The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Peace. love, and 70-hour work weeks

Many of my Republican friends who should know better love to regard the free market (not that such a thing exists) as a magical panacea that will spread freedom and human dignity throughout the world-- oh, and there's a chance that amid all that philanthropy, you might make a little cash for yourself, which would be a tolerably agreeable byproduct.

Of course, there's a slight risk that freedom and goodwill aren't at the top of the agenda, but how likely is that?

There is a gaping hole in "Secrets, Lies, and Sweatshops" -- BusinessWeek's Nov. 27 cover story exposing how Chinese factories evade the efforts of Western audit firms investigating labor standard compliance. Not once does the 3,000-word story refer to China's proposed comprehensive new labor law. It's an odd omission -- you would think that an investigation into the illegal exploitation of labor in China would take the time to at least mention domestic Chinese efforts to improve the legal standing of workers.

The absence becomes even more perplexing after reading an analysis of the new law published in Japan Focus by Earl Brown, a labor lawyer who once served as general counsel to the Teamsters. The law is a carefully constructed attempt to redress the accelerating inequities caused by China opening up its labor force for the world's exploitation. As such, Brown notes, it has come under sustained, vociferous criticism from U.S. employers operating in China who declare that it will raise their costs of doing business, and who have promised that there will be a "flight of capital" to more accommodating nations should the law pass.