Imagine This Was Your Life

Chicago Sweatshop

Chicago Sweatshop 1903 via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine making only $15 a month. Not possible? Imagine, then, making $75 a month. Imagine that you’re working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. That’s just under 40¢ an hour. Would you work for that little an hour? Would you work with no safety regulations, no breaks (either for the restroom or for lunch) and no proper equipment? Would you do it for no other reason than to be able to put some kind of food on the table?

 

In the United States, citizens aren’t expected to work for that small sum. In fact, our federal minimum wage per hour is over twice what people in some countries make per day. If an American citizen went to apply for a job and the potential employer offered the position at less than $1 an hour, that employer would not only be laughed at, but reported to their state’s labor board. There was a time in this country’s history when there were no laws regulating sweat shops or inhuman working conditions. That time has past. We live better now because we no longer accept that working for that little amount of money is good enough for us.

Other laws that protect us– such as safety standards, required break times and Worker’s Compensation– were put into place because Americans decided that we were better than that. We formed unions, went on strike and demanded better for ourselves. We’re hard workers and we deserve to make a living wage for our efforts. The idea that any American child should be forced to work 12 hours a day in a factory so her family can afford the shack in which they live horrifies us. Yes, we have poverty, but not like we did in the past. And if a child is going hungry because her mother doesn’t make enough money at work to feed her, there are agencies that will help (at a bare minimum if nothing else).

This isn’t the case in other countries– such as Bolivia, where jewelry we buy at Walmart is created. According to the linked article:

Aurafin’s1 factories in Bolivia, Peru, and the Dominican Republic would provide the labor for turning the precious metals — mined in Utah and Nevada — into jewelry. An innovative website makes the process transparent: Plug in the batch number from those new earrings and watch them move from a Southwest mine to an abroad factory and to a Walmart near you.[...]

“Basically, we make between $75 and $85 a month,” Julia says, which is less than half of what Bolivian economists consider sufficient to cover basic necessities. “Sometimes we can make [more] during the high season. It means working six days a week for 12 hours,” she explains. “But that’s giving up your life.”

This is Aurafin’s “official” plant. According to the above article they have other workshops, called talleres, that are located in repurposed houses. The conditions in the talleres are worse than in the main factory. Nearly no lighting, no suitable seating, no proper equipment– for instance, nothing to magnify the small parts that they’re working with, such as small gold chains and clasps. Aurafin claims that they’ve subcontracted work to these shops and they aren’t responsible for the conditions there. However, when the workers try to organize it’s Aurafin that shuts the shops down and fires the employees.

According to a 2005 New York Times article2, José’s workplace was one of 17 subcontracted outfits used by Aurafin, accounting for 1,600 jobs. Records released in 2008 by the Aurafin factory confirm that 11 percent of its costs, or $918,000, went toward paying the workshops to produce jewelry — meaning a yearly per-worker salary of about $574, or less than $50 each month.

From the outside, the workshops are unrecognizable: a two-story house with a garage door open that signals to employees that the shop is operating, for example. Inside, according to Jos and Elvio Mamani, another former workshop laborer, there’s nothing more than benches and chairs. Mamani has worked in various Aurafin talleres over the years and says that some of his fellow workers were as young as 14, under Bolivia’s legal minimum of 18. Lighting is scant; there are no robotic magnifying glasses. “Your work materials are your hands, some tweezers, and the gold,” says Mamani.

Imagine trying to feed a family, buy clothes, provide simple medicine3, pay fees for a school or pay rent on less than $50 a month. José and his coworkers do this work because there is nothing else for them and they have to provide something for their families and themselves. And companies like Aurafin exploit that desperation. They know that these people are at points in their lives that they’ll do anything and put up with anything to make some kind of money. They know that the laws in these countries are lax or nonexistent so they increase their profit margins by decreasing worker pay, safety measures and proper equipment. Their workers produce goods, such as gold jewelry, that can then be sold to American for incredibly low prices. They rake in the profits– on the backs of the poor of other countries.

Our own country used to have a culture of sweatshops, low wages and corporate exploitation. However, that ended when Americans decided to fight for the labor laws we take for granted today. Less than a hundred years ago, women were working beside their children in factories with no safeguards and for little money. Today we save money because the companies that would exploit us instead are forced to go to other countries and use the citizens there. While we are aware that our lovely gold chain recently purchased from Walmart wasn’t made in this country, we ignore evidence that the people who made it are suffering for pennies an hour.

