From U.S. Corporations, a Chain of Exploitation – People’s Daily – 8-23-12

The NGA published a commentary on corporate abuse of guestworker programs in the English-language and Chinese-language editions of China’s People’s Daily.

From U.S. Corporations, A Chain of Exploitation

By Jennifer J. Rosenbaum and Julie Mao

August 21, 2012

(Chinese-language version below)

Every year, thousands of students from China come to the United States to take part in the U.S. State Department’s J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, along with tens of thousands of other students from around the world. These student guestworkers are promised a cultural exchange: the chance to meet Americans, practice their English, and experience American culture. Instead, many of them have become low-wage laborers for U.S. corporations.

How has this been possible? Because U.S. corporations have grown so powerful—and so unaccountable—that they were able to turn a cultural exchange program into a source of cheap, exploitable labor. And when human rights abuses like these are exposed, the corporations shift blame down their supply chains, hiding behind layers of suppliers and subcontractors.

A case in point is the Hershey’s Chocolate Company. Last summer, 400 university students from China, Mongolia, Thailand, Ukraine, and other countries paid $3,000-6,000 to take part in the J-1 Summer Work Travel program in Hershey, Pennsylvania. When they arrived in the United States, the students found themselves packing chocolates for Hershey’s under brutal conditions. They performed backbreaking work in round-the-clock shifts for as little as $1 an hour after deductions. They were offered no cultural exchange of any kind. When they raised concerns, supervisors responded with threats of firing and deportation.

Hershey’s and its subcontractors had been exploiting student guestworkers in this plant for years without facing accountability. But this time, the story had a different ending. The students reported the labor abuse, and it became a major U.S. and international media story, reaching the pages of the People’s Daily and the front page of the New York Times. Hershey’s tried to lay the blame on its subcontractors, but the students weren’t fooled: They knew Hershey’s was the one profiting from their exploitation, so Hershey’s was the one most responsible.

In the end, the U.S. State Department responded by making key changes to the J-1 Summer Work Travel program in an effort to return it to its original purpose: cultural exchange. The State Department instituted new protections to help ensure that J-1 participants have real opportunities to experience American culture and interact with Americans, and that they have better wages and conditions at their workplaces. There’s still work to be done, but thanks to the courageous action of the Hershey’s student guestworkers, future students from China and other countries who take part in the Summer Work Travel program will be safer from exploitation.

Unfortunately, the exploitation of guestworkers by U.S. corporations doesn’t end with the Summer Work Travel program. In U.S. guestworker programs that have no cultural component, such as the H-2B or H-1B program, corporations treat foreign guestworkers as the ultimate disposable workforce. These corporations don’t see countries such as China and Mexico as rich sources of culture and tradition; they see them as rich sources of exploitable workers.

Take Walmart. As the largest employer in the world, every decision Walmart makes affects millions of workers. Walmart has stores in 130 Chinese cities with annual sales of $7.5 billion. The giant retailer buys from 60,000 suppliers in the U.S. alone. Walmart’s own Standards for Suppliers demand fair wages and working conditions and forbid forced labor among suppliers. But a case that came to light this summer suggests that these standards may not be worth the paper they’re written on.

In June, a group of H-2B guestworkers from Mexico exposed a case of forced labor at a Walmart supplier in Louisiana called C.J.’s Seafood. The guestworkers were forced to work up to 24-hour shifts with no overtime pay, locked into the plant, and faced threats of firing, deportation, and violence against their families back in Mexico to stop them from exposing the abuse.

Faced with a clear case of forced labor, Walmart attempted to cover it up. It failed because of a national outcry, including a petition that was signed by 150,000 people. Under national pressure, Walmart was forced to admit to labor violations at C.J.’s in the pages of the New York Times and to suspend its contract with the supplier. The U.S. Department of Labor also slammed the Walmart supplier for serious and willful violations of federal labor law, demanding over $248,000 in back wages, fines, and penalties.

In spite of this, Walmart is refusing to cooperate with a national investigation to expose and end forced labor across its U.S. supply chain. If Walmart can’t prevent forced labor at a single seafood supplier in rural Louisiana, how can it claim to enforce basic human rights at 60,000 other suppliers in the U.S.?

The greatest threat to the legal rights of workers is the drive by corporations like Walmart and Hershey to push profits ever higher by forcing wages and working conditions down ever lower. The result is abuse and exploitation at every turn: in cultural exchange programs, in guestworker programs, and on factory floors.

Thanks to the bravery of Chinese student guestworkers and H-2B guestworkers from Mexico, the U.S. government has taken the first steps toward reforming and regulating exploitative workplaces and visa programs. But the only way workers’ human rights will be secure is if it can apply the same scrutiny, reform, and regulation to the corporations ultimately responsible. For the many thousands of workers still facing abuse and exploitation, there’s a long way left to go.

