Why G20 Protest?

September 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the days before the G20 summit in Toronto, much of the local debate centered around the right to protest/the right of the police to keep the area safe and clear. Many observers who were not involved were completely unsure of why people were even protesting, and simply dismissed protesters as troublemakers with an ambiguous set of causes. Though I agree that a few who showed up were simply troublemakers, the majority of the protesters had every right to be there and had very valid reasons for doing so. There were a large number of individuals representing different groups with specific aims, but I’d like to post an description from the G8/20 Toronto Community Mobilization website in the hope of giving a general picture of why thousands (around 10,000) showed up to protest:

The so called ‘leaders’ and bankers of the twenty richest countries are meeting in Huntsville and Toronto on 25-27 June 2010 at the G8 and G20 Summits. They are meeting to make decisions that will result in more exploitation of people and the environment. They want to ensure that the systems that increase colonization, wars and displacement are maintained. In direct resistance, we are coming together to create a just world that puts people before corporate and elite profit.

The Toronto Community Mobilization Network is collaborating for change in Toronto and in the world.  Join the process; everyone is a part of this work.

The network is a collection of Toronto-based organizers and allies, that will use the fleeting moment of the G8/G20 meetings in Toronto in June 2010 in Ontario to come together and share the work that we do every other day of the year.  We will build the momentum for a movement for Indigenous Sovereignty and Self-Determination, Environmental and Climate Justice, Migrant Justice and an End to War and Occupation, Income Equity and Community Control over Resources, Gender Justice and Queer and disAbility rights.

With power and vision, people of colour, indigenous peoples, women, the poor, the working class, queer and trans people and disabled people will create and lead alternatives; will decide for themselves; will transcend the systems that oppress them and keep them from talking to one another.

Source: http://g20.torontomobilize.org/getinformed

The Definition of a Sweatshop

September 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Definition of a Sweatshop” from the article “Global Sweatshop Wage Slavery” by Stephen Lendman

The term has been around since the 19th century. Definitions vary but essentially refer to workplaces where employees work for poor pay, few or no benefits, in unsafe, unfavorable, harsh, and/or hazardous environments, are treated inhumanely by employers, and are prevented from organizing for redress.

The term itself refers to the technique of “sweating” the maximum profit from each worker, a practice that thrived in the late 19th century.

Webster calls them “A shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages under unhealthy conditions.”

According to the group Sweatshop Watch:

“A sweatshop is a workplace that violates the law and where workers are subject to:

— extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or long hours;
— poor working conditions, such as health and safety hazards;
— arbitrary discipline, such as verbal or physical abuse, or
— fear and intimidation when they speak out, organize, or attempt to form a union.”

It’s mainly a women’s rights issue as 90% of the workforce is female, between the ages of 15 – 25. But it’s also an environmental one as the global economy exacts a huge price through air pollution, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, ocean and fresh water contamination, and an overtaxed ecosystem producing unhealthy, unsafe living conditions globally.

According to the US Department of Labor, a sweatshop is a place of employment that violates two or more federal or state labor laws governing wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation or industry regulation.

To understand the practice, it’s essential to view it in a broader globalization context. In their book titled, “Globalization and Progressive Economic Policy, Dean Baker, Robert Pollin and Gerald Epstein present the opinions of 36 prominent economists, asking:

Does globalization cause inequality? Instability? Unemployment? Environmental degradation? Or is it an engine of prosperity and wealth for the vast majority of people everywhere? They conclude that it can work for good or ill depending on how much control governments, corporations, and individuals exert, but also say:

“….most discussions of globalization hold that the power of nation-states to influence economic activity is eroding as economies become more integrated, while the power of private businesses and market forces is correspondingly rising.”

In other words, the dog that once wagged the tail now is the tail, the result of eroded state sovereignty and powerful private institutions, producing a race to the bottom conducive to exploiting labor – most prominently in poor countries but also in developed ones.

___________________

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. 

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

 

Article 24 states:

“Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”

Source:

“Global Sweatshop Wage Slavery” by Stephen Lendman

http://www.a-w-i-p.com/index.php/2010/02/25/global-sweatshop-wage-slavery

Tariq Ramadan on Anti-Globalization Activists

September 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the article “Globalisation Critics are Naive” Oxford University professor Tariq Ramadan –  a critic of globalization himself – highlights some of the problems within the current movement, discussing the imperialist language of Western activists, their ignorance of other nations and potential partners for the cause  in the Muslim world, and prejudice towards other minorities living in the West who are among those being fought for. Though I do not know enough about the anti-globalization movement in the West to say whether or not I agree with his arguments, I did find the article to be quite interesting. Here are some important points from the piece:

“To such an extent that it is not unusual to meet men and women championing progressive opinions on social, political and economic issues, while their cultural vocabulary still bears the imprint of an old colonial outlook. From forum to forum, one grows accustomed to meeting this new species of activist – a living contradiction of the contemporary left – economically progressive but culturally so imperialist; ready to fight for social justice but at the same time so confident and sometimes arrogant as to assume the right to dictate a universal set of values for everyone.”

-“To advocate another kind of globalisation armed only with Western rationalism against the uniform commodification of the world is not only contradictory, but profound nonsense. “

-“Amid the talk of democracy, social justice, of the struggle against discrimination in employment and housing, of the rejection of racism, of antisemitism and islamophobia, the populations most affected (those living in deprived urban areas, young people of ‘immigrant origin’, Muslims) are virtually absent from the numerous forums where one thinks for them, without them. If they do come along, they are questioned, suspected. ‘What do they want?’ This single question says enough about the contradiction.”

-“Although the impressive size of the protests against the Iraq war must be acknowledged, one has to ask what alternative was really being proposed (beyond saying ‘No to the war’) to counter America’s unilateral stance and its programme of supervised democracy. Absence of awareness about Islam, as much as the fear cultivated and shared at the heart of a caricaturally constructed West, have led those seeking another kind of globalisation to engage in superficial, if not dangerous talk on Islam. Where are the Arab and Muslim alter’-globalisers? How can we reach out to the millions of activists in the Middle East, Africa and Asia who could become the new life blood of the movement? Such is the fear, and so widespread is the suspicion, that it is unimaginable that Muslims, with their convictions and values, might themselves be agents of change.”

-“Blind to the dynamics of social, cultural, economic and political liberation underway across most of the Muslim world (and often expressed within and through Islam) and oblivious to the struggles being fought by European and North American Muslims, the ‘alter’-globalisers continue to cultivate too many prejudices. Convinced that they are progressive, they give themselves the arbitrary right to proclaim the definitively reactionary nature of religions, and if liberation theology has contradicted this conclusion, the possibility that Islam could engender resistance is not even imagined … unless it’s to modernity. In the end, only a handful of ‘Muslims-who-think-like us’ are accepted, while the others are denied the possibility of being genuinely progressive fighters armed with their own set of values: by doing this, the dialogue with Islam is transformed into an interactive monologue which massages ‘our ideological certainties’ just as Huntington wanted to ensure ‘our strategic interests’.”

To read the entire article, please visit:

http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-327/_nr-15/_p-1/i.html

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