Is it any wonder that the people of those countries are finding ways to come to the country to benefits from their exploitation? If we as a country want to stem the flow of undocumented immigration, perhaps we should examine why we support companies that deny people a decent living wage, humane working conditions and dignity. When those people can find no recourse in their own countries, when their living conditions are so terrible they have no other choice, they find a way to come here. If people have no reason to leave home, they won’t. They come here so they don’t have to live there. Is it any wonder considering the way they are treated by American companies?

The reason these corporations use cheap labor from these countries is twofold: they can and they profit. Yet these companies aren’t content with the profits from exploiting the desperate, they’ve decided they want to find ways to create those conditions back here. They donate to political candidates who will then vote to take away the laws that protect Americans from those conditions. They are trying to bring their slave wages and sweatshop conditions back home to us.

Considering all of this, wouldn’t a better fight, instead of against immigration and unions, be to take our own labor laws and policies to these other countries? We should encourage the citizens of these other countries to stand up and demand what we have here– perhaps going further. We should encourage the people to stand up to their governments and demand they implement policies that force these companies to respect them. If everyone in the world made a living wage for the work they do, then everyone would be able to afford the products these companies make– and maybe these companies would finally realize that paying their employees actually increases their bottom line.

Afterall, why should we lower our standard of living when we can raise theirs?

Image is Public Domain and Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

See also:
El Salvador’s Sweatshop Economy
Global Sweatshop Wage Slavery

  1. The company that produces the jewelry for Walmart’s Love, Earth line. []
  2. Not linked in original article. []
  3. Such as cough medicine []

Not safe in their own homes

Neighborhood Security Camera

By Delphi234 (Own work) ,Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There seems to be an increasing number of home invasions in a town just north of me. Now that town is a lot bigger than my town, so of course the crime rate is a lot higher. And there is gang activity up there (moreso than is down here), but it still worries me. I’ve seen some advertisements in the mail about home alarm systems and I’m thinking this is probably a really good idea. Something worth investing in. I have this fear that the gangbangers up north will realize there’s easy pickings just few minutes drive from them and start victimizing us.

There are some things to combat this threat, of course, besides the arm systems. Lock your doors. Get a dog. Things of that nature. Especially lock your doors when you’re in the back yard (that doesn’t prevent the home invasion but can prevent the sneakier types from coming in and stealing your purse, for instance). But, really, if the gangbangers are trying to be initiated into their gang, I don’t think a dead bolt’s necessarily going to stop them. If they can kick in the door, do their damage and prevent you from calling 9-1-1, then what’s the point? An alarm system will do the calling for you. And a nice bright sign in the yard will warn away any potential invaders (hopefully).

My fears aren’t helped with the commercials on television either. I’d like to see them address the growing threat of home invasion without scaring the kids to death when the commercials come on. I’ve already had a talk with Mags and am slightly worried that I’m going to give my child a complex warning her about all of these dangers. I moved to a small town so we wouldn’t have to worry about this stuff, but it still worries me.

I would personally love to see more talk of domestic terrorism when discussing these gangs. Aren’t they terrorizing us when we’re afraid to leave our doors unlocked while we’re home in broad daylight? I think so. I consider that terrorism. I consider not being able to sit on your porch at night because of the gangs to be terrorism. I’m more worried about that activity than some foreign terrorist doing damage. There are gang task forces, of course, but what good are they doing? I was watching “Gangland” on The History Channel and there is a gang in Nashville (!!) that specializes in home invasions. Doesn’t that make them terrorists?

Yes. Yes, it does. I don’t care what anyone says. These gangs target innocent people in an effort to prove their “cred” and that’s terrorism. I shouldn’t have to activate an alarm system while I’m watching the 2pm showing of “Wife Swap” because there might be someone coming to break down my door. But it seems I’m going to have to consider doing just that. No, the home invasions aren’t pervasive in my town yet. But it’s only a matter of time. And what about the people that live in the town where these things are increasing in frequency? Aren’t those people living amongst terrorism?

I try not to watch the news too often because it’s depressing and scares the ever-lovin’ crap out of me. But this is an issue that really concerns me as crime rates go up due to, well, whatever reason the professionals use to justify it. It’s no wonder so many people are shut-ins. They don’t want to deal with the cold reality that they’re not safe in their own homes. I don’t blame them.