(Jennifer J. Rosenbaum is Legal Director and Julie Mao is a Staff Attorney at the National Guestworker Alliance, based in the United States.)

http://usa.people.com.cn/n/2012/0821/c242182-18787686.html


相关阅读:From U.S. Corporations, A Chain of Exploitation

每年都有成千上万名中国学生和数万名来自世界各地的学生来美国参加美国国务院的J-1“暑期打工与旅游项目”(Summer Work Travel Program)。这些学生得到交化交流的承诺——有机会与美国人见面,练习英语并体验美国文化。但他们中许多人却成为美国公司的廉价劳工。

怎么会这样呢?这是因为美国公司已变得如此强大和不负责任,以致于他们能将文化交流项目变成一个剥削廉价劳工的来源。当这种侵犯人权的事件曝光后,这些公司就会躲到各级供应商和分承包商后面,将人们对他们的指责转到他们的供应链上。

好时(Hershey)巧克力公司就是一个相关的案例。去年夏天,400多名来自中国、蒙古和乌克兰等国家的大学生交了3,000到6,000美元参加位于宾夕法尼亚州的好时公司的“暑期打工与旅游项目”。他们到达美国后,被安排在恶劣的条件下为好时公司包装巧克力。他们24小时轮班从事非常辛苦的体力劳动,而他们的工资在扣除后只有1美元/小时。没有人向他们提供任何类型的文化交流。当他们提出他们的顾虑时,主管威胁要解雇他们并将他们驱逐出境。

好时公司及其分承包商多年以来一直在这个工厂剥削学生外来工,但没有人追究他们的责任。但这一次,故事出现一个不同的结局。这些学生进行了滥用劳工的举报,美国和世界各地的媒体报道了他们的故事(并登上了《人民日报》和《纽约时报》的头版)。好时公司试图将指责转给分承包商,但这些学生并没有被好时公司骗了: 他们知道,正是好时公司从他们的剥削中获取利润,好时公司应该负最大的责任。

最后,美国国务院对J-1“暑期打工与旅游项目”做出重大修改,以便使这个项目回到原来文化交流的宗旨上。美国国务院制定了新的保护措施,以协助确保J-1的参加者有真正的机会体验美国文化和与美国人互动,并确保他们有较高的工资,有较好的工作条件。虽然还有工作要做,但由于好时公司的学生外来工勇敢的行为,以后参加“暑期打工与旅游项目”的来自中国和其他国家的学生将没那么容易受到剥削。

遗憾的是,美国公司对外来工的剥削并没有由此终止。在诸如H-2B计划和H-1B计划之类的无文化成分的美国外来工项目中,美国公司仍将外来工当作最终可随意解雇的劳动力。这些公司并没有将中国和墨西哥看成文化与传统的丰富来源;相反,它们把这些国家看成可被剥削工人的丰富来源。

以沃尔玛为例。作为世界上最大的雇主,沃尔玛所做的每个决定都对数百万工人产生影响。沃尔玛在中国的130个城市设店,年销售额达75亿美元。这个零售业巨头仅在美国就有6万个供应商。沃尔玛自身的“供应商准则”规定必须提供公平的工资和工作条件,并禁止供应商使用强迫性劳工。但今年夏天所曝光的一个案件表明,这些准则可能毫无意义。

今年6月,一群来自墨西哥的H-2B劳工曝光了这样一个案件。他们举报了一个沃尔玛的供应商,名叫C.J.海鲜(C.J.’s Seafood)位于 路易斯安那州,使用强迫性劳工。这些外来工被迫轮班工作,每个班次的时间可长达24小时,并且没有加班费。他们被锁在厂里,面对解雇、驱逐出境和对他们在墨西哥的家人实施暴力行为等威胁,其目的是为了防止他们曝光这种不正当行为。

很明显,沃尔玛面对的是一个使用强迫性劳工的个案,但沃尔玛却试图掩盖这种行为。由于受到全国的强烈抗议(包括一份15万人签名的请愿书),沃尔玛掩盖没有成功。在来自全国各地的压力下,沃尔玛被迫在《纽约时报》中承认C.J.海鲜违反劳工规定并中止与该供应商签订的合同。美国劳工部也严厉批评了沃尔玛这家供应商严重和故意违反联邦劳工法的行为,要求该供应商支付248,000美元以上的欠付工资、罚金和罚款。

尽管如此,沃尔玛仍拒绝配合进行全国性调查,以曝光和结束其供应链中使用强迫性劳工的行为。如果沃尔玛无法防止路易斯安那州乡村的一家海鲜供应商使用强迫性劳工,那沃尔玛怎能声称自己督促它在美国的6万个供应商尊守基本人权呢?

诸如沃尔玛和好时之类的公司努力通过不断降低工资和工作条件来不断增加利润,这才是工人法定权利的最大威胁。其结果是,他们会抓住每个机会滥用劳工和剥削劳工,无论是利用文化交流项目、外来工项目还是在工厂车间。

由于中国学生外来工和墨西哥H-2B外来工的勇敢行为,美国政府已率先采取了一些改革和管理剥削性工作场所和签证项目的措施。但美国政府必须对最终负责的公司进行同样的审查、改革和管理,这才是保护工人人权的唯一方式。对于成千上万受到滥用和剥削的工人来说,还有很长一段路要走。

(作者Jennifer J. Rosenbaum和Julie Mao全国外籍劳工联合会National Guestworker Alliance的法律工作者)

 

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