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Globalization and Transnational Corporations

by Brittany

I went to an event about "Globalization and Transnational Corporations" that was held on the Campus Center on October 14th. The event was about how big corporations used the North American Free Trade Agreement to set up sweatshops and abuse workers. The event also emphasized that corporations try to convince people that there are no other ways but to set up sweatshops. One of the students who campaigns for Sweat free SUNY performed outside while someone sat down and played the drums. The student also talked and yelled about how people eat can food and how free times are called vacations. It was a very interesting performance. We also watched a video about the living conditions in the maquiadoras. A professor spoke about solutions to sweat shops. And one of the women from the Labor Religion Coalitions talked about the corporate global economy. And a woman who used to work in the maquiadoras also talked about sweatshops.

We also watched a video on people who worked in the maquiadoras. These factories are located on the free trade zone. The video talked about how the Labor Religion Coalitions visit the factory workers' in their homes. The coalitions try to help the people who work in the maquiadoras. They visit them in secret because if they visit the workers in the factories, the factory workers would lose their jobs. Coalitions hold informal classes for children and adults. Labor Religion Coalitions try to hire people full time that would monitor the factory's treatment of the workers. Average households have a food budget of $10.00 a week. The houses are made of cardboard and the factory dumps toxic wastes into the streams where people get their water. The children of the workers in the factory don't go to school. They also have to work in the factories. The workers have 60 hour work weeks. These workers suffer from Carpel tunnel syndrome and they are also exposed to lead. The corporations told Americans that if the factories moved to Mexico, then they would have to pay less for the products. But the prices have not gone down and the prices are always going up. As a result thousands of Americans lost jobs. Wages also fell. Even though the Labor laws in Mexico are stronger than in the U.S., it hasn't been effective because the labor laws are not enforced.

After the video a woman who works in the Labor Religion Coalitions made a speech. She said the Global Corporate Economy is fashioned by transnational corporations and politicians try to make us feel that there are no alternatives. The speaker also said, Corporate Global Economy requires secrecy and free trade and that if we chip away the secrets then we have more power.

A professor also spoke about globalization, international competitiveness and defense of worker's rights. He suggested ways to control corporations from setting up sweatshops and that we can shape globalization. He said North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a free investment agreement. There are laws against people who break corporate laws but there's no law against corporations violating the environment. We value computers more than the children who make the chips that go into the computer. Competition for investment is intensifying to attract and retain investors. There are hyper competitions and as a result 25 factories were created in Chile. Minimum Content of social clause. The social clause will be enforced on a regional level. All companies have to meet those standards. According to the professor the third firm should do the monitoring.

Martha Heda who worked in the maquiadoras many years ago also spoke. She said the conditions shown in the videos are the same as it was ten years ago. She worked in the maquiadoras for about 14 years. Heda worked in factories owned by big companies such as SONY. She emphasized that it's important to realize that we don't have to continue in the same direction. NAFTA has had many negative impacts. Many Americans lost jobs. Wages have dropped by 2 thirds in the U.S. Every year in Mexico every product sold in Mexico went up by eighty-seven cents. Gap between the rich and the poor have widened. This corporate power is not invincible and you can begin to shift power back to the people. The speaker also said despair is the luxury of the rich since poor people don't even have the time to despair. Declaration of Human rights is voluntary and companies may choose to follow by it or not choose to follow by it.

I thought the meeting was very informative. I thought it was good that the speakers emphasized that what happens in the sweatshops in different countries also effect the U.S. And that we're in a similar position even if we don't work in the sweatshops because we buy those products. And as the corporations become richer, they have more power to raise the prices. Since many corporations are now transnational we're affected more by what goes on in different countries. Our health will be affected by the sweatshops in other countries. The sweatshops give off pollution and people who live very far away could be affected by it because many of the countries throw out their waste in the river or in the ocean. In the long term everybody's health would be affected by the pollution. We lose jobs when corporations move to other countries and our wages fall. Since the 1950's, two thirds of our wages fell and this is due to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I thought the video was powerful in showing people how the sweatshop workers live. The speakers also did a great job in emphasizing the fact that sweatshops don't have to exist and that things could change if we take action.

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