Be Wary of Claims of Fibromyalgia “Cure”

Fibromyalgia Tenderpoints chart

By National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) ,Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m so irritated. Today I was surfing YouTube looking at videos from Fibromyalgia sufferers and, sadly, came across a few that were promising cures (some in “just a few weeks!”) and giving false hope to real people who really suffer from this debilitating disease. The worst, I think, is the “doctor” (I don’t know if he’s really licensed or not) who offers a discount for patients to come to his clinic to get “diagnosed and treated”. The second worse is the lady that claims that FM is just a build up of toxins in the body that can be “purged”. Research into the “purging” lead me to find that the technique—or Protocol—for the purging was ongoing and that if the patient were to stop then the FM would suddenly reappear. I’m pretty sure that’s not a cure by any means.

The thing that these folks offering “the cure” for Fibromyalgia forget is that it’s not all about the pain. Yes, the pain is a significant part of the disease and it is what generally gets the patient into the doctor initially. The pain makes it difficult to get around and be physical and can cause severe and chronic depression (which makes the pain worse, which feeds the depression, which…). However, to “cure” FM you’d have to go beyond the pain, because most of us who suffer with it have more than just the pain. None of those offering up the miracle of an end to our suffering seem to take that into consideration. Sadly, though, it’s the pain that makes people throw their money away on these types of scams cures.

The pain is horrible. Don’t get me wrong about that. I hate the pain. But I think it would be more endurable if there weren’t the other things that go along with it. I don’t know if that’s true, of course, because we can’t find that out (as we’re all a list of symptoms, unfortunately) but I think for me it would be better. The pain, though, is not from toxins, studies have shown that it’s a central nervous system condition—that are brains are short circuiting and sending out pain signals constantly. It’s something in our brains.

One woman, whom I won’t name, claims that she’s suffered from FM since birth, but she’s been cured by this “protocol”. She explains her pain symptoms. She explains the tender points. She explains her “good days and bad days”. On her good days she goes surfing and bikes for miles. Since she’s started this protocol she’s miraculously better. Just take this medication, drastically alter your diet and if you’re especially strong you too will overcome FM and live a “normal” life.

When she explained her suffering (due to the “toxin buildup”) she never once mentioned sensitivity to sounds, smells, chemicals, lights and/or touch. I’ve spoken with a number of different folks who have FM and we all are highly sensitive to something like that. These things trigger different reactions in us and the sensitivities are part of the disease.

She doesn’t mention any digestive issues. Many of us have IBS in some form or another. We have to be careful of what we eat normally especially because of that. Other people have bladder issues on top of that. It’s humiliating, but common with FM.

She doesn’t mention a very big issue: Fibro fog (cognitive dysfunction). We struggle with short-term memory loss, unable to find the proper words, forgetting important dates and, sometimes, forgetting where we live. This is an incredibly frustrating aspect of the disease because we feel like we are, quite literally, losing our minds. For me, it began before I started any kind of medication and slightly improved when I started my high doses of Vitamin D. I still suffer from it. I still trip over words in a conversation or stop writing so I can find that one word—sometimes hours later. I still forget how to do routine tasks, things that should be ingrained in my brain and automatic. And if you research via Google you’ll see that I’m not the only one who deals with this. And yet, this person who is cured, doesn’t mention it. Why? How can you discuss your suffering with FM without the fog? I can almost see the other things, but that? I became doubtful of her claims when I realized that she never even alluded to the fog.

Other things that these scam artists people leave out are the Sjogren Syndrome, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, twitching, the skin problems and irritability (due to all of the above, obviously). There are reasons why it’s called Fibromyalgia Syndrome and these people are don’t get that. They’re feeding off of the desperation of people looking for relief from the pain (which itself is bad) and those people don’t think to look for truths in their spiels.  Those truths can be found by examining what isn’t included in the symptom list and which symptoms are “cured”.

I looked at that doctor who offered a discount to people who flew to his clinic to get diagnosed and treated and almost gagged. Here is someone that will most certainly diagnose anyone who comes to his clinic with FM—though there are no specific tests for it. No doubt he will make money off of people who don’t have it (but whom received his diagnosis) and then “cure” those people. They would believe him, of course, and tout his treatments as effective. And people who have the disease will become hopeful and fly to get help—only to be disappointed once again.

If you suffer from Fibromyalgia—or any other chronic pain condition—be especially careful of the scam artists that want to get rich off your suffering. I know how bad you want relief because I do too. Sometimes I can’t even stand to breathe because I’m suffering so. Sometimes I just want to give up because it seems to have taken control of my life. I know how you feel. I’m there with you. But there are people that want to cash in on your suffering and don’t care if you’re actually “cured” or not. They know that we’ll do almost anything to get back to our real lives. Be so very careful of these people that offer miracle cures for a disease that isn’t even clearly understood by actual science. Don’t become a victim of those feeding on our suffering.