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Category Archives: Wage Slavery
Secrets of slavery at your local car wash: Workers paid little or nothing for 11-hour shift and forced to live in … – Mirror.co.uk
Posted: August 16, 2017 at 6:08 pm
Thousands of workers in hand car washes are thought to be victims of modern slavery , paid little or nothing for an 11-hour shift and forced to live in squalid accommodation.
Many are trafficked into the UK on the promise of paid work before becoming trapped in debt bondage, owing money to their bosses which they stand no chance of ever repaying.
Mirror investigators working with the anti-slavery watchdog found evidence to suggest thousands of mainly Eastern European people could be trapped working on forecourts and car parks.
Unable to speak English, they can work for up to 11 hours a day for little or no pay, and when their shift is done go home to makeshift accommodation, made from shipping containers.
Those who try to quit are threatened with violence or even deportation.
The Government believes up to 13,000 people are victims of modern slavery, which PM Theresa May dubbed the great human rights issue of our time.
The Daily Mirror visited 10 hand car washes and found all displayed at least two of the five tell-tale signs of modern slavery.
Kevin Hyland, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, whose office drafted the five signs, said: These findings are really powerful.
People think this is something happening on distant shores, on different continents, but actually they need to realise slavery is happening in our cities, towns and villages.
This is something many people will unwittingly see every day without realising whats behind it. These people washing our cars up and down our high streets are potentially victims of modern slavery.
Campaigners say many washers are trafficked into Britain before being told their travel here has cost more than expected.
They can be paid around 40 for 11 hours work, but wages are docked to cover accommodation. Washers are told to work off the debt, but the pay never covers it.
Many do not have immigration papers and bosses threaten to report them if they try to quit.
Only one of the 10 facilities we visited had equipped workers with waterproofs and full protective clothing. At seven out of the 10 staff were unfamiliar with the English language.
Nine of the 10 lacked professional facilities, often with dangerous electrical wiring.
At all 10, we saw three or more workers washing one car, and we witnessed up to seven to a vehicle.
At two out of 10 sites, we found evidence to suggest washers were being housed on-site. We saw metal shipping containers equipped with satellite dishes, surrounded by barbed wire and rubbish bags. Workers were reluctant to have conversations with the public and when approached repeatedly pointed us to a boss.
A car wash service could cost from just 2.99, with a valet service starting at 9.99.
The Car Wash Advisory Service said around 1,000 of the estimated 16,000 hand car washes observe any regulatory requirements and many staff get below the minimum wage, usually cash in hand.
Mr Hyland added: Decent hard working Brits are using these car washes and they arent aware what they are seeing. Sometimes you have six to nine people washing a car.
By the time they have paid for all the other costs and insurances how are they ever going to pay the minimum wage?
We talk about modern slavery being a hidden crime. Sometimes its actually hidden in plain sight.
The National Crime Agency said it was helping in 300 police operations targeting modern slavery, with victims as young as 12.
Last week 11 members of the Rooney family in Lincolnshire were convicted of running a modern slavery ring.
If you suspect someone is being exploited, call the police, or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.
5 tell-tale signs of exploitation
1: Lack of protective clothing suitable for contact with industrial cleaning chemicals – workers often wear tracksuits or jeans with trainers or flip flops.
2: Unprofessional facilities – no water drainage, no appropriate electrical wiring, temporary signage only, no public liability indemnity insurance and no visible first aid equipment.
3: Three or more people washing a single car despite low prices of around 5 – this cannot add up to cover the minimum wage, let alone other overheads.
4: Staff unfamiliar with the English language and showing signs of coercion – indicators of control include signs of anxiety and exhaustion in workers and a “supervisor” who is usually polite to customers, yet controls staff.
5: Signs that people both live and work on site – unsuitable metal containers near toilet facilities and hanging laundry.
Posted: at 6:08 pm
Speaking about the problem of modern slavery in the UK last Thursday, Will Kerr of the National Crime Agency (NCA) told a group of journalists:
The more we look for modern slavery, the more we find evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable. The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought.
The following day, the news broke that 11 members of a Lincolnshire family had been convicted of a series of modern slavery offences after forcing at least 18 individuals, including homeless people and those with learning disabilities, to work for little or no pay and live in squalid conditions.
