Monthly Archives: March 2019

Old sewing machine of the type used in many Indian homes. Credit Suparna

Fashion industry exploitation of female home workers in India

Many firms in developed countries, countries which have significant worker protections, contract out parts or all of their production to contractors in developing countries, where labor protections are much less. Here is an example.
Made for next to nothing. Worn by you? Elizabeth Paton New York Times February 6, 2019

See full report Tainted Garments. The exploitation of women and girls in India’s home-based garment sector by Siddharth Kara (60 page PDF file)

Image: Old sewing machine of the type used in many Indian homes. Credit Suparna

The rise in collateralized debt obligations since 2004.

Harm through the market 2019

United States

Prime power: How Amazon squeezes the businesses behind its store Karen Weise New York Times December 19, 2019
Twenty years ago, Amazon opened its storefront to anyone who wanted to sell something. Then it began demanding more out of them.

Prime leverage: How Amazon wields power in the technology world Daisuke Wakabayashi New York Times December 15, 2019
Software start-ups have a phrase for what Amazon is doing to them: ‘strip-mining’ them of their innovations.

Doing tiny Jobs for tinier pay Andy Newman New York Times November 15, 2018
Gig workers on Mechanical Turk, a platform run by Amazon, do computer-like tasks for pennies. Here’s what I learned when I joined their ranks.

Amazon pushes fast shipping but avoids responsibility for the human cost Patricia Callahan New York Times September 5, 2019
The retail giant directs the destinations, deadlines and routes for its network of contract delivery drivers. But when they crash, Amazon is held harmless.

The sugar that saturates the American diet has a barbaric history as the ‘white gold’ that fueled slavery Khalil Gabran Muhammad New York Times August 14, 2019

The brutal psychological toll of erratic work schedules Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett Washington Post June 27, 2019
“Unpredictable hours and variable pay may cause even more distress than low wages.”

This article brings out the large supply of people who need a job enabling Uber and other gig-based enterprises to pay those who work for them low wages. (See “exploitation of labor by capital” in Understanding exploitation.) In addition, workers now are classified as “independent contractors” not employees, removing rights which workers have.
The ‘Gig Economy’ Is the new term for serfdom Chris Hedges Truthdig August 12, 2018

This article says that the time allotted for patient care during normal working hours is not sufficient, forcing health professions to work extra hours to meet the needs of their patients. (See “exploitation of labor by capital” in Understanding exploitation.)
The business of health care depends on exploiting doctors and nurses Danielle Ofri New York Times June 8, 2017

One important type of market harm is firms trying to sneak by extra charges for consumers of their product. Wells Fargo has done this on a large scale, and has been caught three times. In the most recent settlement, the bank paid to settle charges that it had charged (unnecessary) insurance on its auto loans and without informing those receiving loans.
Wells Fargo agrees to settle auto insurance suit for $386 million Emily Flitter New York Times June 7, 2017

Individual consumers do not have the market power of Medicare (or large health insurance groups) and thus get charged much more. While a justification for this on the part of hospitals is that individual consumers may not pay, there is little reason why those who do pay should cover the charges (and very possibly much more) of those who don’t. This arises because of differential market power. Individual consumers of health care are limited in their bargaining power while larger consumers such as health insurance firms are able to strike better bargains. In addition, there are few providers of hospital services in a local market, increasing these providers market power. (See “monopoly and oligopoly” in Understanding exploitation.)
Many hospitals charge double or triple what Medicare would pay Reed Abelson New York Times May 9, 2019

Pork industry soon will have more power over meat inspections Kimberly Kindy Washington Post April 3, 2019
“Under the proposed new inspection system, the responsibility for identifying diseased and contaminated pork would be shared with plant employees, whose training would be at the discretion of plant owners. There would be no limits on slaughter-line speeds.”

The New York attorney general alleges that as investigations focused on Perdue Pharma, the family that owned the company began shifting hundreds of million of dollars from the business to themselves, using offshore entities.
New York sues Sackler family members and drug distributors Roni Caryn Rabin New York Times March 28, 2019

One company bought all the retail outlets for glasses, used that to force sales of all the eyewear companies and jacked up prices by as much as 1000% Corey Docterow BoingBoing March 12, 2019

Wall Street’s latest love affair with repackaged debt. Investors in collateralized loan obligations are ignoring the signs of danger. William D. Cohan New York Times March 18, 2019 (opinion)

Condemned to repeat the history of bank failures? The 2008 crisis showed what happens when financial regulation is weakened while the economy is strong. The Trump administration is doing it again. Editorial Board New York Times March 20, 2019 (opinion)

Image: The rise in collateralized debt obligations since 2004. Credit Bloomberg / InvestmentNews

Other countries

One major way in which companies benefit is by locating production in countries where people’s incomes have been most limited by exploitation. This article considers the shift in textile production to Ethiopia. “Entry level garment workers in Ethiopia typically receive a base salary worth only $26 a month–the lowest by far in the worldwide clothing supply chain.”
A new industry is creating jobs in Ethiopia. But at what cost? Paul Barrett Washington Post May 10, 2019

Fossil fuels are underpriced by a whopping $5.2 trillion Umair Irfan Vox May 17, 2019
The IMF estimates that that fossil fuel subsidies were $5.2 trillion in 2017 (6.4 percent of global gross domestic product), most as a result of not having to pay for damage fossil fuels caused to the environment though greenhouse gas emissions and other avenues of harm. See the IMF paper.

“The current state of the migrant labor market [is] riddled with blatant violations of all the norms of an ideal workplace.”
Are migrant workers humans or commodities? Thalif Deen Inter Press Service May 1, 2019

Hidden in plain sight — private cartels in Africa Thando Vilakazi Review of African Political Economy Blog March 26, 2019

Cover of One Person No Vote C

One Person No Vote by Carol Anderson

How voter suppression threatens our economy (review of One Person No Vote) Timothy Smith Washington Post September 20, 2018

Our democracy is being stolen. It happens through election fraud and voter suppression. And Republicans are the culprits. Carol Anderson New York Times March 14, 2019

Image: Cover of One Person No Vote. Credit: Bloomsbury

Slavery, Forced Labor 2019

29 rescued from forced labor slavery Justice Ventures International May 14, 2019

Behind illicit massage parlors lie a vast crime network and modern indentured servitude Nicholas Kulish, Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei New York Times March 2, 2019

Slavery is not a thing of the past, it still exists today affecting millions Shannon Scribner Inter Press Service February 28, 2019

Forced labor, child work, low wages: the lives of home-based garment workers in India Marjorie van Elven Fashion United February 6, 2019

Crime 2019

Disappeared in El Salvador: The return of a Cold War nightmare Mary Beth Sheridan and Anna-Catherine Brigida  Washington Post October 19, 2019

As gang murders surge, South Africa sends army to Cape Town, and the city cheers Kimon de Greef New York Times August 13, 2019

One way out: Pastors in Brazil converting gang members on YouTube Mariana Lopes Washington Post May 17, 2019

Devastating epidemic of crime & insecurity in Latin America & Caribbean Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva Inter Press Service May 15, 2019

Violence, poverty reign in Honduran city where caravans form Sonia Perez Z AP/Washington Post May 3, 2019

It’s so dangerous to police MS-13 in El Salvador that officers are fleeing the country Kevin Sieff Washington Post March 3, 2019

Modern day slavery rated world’s largest single crime industry Thalif Deen Inter Press Service February 25, 2019