About 40 miles north of Seoul, and 10 miles over the border with North Korea, is a complex of sweatshops where 44,000 North Korean workers labor in factories for as little as 25 cents anhour—about half of which is directly paid to the North Korean state. This, the KaesongIndustrial Complex, is a South Korean free trade zone, where 120 corporations like Hyundai usedisgracefully cheap labor to manufacture products intended for export—exports that may soonenter the U.S. duty-free. On top of that, KORUS' "Rule of Origin" states that fully two-thirds of a product can be made outside of the country and still have the label "Made in Korea," entering theU.S. without tariffs.
Good on Paper
Greg Palleson, now vice president of the Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers Union,worked at a paper mill in Longview, Wash., before it closed and the machine he operated was put on a barge and shipped to China. Since the early 1980s, the Association has seen its ranksdecline from 24,000 members to about 5,000. They have worked tirelessly to bring attention tothe condition of the paper industry, where hard-fought-for environmental reforms on processing,treatment and disposal of paper byproducts, and workers' rights have literally been rolled back with each U.S. mill that relocates to China.When Greg later visited China to see the transplanted mills, he saw that the workers were notreally benefiting from the outsourced jobs, and neither were the surrounding communities: Paper mills have been identified as the largest source of pollution in China’s rural environment.According to Greg, a Chinese mill worker received about one dollar an hour, with no pension or benefits. Their skilled American counterparts are paid almost thirty times that, plus health careand a pension. Lack of adequate health care makes it all the more worrisome that Chineseworkers are regularly exposed to unregulated toxic wastewater effluents.Trade policy has the ugly effect of pitting workers around the world against one another. Butwhen we talk to each other and see that neither side is actually benefiting, we start to wonder,
? After all, if it's not working for you, and it's not working for me, it must be working for someone. This questioning opens the door to systemic change.We need to continue to build and nourish natural alliances—across industries, across countries,across unions; between faith, farm, and migrant communities; among students and small andmedium businesses—so our voices are at the decision-making table ensuring that trade policy benefits our communities.The FTA's being considered this week by our leaders lack the voices of the 159,000 Americanslike Greg who will lose their jobs in the worst economy in decades; of the small farmers incountries without subsidies to fall back on when foreign grains flood their market; of the laborersin the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is slated to expand to 6,000 acres; of Colombia'simperiled labor unionists, 22 of whom have been murdered already this year.It is we the people—not we the corporations—who should drive the vote on trade.