Take advantage of Labor Day sales, look at the labels carefully and buy American-made products. However, Labor Day means much more than a day off work and bargain sales.
Labor Day celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers and unions. Labor Day was proposed by two union leaders in 1882, and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day to me is the celebration of the five-day work-week, the 40-hour work week, time-and-one-half for overtime, health and safety regulations and other benefits that American workers have fought for more than 100 years.
In Mexico, China and many other nations, the six-day work-week is still the norm, with no overtime compensation, with minimal health, safety and environmental laws.
Labor Day in China
Before you buy an Apple product on Labor Day, consider:
Apple is now the king of outsourcing to China. Foxconn Technology Group, one of the primary subcontractors for Apple, is the world's largest maker of electronic products, including the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Foxconn employs from 300,000 to 450,000 workers in Shenzhen, China at the Longhua Science & Technology Park, a cramped, walled campus sometimes known as “Foxconn City” or “iPod City.”
Covering more than one square mile, its enclave includes 15 factories, worker dormitories and a shopping area complete with a grocery store, bank, restaurants, bookstore, and a hospital all tightly secured by police. Workers never have to leave the campus, and rarely do. Because they are working six to seven days a week, often 70-80 hours per week, with no overtime compensation.
Apple's iPods are made mainly by female workers who earn as little as $40 per month, according to a report in Britain’s Daily Mail. The report claims Foxconn’s workers live in dormitories that house 100 people, and that visitors from the outside world are not permitted. Workers toil for 15 hours a day to make the iPod music player, the report claims. Foxconn City has safety nets installed to keep suicides to a minimum.
You don’t have to buy an Apple product on Labor Day because Apple products will not be on sale -they rarely are.
Labor Day in Mexico
The maquilas, or maquiladoras, in Mexico began as a border phenomenon more than 30 years ago. With the support of the Mexican government, U.S. firms set up assembly plants on the Mexican side of the border to take advantage of cheap labor and lax labor laws. These maquilas were allowed to import components and raw materials duty-free and then re-export the finished products to the United States duty free.
Now maquilas are found in many parts of Mexico and Central America, and are often owned by multinational companies who seek cheap labor and weak laws.
For these multinational companies, the lure of the maquilas are low wages, a lack of environmental or labor regulations (or lack of enforcement), low taxes, and few if any duties. Products produced include apparel, electronic goods, auto parts and batteries.
Our neighbors to the south work long hours for low pay, with virtually no worker’s rights.
We should be grateful for the two-day and three-day, weekend that Mexican and Chinese workers are not able to enjoy. We should be grateful for the Family Leave Act that allows workers to take time off when a loved-one is sick. We should be grateful for Occupational Safety and Health laws that keep our workers safer than those in most other nations.
To show your support for our fair and balanced labor laws, seek out and buy American-made products, made by your neighbors who are paid a decent wage. These hardworking Americans deserve our support. For one day just say no to Ralph Lauren, the Gap, Old Navy, Calvin Klein and many other American designers and retailers who have gone offshore in search of cheap labor and weak labor laws.
Editor’s note: The Press asked Joseph to submit a guest column for its special Labor Day issue. Joseph grew up in University Heights, Ohio and graduated from Cleveland Heights High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University and a law degree from Georgetown. He may be contacted at: Chairman@MadeUSAFdn.org. Initial seed money for the foundation came from the UAW and Ford Motor Co. It now has about 1,000 corporate members who pay annual dues.