By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
But despite renewed efforts to get things moving, the agreement lacks teeth. And Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee a union-sponsored group that tracks sweatshops around the world reports that little improvement has taken place. According to a recent committee report workers in Myanmar make apparel at four cents an hour for Bradlees, J.C. Penney, Sears, Marshalls, and other U.S. companies. In Honduras, women making clothes for U.S.-owned companies are injected with Depro Provera to block pregnancy for up to three months, according to the labor committee.
One focus of the labor committee's report was the Formosa Textiles plant in El Salvador, where apparel is made for Nike. A 22-year-old single mother described conditions there. "The supervisors scream at you to go faster," she said. "You need permission to drink water and to go to the bathroom. . . . "
According to the labor committee, the plant operators don't allow sick days or even let workers visit a health clinic, although fees to pay for the clinic come from their wages. They are routinely subjected to searches. Workers get 60 cents an hour, but new workers must labor for three months at half that.
One day, the young mother said, she stayed home because her child was sick. Whe she returned the next day, the chief of production "grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me violently, pushed me and hit me hard in the thigh with his knee. . . . He shoved me again and tried to trip me. As I ran away, he cursed at me. They fired me on Friday."
Nike shirts sell for about $70 in the U.S.
Medical Marijuana Barred in Capital
Washington, D.C., is a city where a convicted crack user can be reelected mayor, but where the medical use of marijuana will not be allowed for cancer and AIDS patients.
That's because Georgia Republican Bob Barr successfully led a drive in the last session to deny the District funds to place a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. However, by that time it had been put on the ballot, and on the basis of exit polls is believed to have passed by at least two-thirds. Nevertheless, because D.C. officials fear offending Congress, they've refused to allocate money to tabulate the vote. Similar initiatives were passed in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Arizona in the last election.
Meanwhile, according to a recent FBI report, marijuana arrests nationwide were higher in 1997 than in any previous year. In 1997, there were 695,201 pot busts 87 percent for possession. In fact, the number of marijuana arrests was almost as high as the arrests for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault combined 717,720.
The Kiwi Brigade
Most important holiday jaunt this Christmas will not be to Renaissance Weekend in South Carolina for a meet and greet with the Clintons, but to New Zealand, where 28 people members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, along with spouses and staff are being flown aboard Pentagon aircraft accompanied by military escorts. Such GOP stalwarts as Phil Crane (Illinois), Nancy Johnson (Connecticut), Jennifer Dunn (Washington), and Wally Herger (California) have signed up.
New Zealand has replaced Chile as the world's free-market paradise. In New Zealand there are no controls on prices and wages. Tariffs will be practically nonexistent by 2000. There are no farm or industrial subsidies, and labor unions are no big deal. Most important, New Zealand has been cutting its income tax and is moving toward a flat tax all steps that can only be to the liking of Ways and Means chair Bill Archer (Texas), who has long plotted to get rid of the graduated income tax here.
Research: Bob Frederick