Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Price We Pay

The price of the goods we buy is more than just the number on the price tag.

Price Paid by Children
Working at rug looms, for example, has left children disabled with eye damage, lung disease, stunted growth, and a susceptibility to arthritis as they grow older. Children making silk thread in India dip their hands into boiling water that burns and blisters them, breath[e] smoke and fumes from machinery, handle dead worms that cause infections, and guide twisting threads that cut their fingers. Children harvesting sugar cane in El Salvador use machetes to cut cane for up to nine hours a day in the hot sun; injuries to their hands and legs are common and medical care is often not available.

Price Paid by Women
Trafficking networks use deception, the threat and use of physical force, and other forms of coercion to place women from Thailand into debt bondage employment in Japan. The agents and brokers derive enormous profits by "selling" the women for amounts exponentially greater than the costs they have incurred, and this "price" becomes the basis of a woman's debt, which she must repay through months of grueling unpaid labor.

Price Paid by US Workers
The Arizona company had established a call center in Green Bay, Wis., but once the New Jersey contract came through, the call center was relocated to Bombay, India.

"It seems like a race to the bottom," says Turner. "All these jobs are leaving the state and the country, and our unemployment rate continues to climb. We're in a recession and you have to wonder where it ends. The point of the contract was to save money - assuming that these people overseas can do it cheaper and more efficiently. But this is a ruse because we're supposed to help provide jobs to these [unemployed] people here."

The irate Turner continues, "Neither the people in India who have the jobs, nor the people who are unemployed here in the U.S., are giving anything back in the way of taxes or buying and consuming U.S. goods and services, which is what stimulates our economy. By outsourcing these jobs to other countries we're helping the poor remain poor in this country..."

Beyond a certain point, rolling back the price on the tag, turns back the clock on human dignity. Is the dollar you save on that shirt really worth a return to indentured servitude and slavery?


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