Apparently, the Rooney family had told their victims that they would offer them work and accommodation but once the individuals accepted, they were allocated dilapidated caravans, mostly with no heating, water or toilet facilities.
Its clear, then, that modern slavery is far from leaving our UK shores; its prevalence, instead, seems to be ever increasing.
So what counts as modern slavery?
It is often discussed in relation to sexual slavery and the exploitation of predominately young women and girls, but its important that discourse accounts for the diversity amongst the victims as well as the types of exploitation.
The Government has estimated that there are up to 13,000 people living in slavery in Britain today. Of this estimated total, far fewer are referred through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) which was set up for this purpose. In 2016, there were 3,805 referrals made (a number which has risen from 1,745 in 2013). 2,527 of the referrals were adults and, of those, 44% were subject to labour exploitation, 38% to sexual exploitation and 13% to domestic servitude.
Unsurprisingly, there were a far greater number of females referred in relation to sexual exploitation and domestic servitude (93% and 79% respectively) and there were far more males referred in relation to labour exploitation (84%). However, the split in terms of men and women referred to the NRM is relatively even; 1,936 females and 1,864 males.
Those referred to the NRM in 2016 had also originally come from 108 different counties; the seven most common countries being Albania, Vietnam, the UK, Nigeria, China, Romania and Poland.
With incidences of labour exploitation being reported in the beauty industry, catering, agriculture and amongst cleaners, care workers and couriers to name only a few, there can be no set image of what someone who is being exploited looks like. Ethnicities, ages, nationalities and levels of education can all vary. Vulnerability, alone, remains a constant.
Its important too that we are open about the fact that there are differing severities of exploitation. Some victims may be paid a wage, work in a customer-facing role and have at least some freedom in respect of their lives and activities. All this is possible, while they are still being paid well below the national minimum wage, working under coercion and living in fear of one form or another.
The precise reason it is important to have these discussions is so modern slavery can be tackled effectively. We might encounter victims at car washes and nail bars; victims might be delivering our pizzas or cleaning our houses.
With this in mind, Will Kerrs comments come as the NCA launch an advertising campaign to try and raise awareness about the signs of slavery in modern day life. Some signs could be that an individual is looking distressed and unkempt with dirty or very old clothing, they might be injured, either visibly or moving in a way that indicates pain or it may be apparent that someone else is controlling them, perhaps by not allowing them to speak for themselves or visibly guiding what they say or do.
The truth is that although its important for members of the public to be vigilant, identifying victims is difficult and not always going to be possible.
So what, then, can be done?
Unfortunately, substantial change will only occur at a governmental level. The introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was a step in the right direction and has focussed attention and resources on modern slavery. Arguably, however, its focus is too heavily on law enforcement and it doesnt go far enough to protect victims, particularly domestic workers, who are still expected to challenge their abuser in order to then seek protection, which then leaves them undocumented and therefore potentially criminalised.
Crucially, modern slavery, trafficking and labour exploitation cannot be isolated from each other and need to be viewed holistically. Moreover, they are firmly part of a worsening refugee crisis and a UK workforce that is becoming increasingly unregulated.
Yes, its helpful to hear Will Kerr talk about the scale of the problem in the UK and its important that prosecutions continue to be reported, but the Government will have to address these crises of modern Britain together in order to stand a hope of tackling modern slavery head on.
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Posted: August 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm
Today, we will look at more reasons why this is so. And you will see they are one of the major reasons who extreme poverty is still the norm in Africa when it could have been eradicated years ago.
This says that globalisation and free trade will allow you to sell globally the products you are best at producing. As a backward country, the products you are best at producing will be the cheap, labour-intensive ones because you can pay your workers at well below what is legally allowed in the developed world, and at near slavery levels.
The theory is that, as your business develops, you will then be able to pay your workers more and thus lift them out of poverty. In practice, this wont happen because the minute you try to pay your workers more, your customers will just go to another company or another country which is charging less than you. So you cant increase your workers wages, and what you are really doing is locking them into not just poverty, but abject poverty.
For example, the world is applauding Ethiopia for its initiative in developing a fast-developing textile, clothing & footwear manufacturing trade. This may be good news for the country and its manufacturing bosses, but what is happening to its workers?
