Preamble from Belgium
In parts 1 & 2 of this series we first looked at globalization on the macro scale then saw how it affected workers on an individual level before selecting the blue jeans business for scrutiny. In this concluding part we will learn more about Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest single trading company. We will then review the overall situation before going on to explore what other organizations are doing to redress the balance in favor of the majority of the world population.
Wall-Mart in the Global Economy
Wal-Mart has the uncanny knack of knowing the cost price of nearly ever product on earth and uses this as the starting point in their negotiations with sellers. They can get away with this because there are no shortages of companies pursuing them for business. Companies and also the Chinese government seem to have taken the view that Wal-Mart can cover a businesses fixed costs and profits can be taken from their other customers. The problem is that these other customers have to compete with Wal-Mart and want the same low prices. Businesses are willing to deal with Wal-Mart because this is a more effective way of getting their products on shelves from
Andrew Tsuei, Wal-Mart’s Global Procurement Center MD regards Chinas stable currency; political peace and compliant work force to be as important as price. He added “There may be parts of the world you can buy cheaper but can you get the product on the ship. If the currency constantly fluctuates there is a lot of risk,
On the other hand, Wal-Mart sees itself as a force for good in
In the 12 years following 1980, the
And if these developments were not bad enough they are about to get much worse: A new Global Constitution is being written through the organs of NAFTA; GATT; the WTO and now the Multinational Agreement on Investments MAI. They are laying down the laws for a global economy which increasingly allow corporations to go anywhere and do anything they like and prohibit workers and governments that supposedly represent them from doing very much about it. It is a World Law which is applicable to every land but not responsible to any nation or to any group of citizens and you didn’t get to vote for it.
You may take the view that the opportunity is open for everybody to become an entrepreneur so it is wrong to be dog in the manger towards those who made it. If you feel so inclined you may take a risk and open a shop or start a back street garage. And especially if you have put your family home on the line to secure funding for the venture you deserve more of the rewards. Very quickly you realize that the objective of the exercise is not to employ as many people as you can. Perhaps wanting more for less is a human trait, after all isn’t that what the leisure society was all about. What is different now with multinational corporations is that the objective has moved away from making money towards power and control and those at the helm of society not only want more for themselves; after taking your assets and redistributing them to themselves, they want you to have less. For the time being, at least, they still need you as consumers.
What Can be Done?
There is a faint glimmer of hope in that half light of dawn before the sun comes over the horizon. Increasingly, working people are realizing that the globalization of the economy has linked their interests to those of workers in other countries. Workers are beginning to understand that that jobs will not be secure and wages will not rise if corporations are able to exploit foreign workers living under dictatorships and unable to stand up for themselves. This is why more sectors of the trade union movement are building alliances with worker organizations around the world. At the beginning of July 2008, the US union ’‘United Steelworkers’ and the UK union ‘Unite the Union’ merged to form the first link in the proposed global union ‘Workers Uniting’. USW President Leo W. Gerard said “This union is crucial for challenging the power of global capital. Globalization has given financiers license to exploit workers in developing countries at the expense of our members in the developed world. Only global solidarity among workers can overcome this sort of global exploitation wherever it occurs.” This is not just a paper alliance it is a real merger”. This merger is the major step which must be first established but with the US Dollar tanking and jobs likely to follow it down the drain it may be considered by some to be forging a bridge to a sinking ship. Only time will tell. Further links are proposed with worker organizations in many lands. Next under discussion is a bonding with
Can international worker solidarity be effective? In December 2007, workers at Danone’s Minster,
You can gift wrap words like unionization, worker solidarity, fraternity, any way you wish but what it comes down to is the veiled or unveiled threat of strike action – a
One downside is that some at least, remember the 60’s and early 70’s when the power pendulum swung towards the unions. Workers would strike as a first measure of communicating their dissatisfaction to management. Strike first then negotiate afterwards was the motto of the day and Union bosses conducted themselves like mini Mafiosi. If International unionism is to work, then we must be prepared to put the Winter of Discontent behind us and worker representatives must conduct themselves with respectability, dignity and all the guile of their company counterparts.
There are many other organizations working for a more just world society. I will mention just two here; the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) who are conducting a relentless drive to abolish corporate person-hood.
Again the problem is not recognizing the problem but having the muscle to do something about it. If Wall Street wants to cut down an old wood forest, they are not going to discuss the finer points of the deal with Friends of the Earth unless they are made to.
We come to the question of whether the little guy with a one or two man bandwagon can make the big guys fall. I really don’t know if this is possible but Brian Gerrish is one guy who is asking questions that are making many others very uncomfortable. I alluded to his campaign against the organization Common Purpose in a comment in the last post. Nobody is quite sure what Common Purpose actually is but serious people are throwing serious money at it. One thing it does is offer management training schemes which are disguised ‘correct thinking schemes’ where future leaders (persuasive correct thinkers) are trained for rolls throughout all levels of society. The inference, though not directly stated is that this is
and is well worth a watch.
A recent disturbing aspect in the overall world picture of events is the reported ousting of the Neo-Conservatives by the Trilateral Commission for control of the US White House. This makes the whole world picture greatly more unstable. Any negotiations made whilst these people are sitting in the background will be like sitting down to play poker but with your own hand dealt face up on the table. Have we done too little a little too late?
Much of power is about need. For the moment they need us a lot more than we need them but it will come down to timing and who has the better overall strategy. It will take a grass roots Tank Man movement to win the day; or as Howard Beale said “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”. In the meantime it is worth remembering that the purchase choices we make have real consequences. Choosing not to shop at your favorite big box store may cause Chinese workers to loose the little they already have but in any war there are going to be casualties and some of them may be on your own side.
Chinese Workers Pay for Wal-Mart’s Low Prices:
The First Global Trade Union:
Danone Workers Unionise:
Labour is not a Commodity
Women are now equal victims of a poor economy:
New York Times:
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom:
Abolish Corporate Personhood
Global Trade Watch The TRADE Act 2008
Tibet Will be Free
Trilateral Commission takes over White House
Webster G Tarpley:
The Tank Man – Video:
Howard Beale “I’m as mad as hell” clip
From the film “Network”: