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US-Style Free Trade's Dark Side

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US-Style Free Trade's Dark Side - by Stephen Lendman

Corporate predators seek cheap labor worldwide in countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Haiti, Jordan, and many others. Employed in global sweatshops, they work up to 90 or more hours a week for sub-poverty wages under horrific conditions, enduring harassment, beatings, sexual abuse and rape.

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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;

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-- 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.

The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (IGLHR) "investigates and exposes human and labor rights abuses committed by (transnational) corporations producing goods in the developing world."

Two June reports discussed hellish conditions in Jordanian garment factories, where workers are ruthlessly exploited and abused. According to IGLHR's Charles Kernaghan, they're: 

"stripped of their passports, forced to work (up to) grueling 99 and a half hour work weeks (minimally 78 hours), while being shortchanged of their rightful wages, housed in overcrowded, primitive dorms infested with bedbugs (with no heat or hot water), and subjected to verbal and physical abuse."

In addition, "the food is awful." It's always the same, low quality, and never enough. For breakfast, it's two pieces of stale bread, lentil soup and tea. Lunch is rice and "old chicken." For dinner, women prefer preparing their own meals in their dorm, using an electric hotplate.

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Moreover, despite garments entering America duty-free, under terms of the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA), workers are prohibited from unionizing. In fact, Jordan's Ministry of Labor is complicit by not enforcing Jordan's labor laws.

Indian-owned Classic Fashion Apparel Industry Ltd is Jordan's largest garment export factory, producing clothing for Kohl's, Target, Macy's, Hanes, Wal-Mart, and other companies.

According to witnesses, young Sri Lankan women sewing for Wal-Mart and Hanes suffer routine sexual abuse and rape, even at times torture. If become pregnant, they're forcibly sent home. Moreover, women "who refuse the sexual advances of Classic's managers are also beaten and deported."

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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