To find that out, lets look at the history of textile, clothing & footwear manufacture. Originally, many European and African nations had their own thriving, home-grown industries. And their workers were well-paid by local standards.
Then China and Bangladesh (and other developing countries) came out with dramatically lower costs, just by paying their workers what can only be described as slave wages. Result: widespread destruction of the European and African textile, clothing & footwear manufacturing. Yes, the general public benefited greatly from being able to buy much cheaper clothes and shoes, but it was at the cost of huge unemployment in Europe and Africa in those particular trades.
Then China and Bangladesh start to pay their workers more. So now what happens? Ethiopia steps in and takes trade off them by paying its workers only US$1.32 a day (which, by the way, is well below the UN and World Banks threshold of $1.90 a day). Ethiopia and its industry bosses will do very well out of this (but the workers certainly do not), until a point when it wants to pay its workers more.
Then another country will step in and take Ethiopias trade by cutting workers pay. This will put Ethiopias workers out of work. The bosses will be OK because they will generally be the ones who move their manufacturing out of Ethiopia and to the new country.
So what the Law of Comparative Advantage actually does is create a cycle of never-ending abject poverty with manufacturing moving to ever-cheaper countries. This is called The Race To The Bottom.
The other side of the Law of Comparative Advantage is that if you are good at producing high-value technically advanced products, then that is what you will specialise in. In practice, the only countries able to do this are wealthy ones. So what actually happens is that, as a backward nation, you are swapping low profit products that keep your workers in abject poverty for high profit ones from the wealthy nations that can pay their workers well.
Japan understood this very well when it came under immense pressure from the USA to open its borders after World War II. The Japanese government told the USA it was not going to be consigned to exporting tins of tuna to the USA in exchange for Cadillacs. Instead, it put up barriers to importing American cars to give its automobile industry (at the time virtually non-existent) a chance to develop. The incredible rise of the Japanese car industry is history.
Agenda 2063 has learnt the vital lesson of protectionism to allow Africas domestic industries to develop, which is why it focuses on building up an African financed, owned and led business-base, and wants to heavily reduce its reliance on globalisation.
If African nations want the living standards of their citizens to rise, they, too must learn from the experience of Japan, China and South Korea. However, the big problem there is either incompetence (they dont know what to do, so they just accept the story of globalisation), or corruption: a large part of their illicit fortunes come from supporting foreign commercial and financial interests.
Even if this is true for weak nations that want to develop their GDP (although that is debatable), it is certainly not true for their workers as we have seen.
Where wealthy nations are concerned, it is true for them and their higher-end businesses. But it is definitely not true for companies specialising in lower-end products, or their workers.
That is because it is not a level playing field when the laws of developed nations prevent them from competing on labour costs against nations that have no minimum wage or have one but dont enforce it, as hardly any developing nations do. So labour-intensive companies and those dealing in lower-end products are forced to sack their workers and either take their manufacture abroad or go bankrupt. On balance, wealthy nations can and do benefit in GDP terms, but at a big cost to their workers.
We have already seen this is definitely not true where weaker trading nations are concerned. Yes, the owners of some manufacturing businesses can do well out of it. Yes, globalisation and free trade produce jobs and someone who earns nothing will grasp at the opportunity to earn US$1.90 or $1.32 a day. But that doesnt get them out of poverty in fact, nowhere near it.
And what it does not do is put them into a system where their standards of living will steadily rise and keep rising. And that is the system everyone should be concentrating on.
In the long run, it may not even be win-win for wealthy nations. It is true that all of them achieved their huge wealth via globalisation. But the cracks are already starting to appear for them. Once a developing nation like China or South Korea can get itself into a position of having the expertise to produce technical products, it can suddenly forge ahead for the simple reason that, as it pays its scientists, designers and engineers very much less than developed nations do, it can put a lot more manpower into product development.
The other problem that is already reaching an advanced stage in the UK and USA is a rapidly widening gap between rich and poor. The rich are getting richer at a rate that often far exceeds increases in GDP. In contrast, the wages of workers is not only stagnating, the incidence of poverty is increasing year by year, as witness what can only be described as a dramatic rise in food banks and increase in starvation among children. We saw earlier how the Race to the Bottom affects developing nations. This is how it affects developed ones.
And when workers pay reduces, this has a knock-on effect to middle class incomes as well, as is happening. The only people to benefit, and they benefit out of all proportion, are those at the top income level.
Up to now, the USA has been the architect and biggest promoter of globalisation. Now, however, it intends to embark on a programme of selective protectionism. Love or hate President Trump, he has recognised that, while the affluent nations, the big multinationals and the ruling elite all do very nicely out of globalisation, it can be very damaging to vast swathes of the working class, with serious consequences to the fabric of society.
For any supporter of globalisation and free trade, this is absolute proof that it is not what it is cracked up to be. In some situations and under some circumstances, it may be a good thing. But not in all.
The sooner all Africa realises that their only route out of poverty and into wealth in fact, their ONLY such route is via an African financed, owned and led business-base, just as Agenda 2063 is proposing, the sooner they will start to progress rapidly to a Western-quality lifestyle.
Posted: August 14, 2017 at 12:09 pm
Means-test shareholders before compensation…
More than 850bn of public money was thrown at keeping Britains banking sector afloat during the 2007/8 international financial crisis.
Billions more has since been squandered on quantitative easing, in other words artificially stimulating the economy and laying the foundations of an even more damaging crash that will most likely strike at some point in the next fifteen years.
Capitalist doctrine dictates that bailing out criminal fat cats and allowing them to carry on as before without sanctions is a perfectly sensible plan. Imagine if such gracious courtesy were applied to students currently struggling with personal finances!
Jeremy Corbyns election pledge to scrap tuition fees spoke directly to aspirational young people and contributed vastly to his appeal among first-time voters.
It is no happy coincidence that two-thirds of youth voters endorsed a candidate who presented leftist policies such as nationalisation, abandoning the austerity experiment and a 10-an-hour living wage.
The average graduate was in an incredible 44,000 worth of debt last year; students from disadvantaged backgrounds often owe anything up to 60,000 upon completing a three-year degree. The average workers annual salary amounts to around 21,638 after tax.
Interest rates are expected to increase to 6.1% in September, meaning unsustainable escalation of the already exorbitant sums owed and a lifetime of debt slavery, encouraged by declining wages and increased insecure, low-paid work amongst graduates.
Collective student loan debt amounts to more than 100bn, at the time of writing, and this figure is an eye-watering 16.6% increase on last year. Corbyns suggestion that student debts could be written off was well-received amongst the student demographic although this was not technically a commitment as full costings hadnt yet been made.
Britain spends 6.6m each day on lethal nuclear weapons. 123bn is lost to avoided, evaded and uncollected taxes every year. Those two figures combined amount to 8.3 times the entire 2017/8 budget for Wales.
We could also cover the costs by nationalising the bloated financial sector and using the profit for collective betterment.
Id like to propose a means-tested scheme which would require shareholders to prove they are deserving of compensation, on condition of proven need, with meticulous planning and oversight from an elected civil society collective.
Following on from the poor communication issues I have encountered with C2C at Cardiff Council, I cannot believe their latest response to my last email. I requested to meet with them in person to discuss my concerns and have been informed this is not possible. Apparently it is not feasible to meet with every person who requests to meet in person. I have been directed to the ombudsman service. C2C feel they have addressed my compliant satisfactorily.
When did face to face dialogue become an issue for a service funded by the public? How do people without internet access communicate with C2C? Unbelievable, then again maybe not!
GlobaliSation and the development of trade blocs, such as the EU, are highly contentious issues where the good,the bad and the ugly of its consequences are digested daily in the media.
Put simply, globalisation involves a high degree of freedom of movement of goods, services, labour, capital, technology and managerial expertise in response to market incentives and, thus, opportunities.
On the positive side, as a consumer, I am offered considerable choice in that I can log on to Amazon, say, and buy an obscure Metallica live CD from a small distributor in San Diego; on the negative side, we witness low-skilled textile workers in Africa churning out clothing for value-seeking UK customers at relatively low wages (and the UK masses love a bargain at Asda etc).
In summary, the net effect of globalisation is to offer greater consumer choice, increased global output and employment and lower prices. Overall, a good thing.
This issue of freedom of movement of factors of production is crucial within the EU as the resulting single market has generated considerable post-war wealth. I value my nations sovereignty and independence and I deplore the corrupt and suffocating bureaucracy witnessed in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg City. However, I wish to retain the advantages of regionalism expounded above to enable the UK, post-Brexit, to be ultra competitive in global markets. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to allow talented and scarce employees to migrate here if skill shortage emerge and they will.
Thanks to market forces, skills-shortages are evident when wage rates accelerate upwards eg engineering, IT, healthcare etc. To conclude, it is imperative that we adopt a points-based immigration system, post Brexit, while saying an emphatic NO to any people coming here with relatively little to offer. It really is that simple. Antonio Conte, good; President Maduro, bad.
The Feudal society of 12th century England, was founded upon the universal belief, that there were four levels of humans royal, nobles, commoners and serfs, who were owned like dogs. This distinction was one of genetic breeding, so it was not possible to move from one class to another, but when one married outside ones class, that was strongly condemned and not fully accepted.
This belief about society then shaped the type of economy, that the higher orders owned all the land, wealth and everything else, because they were superior and deserved it. That lasted hundreds of years, and millions of commoners accepted that belief, all their life.
Only 25% of the Conservative Party still hold this view of the human race, that superior breeding sets some persons above all the rest, and so deserve all the privileges and loot of rank.
The other 75% of the Tories have discovered a new theory, that all rich people are superior to the rest of us, because money makes it so, regardless of breeding. These Tories should be congratulated upon this awakening, to find a much wider view of humanity, that any crooked villain should be revered in the upper classes, if he has billions. This wealth then controls or destroys the lives of the lower classes. The right to vote is a tiny power.
Our nations economy is no longer based upon the idea of an unjust, divided society as before, but instead, todays unjust society has been shaped by the corrupt Market economy, which does not even pretend to be honest, compassionate or ethical. Tories believe in money, as the highest guide for humanity.
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Posted: August 13, 2017 at 2:09 am
Beauty salons and nail bars have become notorious for using forced labour. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
Public vigilance is as important as legislation in tackling the vicious exploitation of migrants and the homeless, writes Dani Garavelli.
A week or so ago, I got my nails done for only the second time in my life. Because I have an aversion to upmarket salons frequented by perfectly coiffured ladies who know the difference between True Cobalt and Crystal Curacao, I picked a small, insalubrious shop staffed, as it turned out, mainly by immigrants.
It was only as I was being dropped off outside that it occurred to me maybe this wasnt somewhere I ought to be patronising. Nail bars are, after all, among the businesses listed as centres for trafficking. And so as the young woman buffed and polished I subjected her to an interrogation on her life, her work and her long-term aspirations.
She quite readily told me she was from Iran, was studying English at a Glasgow college and hoped to become a beautician. It all seemed above board, but without more understanding of how these things work, how could I be sure?
Modern slavery is a growing social evil that is only now beginning to get the public attention it deserves. Last week, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said there are currently more than 300 live police operations, with trafficking in every town in the UK. Earlier estimates of 10,000-13,000 victims are thought to be the tip of the iceberg and the problem is so widespread ordinary people will be coming into contact with those affected on a regular basis.
Hours later, it emerged members of a traveller family had been convicted of running a modern slavery ring in Lincolnshire. There were 18 victims, aged between 18 and 64. One, who had worked for the family for 26 years, was forced to dig his own grave and told thats where youre going if he did not sign a false work contract.
The gang targeted homeless drifters, often with complex drug and alcohol issues, offering food and accommodation at construction sites around the county. The men were forced to work for little or no wages on the sites or for businesses repairing properties and tarmacking drives, while family members enjoyed holidays in Barbados.
Across Lincolnshire, there will be householders whose leaks were mended and gutters cleared by men who were held against their will. But we dont expect this sort of thing to happen in a First World country in the 21st century, so we remain oblivious to it.
The homeless are not the only people preyed on; undocumented migrants are particularly vulnerable to gangs who promise them a better life in a foreign country, only to force them to work in brothels, building sites, fishing boats and farms.
Last week, the Modern Slavery Index 2017 pinpointed five countries Romania, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria all key entry points for refugees, as posing the highest risk in the EU.
