as the featured speaker at the first annual dinner of alumni of the Environmental Health Sciences Division of UC Berkeleys School of Public Health. Brown also spoke with the slides at the 10th annual conference of the California Industrial Hygiene Council in Redondo Beach, CA, in December 2000.
Return to TOP
GLOBALIZATION ISSUES: MONITORING THE MONITORS
How to verify that the numerous corporate "codes of conduct" are implemented in factories around the world has become one the key questions for improving workplace health and safety in the global economy.
Codes of conduct are only pieces of paper unless they are actually implemented on the shop floor. Consumers, anti-sweatshop activists and occupational health and safety professionals all depend on "internal," "third-party" and "independent" monitors to competently and truthfully report on what conditions actually exist in the plants.
The usefulness of monitoring reports by some of the largest and most used commercial "labor practice auditors" and other "third-party" monitors have been called into question by a series of scathing reports and journal articles. These articles should provoke a "pause to wonder" if any of the reports from "social auditors" like PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) -- who reported conducting 6,000 factories around the world last year are worth the paper they are written on.
Recommended reading in this area includes:
- September 28, 2000, "Monitoring the Monitors: A critique of PWC Labor Monitoring" report by MIT professor Dara ORourke on PWC audits in China, Korea and Indonesia, available at: web.mit.edu/dorourke/.
- October 2000, "Report of the Independent University Initiative" year-long study of plant conditions and monitoring practices commissioned by Harvard, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, and the University of California, available at www.ucop.edu/ucophome/coordrev/policy/initiative-report.pdf .
- October 2, 2000, "Inside a Chinese Sweatshop: A Life of Fines and Beatings" article by Aaron Bernstein in Business Week magazine, available at www.businessweek.com .
- November 6, 2000, "A World of Sweatshops: Progress is slow in the drive for better conditions" article by Aaron Bernstein, et. al., in Business Week magazine, available at www.businessweek.com .
- December 18, 2000, "Sweatshop Swindlers" article by Jennifer Ehrlich, South China Morning Post about monitoring in China, available at www.scmp.com .
- December 2000, "Monitoring Mattel; codes of conduct, workers and toys in southern China," report by May Wong and Stephen Frost of the Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC) in Hong Kong, available from firstname.lastname@example.org .
There are a growing number of websites and email bulletins that cover the issue of labor practices, codes of conduct, and monitoring that are worth tracking for current information. See the listings below in the New Resources section, and also consult the Networks website (www.igc.apc.org/mhssn) for organizational links.
Return to TOP
GLOBAL LABOUR INSPECTION NETWORK FORMED
Two of the worlds labor inspectors Fernanda Giannasi of Brazil and John Graversgaard of Denmark have launched a "Global Labour Inspection Network" (GLIN) and are seeking new members.
The founding document of the GLIN was issued in November 2000 and is entitled "Principle on labour inspection Defending the fundamentals of labour inspection against neoliberalism." Copies of the document are available from Graversgaard at email@example.com or Garrett Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Once the GLIN reaches "critical mass" (it is still recruiting founding members), Graversgaard reported that the network will be active in:
- fighting corruption and marginalization of labour inspectorates;
- reviewing the ILO convention on labour inspection (Convention 81 adopted in 1947);
- organizing independent conferences on the role of labour inspection;
- supporting international campaigns on worker health and safety, such as the "ban asbestos" campaign; and
- monitoring multinational corporations.
Further information on GLIN is available from the founders Graversgaard and Giannasi (email@example.com) .
Return to TOP
- The Network has embarked on a fund-raising campaign with the goal of raising enough money in 2001 to support a half-time coordinator for the Network. Presently the Network is an all-volunteer effort and the work has grown beyond the capacity of the volunteer coordinator to meet all the requests for assistance on the U.S.-Mexico border, to collaborate with new partners in Asia, and to effectively coordinate the growing numbers of occupational health professionals willing to donate their time and expertise for Network projects. Supported by a much appreciated private donation, the Network is working with Bay Area grant writer Helen Matzger and will be submitting letters and proposals to two dozen foundations and other funders. Anyone with suggestions for potential donors or funding sources should please contact Coordinator Garrett Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The "Third Annual Encuentro on the Border Environment" will be held in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 26-29th. The gathering brings together numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations from both sides of the border to discuss the state of the borders ecological and social environment, including the impact of the maquiladoras on their workers and the communities which surround the maquilas. For more information on the conference contact Evelyn Alvarez at 520-626-8197 or visit their website at www.encuentrofronterizo.org.
