by Michael Thompson, Contributing Writer
Wal-Mart stores have been selling red-white-and-blue T-shirts that were especially popular prior to the Fourth of July. They display a map of the U.S.A., awkwardly patterned with the Stars & Stripes obliterating the Pacific Northwest. They are a real bargain at only $2, although they give an appearance that the map and the flag may fade quite quickly when washed, after all, the name of the manufacturer is “Faded Glory.” Is that a metaphor for how these sweat-shop cheap imports are contributing to global poverty? The shirts are made in Guatemala, by workers who earn an average of 53 cents an hour.
According to the organization Globalization and the Poor, average Third World hourly wages for apparel workers are 13 cents in Bangladesh, 26 cents in Vietnam, 34 cents in Indonesia, 44 cents in China, 49 cents in Haiti, and 75 cents in Nicaragua. This makes average pay in places like El Salvador ($1.38) and the Dominican Republic ($1.62) seem downright lucrative.
Some globalization apologists argue that U.S. companies actually are paying more than domestic manufacturers in the Third World, and that if the Americans were to pull out, global poverty would become even more severe.
There’s a solution, according the group Global Watch – an international minimum wage. All sorts of trade agreements are governed under the World Trade Organization. Why not this?
And the next time you see an item or a product that displays a U.S. flag, check the label!
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