Nor is there any reason to suppose Scotland has escaped unscathed; in May, a BBC investigation, Humans For Sale, found Glasgow was being targeted by gangs from Eastern Europe, with Govanhill a particular hotspot.
The scale of the problem is not new to those who work in the human rights field. Long before Fiona Hill, the much maligned aide to Theresa May, helped coordinate the Tories disastrous general election campaign, she spearheaded the Modern Slavery Act 2015 one of the few positive dividends of her bosss time at the Home Office.
Last week, human rights barrister Cherie Blair said the Act had been instrumental in shining a light on a problem which like child sexual abuse has always existed. Some critics believe the NCA has been sluggish in its response, but now the issue is high on the political agenda, it seems to be upping its game. Earlier this year, the Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre was set up to provide high quality intelligence to support its efforts.
But what should other parties be doing to help tackle the problem? Well, large companies have a duty to ensure no link in their supply chain is engaged in forced labour.
Under the Modern Slavery Act, organisations with worldwide revenues of at least 36 million who conduct business in the UK are required to publish a transparency statement describing the steps they have taken to ensure their business is free from modern slavery and human trafficking.
Yet last year it emerged that KozeeSleep, which supplied mattresses to several respected retailers, relied on scores of trafficked and enslaved Hungarian workers paid less than 2 a day.
Recent research suggested two-thirds of companies with turnovers above the threshold did not yet have full supply chain visibility (the ability to track parts, components or products in transit from the manufacturer to their final destination). And of those which did, only 41 per cent were sure that their UK workers were earning the minimum wage.
Unless businesses are prepared to carry out stringent checks, encourage whistle-blowing and devise a strategy for phased withdrawal if exploitation is discovered, it is unlikely the law will have the desired impact.
Ordinary members of the public have a responsibility too: to educate themselves on forced labour and report any suspicions to the authorities. In the past few years, we have become more aware of child sexual exploitation. As the scandals in Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford unfolded, we learned hundreds of young girls had been groomed by men working in the night-time economy. The abuse happened in plain sight, but no-one acted because no-one understood what was going on.
Now, thanks to public information campaigns, we know what to look out for: underage girls hanging around kebab shops and taxi ranks, missing school and/or displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour, for example.
We need similar campaigns to highlight the issue of modern slavery. Already the charity Unchosen has created postcards with a list of warning signs, such as people being moved around en masse at odd hours of the day, people who appear isolated from their community, people who live with their employer and people who are overly wary of the police.
We should also become more informed consumers; we should put pressure on companies to take human trafficking seriously and to publish information on their supply chains on their websites.
The idea that 184 years after the Slavery Abolition Act, people are still being held against their will and forced to work for no or little pay, is abhorrent. It is up to us all to put an end to it.
Posted: August 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm
For seventy years, Ella Reeve Mother Bloor was a union organizer and womens rights activist in left-wing political parties in the United States. Peripatetic in her search for the organizational path to socialism, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution and World War I, she joined the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). In the 1920s and 1930s, Bloor became the partys most prominent female leader.
Largely forgotten today due to Americas ongoing anticommunist crusade, Bloor remained committed to womens equality and uplifting working people both of which she believed only could happen by advancing beyond capitalism. Her life story is as fascinating as it is educational.
Ella Reeve was born on Staten Island in 1862 during the Civil War. She grew up in middle-class suburbs but when her mother died during her twelfth childbirth, the seventeen-year-old Ella took over the care of her four youngest siblings. Bloor first became interested in political reform as a teenager, influenced by her great-uncle, who was an abolitionist, freethinker, and Unitarian.
While studying at the University of Pennsylvania, she read Marx and Engels and witnessed the brutal lives of Philadelphias working-class women and men, who struggled to survive while a small group at the top lived in aristocratic opulence. (Another future CPUSA leader, William Z. Foster, grew up in nearby South Philadelphia, where in 1895 he learned about class struggle by building barricades in solidarity with striking transit workers.)
She first married at twenty and had seven children, though three died in infancy a tragic if common reality in her time. Then, one day in the late 1880s, as she wrote in her autobiography, I suddenly realized that in spite of all the things I planned to do I was well on the way to become just a household drudge.
