Well, It's A Start!

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 10:04 AM

Oh, I can already hear Wal-Mart groaning. A bill getting ready to sail will prohibit importation of things made in "sweatshops"....


For some companies, "free trade" means finding the cheapest labor, forcing people to work long hours for little or nothing in sweatshops to produce products that are exported to department stores in the United States and around the world.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) wants to stop this exploitation of workers by taking away the sweatshop owners' profits. He has introduced legislation that would ban the U.S. sale of imported products made in sweatshop factories.

In an innovative enforcement twist, the legislation not only would impose a $10,000 fine for violating the ban, but also would give those who sell legitimately produced products the right to sue to recover damages from the ban violators.

Wow. Imagine that, a law preventing the cheap stuff from coming here, fines and, oh, this sounds so good.

But, guess who ain't gonna like it?

If it becomes law, the legislation could have a major impact on large U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest importer of products from China, which has a history of using sweatshop and forced labor.

Aw, gee, golly, whiz, poor Wal-Mart!

Interesting thing to know, I learned this from PBS' Frontline, their piece, Is Wal-Mart Good For America?, I learned that old Wally World doesn't like anyone getting in their way of cheap stuff from China.

In fact, they got downright pissy:

Earlier this year, the ITC gave relief to a company Hartquist represents, Five Rivers Electronic Innovations, located in Greeneville, Tenn. It employs more than 700 workers, and is the last American-owned color TV maker in the U.S.

In May 2003, Five Rivers filed an anti-dumping petition in Washington, charging that color television makers in China were illegally dumping their larger-sized color sets in the U.S., thereby threatening to put Five Rivers out of business. The company tracked TV imports from China and found that sales of the Chinese televisions skyrocketed from just over 50,000 sets in 2001 to 1.5 million sets during the first nine months of 2003.

Last December, Five Rivers CEO Tom Hopson told a congressional committee, "Imports of large screen TVs from China have created havoc in the U.S. marketplace. In my 24 years in the television business, I have never a similar or more worrisome situation."

In May 2004, the ITC unanimously agreed that the surge of these imports from China had injured Five Rivers, and then imposed duties averaging about 23 percent on these sets.

Now, guess who handles these TSL units? Who also filed against this action? Wanna take a hint? Come on, three guesses, for real now.

Point is, these sweatshops, regardless of where they are not only are exploitation of the worst caliber, they have also ruined the job market here in the US. This "anti-sweatshop" law, if passed, would make a huge dent in our trade deficit, cut back on job losses, but it will sharply tweak Wally World in their corporate backsides.

It will be interesting to see how hard Wal-Mart lobbies to kill this law, it was killed last year, but with Dem power, it may well pass this year. Or will it?

Again, it's going to be interesting to say the least.