- Two key newsletters "Mexican Labor News and Analysis" edited by Dan LaBotz and "Working Together" of the Resource Center of the Americas in Minneapolis are now being published on-line at the website of the Resource Center: www.americas.org. Working Together has actually stopped being published, but the web site has a wealth of useful information on issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border, and email messages with alerts about articles of interest on the website can be sent by contacting email@example.com. LaBotzs excellent MLNA newsletter has moved from a weekly to monthly format, but it is still packed with lots of essential information. Direct subscriptions to the free newsletter are available by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with "subscribe" in the subject line.
- Other useful cyber informational resources include: 1) Robert Sensers "Human Rights for Workers" semi-monthly email bulletin, available at www.senser.com ; 2) the New Economy Information Services "Globalization, Labor, Whats in the News" weekly email bulletin, available at www.newecon.org ; and 3) the weekly email bulletin "MaquilaMarket" published by Mexico Online, Inc., available at www.MexOnline.com .
- Last April Network Coordinator Garrett Brown was asked to chair a national "Sweatshops Task Force" for the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Composed of eight members of AIHA technical committees (International Affairs, Management and Social Concerns), the Task Force has produced a 16-page White Paper, including 15 recommended actions for the AIHA Board of Directors, and a proposed Policy Statement for the association on the issue. The AIHA Board will consider approval of the White Paper and Policy Statement at its March 2001 meeting in Washington, DC. If the Board approved the documents, AIHA committees will be authorized and directed to reach out to other professional as well as worker- and community-based organizations in the U.S. and internationally to work on key issues related to eliminating sweatshops in the global economy.
- Network Coordinator Garrett Brown was interviewed in a five-page article entitled "Double Standards: U.S. Manufacturers Exploit Lax Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement in Mexicos Maquiladoras" in the November 2000 issue of Multinational Monitor. The Ralph Nader-founded magazine can be accessed at www.essential.org/monitor. Brown also authored a "Your Turn" column in the September 2000 Industrial Safety and Hygiene News entitled "Stepping up to the plate Your role in the new world of health and safety." The National Safety Councils monthly magazine, "Safety + Health," ran an article by Paige Bierma on the maquiladora health and safety in its September 2000 issue entitled "South of the Border," in which Brown was also interviewed.
Return to TOP
QUOTES OF THE MONTH
"You have in southern China all the factors working against the auditors. There are the multinationals, which want low labour costs; the factory managers, who dont like us because of fines for non-conformity; even the local Chinese government in many places, which wants the business and does not want it threatened. All this is working against the cause of the workers
"Right now, in labour-intensive industries in southern China, the SA 8000 standard (Social Accounting 8000 monitoring system) cannot be enforced effectively. All of the factories that are SA 8000 and manufacture products for multinationals have been audited over and over again. We audit them, and often they have their own internal monitoring groups. But as with McDonalds and Nike and others, the factories always find a way around the auditors."
-- Sangem Hsu Shuaijun, head of the southern China office of the Norwegian monitoring company Det Norske Veritas, quoted in a South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) December 18, 2000, article entitled "Sweatshop Swindlers."
"Addressing the backlash against globalization: What we are witnessing is not a backlash but pangs of birth. And it is not against globalization but for a new internationalism.
"This movement for a new internationalism is building from the bottom up, not the top down. It features democratic protest, not corporate deals. Its forum is the public square, not the boardroom. And its promise is to remake the global economy so that it begins to work for working people all over the world.
"We should be celebrating this new movement. Too much attention has been given to the few who are violent, and too little to the remarkable discipline of the many to non-violence.
"How remarkable it is that millions of young people are communicating about sweatshops across the world wide web.
"How exciting that many feel morally compelled to protest the inhumane conditions that workers face in countries on the other side of the globe.
"How encouraging that children are calling their parents to account for the abuse of child labor.
"How extraordinary that workers in industrialized countries will pressure companies in solidarity with workers in poorer and weaker countries. Or that workers, environmentalists, religious leaders and students are coming together to call for workers rights and human rights and consumer and environmental protections in the global economy.
"A new morning is dawning and we should rejoice in it."
-- John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2001.
Return to TOP
- "MexRegs" is an online source for English and Spanish texts of Mexican occupational and environmental health and safety regulations. The commercial service provides an electronic newsletter as well as search engines for both English and Spanish versions of the regulations. The service can be accessed at www.mexregs.com .
