3.02.2006

Hecho en China/Venezuela/Israel/Peru/Mexico/Italia

I got undressed today and here's my apparel report: my shoes (Hush Puppies) and jeans (Levi's) were the only things I was wearing that were made in the U.S. of A. Bra (Olga) was made in Mexico, underwear (Cacique) in Israel, t-shirt (Gap) in Honduras, and sweater (Eddie Bauer) in Australia. I'm wearing the world, here, people!!

The whole push to "buy American" is a union concept or construct or model, etc. Goods manufactured in China, Taiwan, South and Central America, Israel, Mauritius, Bangladesh, et al. are far less expensive than those made in the USA. Why? Well, a combination, obviously, of lower pay due to lower standard of living, the pervasive existence of sweatshops or G-d forbid slave labor or other indentured servitude, and so on, compared with the unionization of most U.S. fabrication. To buy a t-shirt made in the US, you have to be willing to spend upwards of $50, because whoever's grown the cotton is getting a subsidy, whoever's milling the cotton, ditto, whoever's cutting the cloth and making the shirt is probably making $15/hour, etc. Same t-shirt made in Honduras might cost you $25, because although the worker making it probably gets $1.50 a shirt and the Mexican cotton farmer and millers each make $1.75, the Gap can clear the remaining $20 as pure profit they're not making on even a $50 shirt made in Missouri.
Here's the thing: I hate most labor unions. I think they drive prices up and their workers abuse the system and most unions don't exist for the health and safety and fair wages purposes for which unions were initially formed. They're incredibly powerful politically and economically and their true function is past and most of them should be disbanded, for the health of the nation.... I admit that these biases are based in part on economics and in part on the fact that when I first became aware of unions, in the seventies or early eighties sometime, they were in the heyday of forcing people to join, of the whole "sign up or we'll be bombing your house and car and we don't so much care if your wife and kids are our victims instead of you, Mr. Factory Foreman" thing. That stuck with me, and resonates today, and is in part an opinion informed, too, by the knowledge that once upon a time unions were the only thing between workers and the grossest kind of exploitation, unfair pay, unpaid overtime, health and safety dangers, and in some cases, life-threatening working conditions. Today's unions do not safeguard workers from these things; they exist primarily to sway public policy and stunt the economy, I think.


And yet, and yet.... I want to buy American. I want jobs to stay in this country; I want industry to stay here; I want craftsmanship to be ours and to matter. I want American manufacturing to promise people futures in such trades as farming, milling, making cloth and other raw materials, or whatever it takes to support all kinds of industry, from design and execution to sale and export. What to do?!

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home