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Sunday, November 21st

On the road to...


Monday, November 22nd

We hold a press conference. Three members of congress (Democrats) who are against the WTO also participate.

Afterwards we join a rally against Nike. The biggest problem with Nike is that its overseas workers make wretched, below-subsistence wages. Most of the workers in Nike factories in China and Vietnam make less than $2 a day, well below the subsistence levels in those countries. In Indonesia the pay is less than $1 a day. No wonder Mr. Knight has billions and that he can give a part of it to the University of Eugene.

The labor union UNITE found that caps made for UCLA, USC and other universities were being produced in a factory in the Dominican Republic where workers got 8 cents for each cap they made. Meanwhile the cap retails for $19.95.

But don't let's focus on Nike, but have a view on the conditions in sweatshops in general:

What is a sweatsholp? A sweatshop is a workplace where workers are subject to: extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or benefits, poor working conditions, such as health and safety hazards, and arbitrary discipline. Sweatshop workers in the apparel manufacturing industry commonly face verbal and phzsical abuse and are intimidated from speaking out, fearing job loss or deportation.

The word "sweatshop" was originally used in the 19th century to describe a subcontrcting system in which the middlemen earned their profits from the margin between the amount they received for a contract and the amount they paid workers with whom they subcontracted. The margin was said to be "sweated" from the workers because they received minimal wages for excessive hours worked under unsanitay conditions.

Lets take Honduras as example. According to a U.S. Commerce Department report (02/17/98) "the minimum wage is considered insufficient to provide for a decent standard of living for a worker and family." $0.43 per hour, or $3.47 per day, is the base wage for garment worders in the Evergreeen factory in Honduras. A worker sewing Wal-Mart clothing in Honduras can barely survive on the $3.47 per day. A round trip bus to work costs $0.37, a small breakfast costs $0.89 and a modest lunch of rice, tortillas and a scrap of chicken costs $1.33. For the cheapest one-room hovel in a dangerous neighborhood costs 350 lempiras a month, or $26, which come to $0.86 daily cost for rent.

So when transportation to and from work, breakfast and lunch costs $2.59, and rent $0.86, that are already more costs than the workers earns - without the possibility to buy any food for her family.

For a family of five, the most basic subsistence diet, surviving without meat, fish, vitamins, milk, cereals, fruit, cheese, juice - costs $ 22.74 per week. This diet consists mostly of beans, rice, tortillas, potatoes, pasta, eggs and coffee. Even to strictly ration out small ortions of milk to three children for the week would cost five hours' wages. So the families must go without. If the children go to school, the school lunches for each child cost $0.81 each day. When the school year opens in Setember, it costs 500 lempiras, a week and a half's wages, to purchase the required uniforms, shoes, notebooks and pencils and school books. If the kids are smaller and need day care (the companies are supposed to provide day care for the workers' children, but they do not), safe but basic day care costs 200 lempiras a week - over four days wages. Who can afford this?

All this does not include any clothing yet. Despite the fact that these workers sew Wal-Mart clothing up to 14 hours a day, no worker can afford to buy it - or to purchase any new clothing.

For workers in sweat shops in the U.S. - typically migrant women - life is not that different. The United States Department of Labor estimates that more than half of the country's 22,000 sewing shops violate minimum wage and overtime laws. The minimum wage levels $5.50.

In the afternoon we take off to the woods. Lars and Air used to live in the treesitter village near by, so we go to meet the people out there. But it's difficult to meet somebody whos 200 feet up. Lars starts to get up, but he has to come back before he reaches the top. We are running out of time. But everybody is fascinated by this kind of resistance. These people live for in these trees one and a half years. Indeed it's a whole village up there, and it's connected with strings, so that they can climb from one tree to another and visit each other. Between some of the trees hang banners.

The success of their protest is very obvious. This place is open to one side - this is where the clearcutting had come to before it had been stopped by the treesitters. So all these trees here are saved from logging.

It might be romantic to live here in summer, now in November it must be really hard. It's raining while we are there, and we're getting cold. But still some of us decide spontaneously to come back here after Seattle and to support them for some time.

Soon it's getting so dark that it's hard to find the way back. We have to leave anyway, because lots of people are waiting for us and another teach-in at university. It's a full house, and it's a good session.




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