- "Labor in Mexico: At the Crossroads," February 2001 issue of Borderlines newsletter with articles by Dan LaBotz and David Bacon, published by the Border Information and Outreach Service (BIOS) of the Interhemispheric Resource Center in New Mexico, available on-line at www.irc-online.org/bordline/.
- "Always Near, Always Far: The Armed Forces in Mexico," an English translation published by Global Exchange of a Mexican book of 16 chapters written by 11 authors on the Mexican militarys history, internal role, role in the U.S.-directed "drug war" and relations with the U.S. military, available at www.globalexchange.org.
- "Allies Across the Border: Mexicos Authentic Labor Front and Global Solidarity," book by Dale Hathaway, published in October 2000, available from South End Press at email@example.com.
- "Lives on the Line, Dispatches from the U.S.-Mexico Border," book by Miriam Davidson, documents the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, published in 2000, available from the University of Arizona Press at www.uapress.arizona.edu.
- "NAFTAs Labor Side Agreement: Withering as an effective labor law enforcement and MNC compliance strategy," 39-page report by Mario F. Bognanno and Jiangfeng Lu , available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
- "The Making of NAFTA: How the Deal Was Done," book by Maxwell Cameron and Brian Tomlin, published by Cornell University Press in 2000.
- "Sweatshops in Chicago: A survey of working conditions in low-income and immigrant communities," report by the Center for Labor & Community Research and the Center for Impact research, available from the Center for Labor & Community Research at www.clcr.org.
- "Unfair Advantage: Workers Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards," report by Human Rights Watch (written by Lance Compa), available on-line at www.hrw.org/reports/2000/uslabor.
- "Harmonization Alert" is a bi-monthly newsletter of the Public Citizen Foundation and carries many articles on efforts under NAFTA and other trade treaties to "harmonize" standards around the world, including workplace health and safety standards. The newsletter is available free of charge by mail, list serve and on-line at www.harmonizationalert.org. For more information contact: Dion Casy at email@example.com or Mary Bottari at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202-546-4996.
- "Labour Practices in the Footwear, Leather, Textile and Clothing Industries," an 83-page report from the International Labor Organizations (ILO), published in October 2000, available from the ILO at www.ilo.org.
- "Disney Sweatshops; Its a small world after all," article in the Maquila Network Update (Canada) reporting the results of a report from the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee on 12 Chinese factories producing toys for Disney. Article available at www.maquilasolidarity.org.
- "Women Behind the Labels: Worker Testimonies from Central America," eight interviews of women leaders of textile and banana workers in Guatemala and Honduras, published by STITCH and Canadas Maquila Solidarity Network, available for $5 from STITCH, 4933 South Dorchester Street, Chicago, IL 60615.
- "The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism," new book by David Korten, published by Kumarian Press in 2000, 336 pages, available at www.kpbooks.com.
- "Views form the South: The effects of Globalization and the WTO on Third World Countries," edited by Sarah Anderson, published by Food First Books and the International Forum on Globalization in 2000, 208 pages, available from 800-243-0138.
- "Human Rights Horizons: The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World," book by Richard A. Falk, published by Routledge Press in 2000, 270 pages.
- "Globalization From Below: The Power of Solidarity," book by Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello and Brendan Smith, published by South End Press in 2000, 184 pages, available at email@example.com.
- "Inequality in the Global Village," book by Jan Kippers Black, published by the Kumarian Press in 2000, 275 pages, available at www.kpbooks.com.
- "By the Sweat and Toil of Children: An Economic Consideration of Child Labor," volume VI of the US Department of Labors series on child labor around the world, published by the International Child Labor Program of the Labor Departments Bureau of International Affairs, available on-line at www.dol.gov/dol/ilab/public/media/reports/iclp/sweat6/overview.htm.
- "Global Economic Prospects and the Developing Countries 2000," 250-page report from the World Bank, available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
- "Women in the Americas: Bridging the Gender Gap," 222-page report from the Inter-American Development Bank, available from email@example.com.
- "World Labour Report 2000: Income Security and Social Protection in a Changing World," 321-page report by the International Labor Organization, available at www.ilo.org/public/english/support/publ/books.htm.
- "The Equity Gap: A Second Assessment," 331-page report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), available on-line at www.cepal.org/conference2/index.htm.
Return to TOP
END OF NEWSLETTER - VOL. V, NO. 1 - February 12, 2001
BACK TO MHSSN HOME PAGE