She explored suffrage, prohibition, and, more generally, womens rights while searching for something to believe in. She spoke at her Unitarian church and joined the reformist Womens Christian Temperance Union, a leading advocate for both prohibition and womens suffrage. In 1896, she divorced, moved to New York, and to help support herself authored the childrens books Three Little Lovers of Nature (1895) and Talks About Authors and Their Work (1899).
During this era, she married Louis Cohen, who shared her commitment to socialism. With him, Bloor had two more children before divorcing again in 1905. She chose to remain single supporting herself and six children until, in 1930, marrying one last time, to a communist farmer on the High Plains.
As Bloor later wrote, she increasingly identified the political and economic inequalities of women with the oppression of the working masses and came to see socialism as the solution to these twinned problems.
In 1897 Bloor became a founding member of the Social Democracy of America, established by her friends Eugene V. Debs, then the nations most famous labor leader, and Victor Berger, who later became the first Socialist ever elected to Congress.
When Debs founded a paper called the Social Democrat, he requested Bloor write its childrens column, which she did. Demonstrating an ever more militant streak, she soon joined the rival Socialist Labor Party (SLP), led by Daniel De Leon. While many, past and present, considered De Leon a divisive ultra-leftist, there was no dominant left party in the late 1890s. As Bloor recalled, The Socialist Labor Party was a revolutionary party in those days and De Leon, its leader, was a brilliant theoretician and speaker, a courageous fighter against capitalism.
She worked for its New York Labor News Company, publisher of revolutionary books and pamphlets. The Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, the SLP trade union affiliate, elected her to its general executive board and assigned her to organize streetcar workers in New Jersey and Philadelphia. The SLP contained members of the old Knights of Labor and, in 1905, folded itself into the newly created Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), though this merger was short-lived, as the groups split in 1908. By this time, Bloors commitment to radical unionism and a political path to socialism appeared set, though her specific allegiances continued to shift.
In 1902, she joined the Socialist Party of America (SPA), in which she spent eighteen years organizing unions. She led strikes of hatters, miners, needle-workers, and steelworkers all while raising six children. She also worked for both the SPA and various womens organizations as a paid organizer on state and national campaigns for womens suffrage. In 1910, she introduced an amendment at the Socialist Partys congress in support of womens suffrage.
When author and fellow socialist Upton Sinclair started researching wage slavery in the Chicago stockyards, she traveled there with another socialist, Richard Bloor, to assist in this investigation. They posed as a married couple so she used his last name, which for unknown reasons, stuck. In 1906, Sinclair published his best-selling, enormously influential novel The Jungle. In the 1910s, people started calling her Mother, a common honorific for older women, and, henceforth, she became known as Mother Bloor.
In 1913-14, Bloor traveled to Calumet, in Michigans Upper Peninsula, during a major copper miners strike to help the strikers and their families. Her later account of the shocking deaths of seventy-three strikers and their family members, called the Italian Hall tragedy, later became the basis of a famous Woody Guthrie song, 1913 Massacre. Given her importance as an organizer, it is unsurprising that she also was present in 1914 when Colorado National Guardsmen brutally shot and killed at least thirty-six men (striking coalminers), women, and children in the Ludlow massacre, about which Guthrie also wrote.
During World War I, Bloor continued to organize for unions and womens suffrage while opposing the war. During what now is called the First Red Scare, civil liberties increasingly came under assault, so Bloor raised money for and spoke on behalf of those arrested for opposing the war. Part of the left-wing of the SPA, she ran for lieutenant governor of New York.
In 1919, as the SPA split over Bolshevism, Bloor helped found the Communist Labor Party that soon joined the CPUSA. Like millions the world over, the Bolshevik Revolution inspired her to believe that a society prioritizing people rather than profit not only was preferable but possible. In 1921 and 1922 she traveled to Moscow for international gatherings. Back in the US, Bloor worked as a CPUSA organizer, riding the rails with working stiffs while writing articles for Communist papers, including the Daily Worker and Working Woman. She served on the partys Central Committee from 1932 to 1948. In all these capacities, she made a point to highlight womens issues.
Among her many assignments, she wrote for the Labor Defender, the organ of the International Labor Defense (ILD), a civil liberties organization affiliated with the Communist Internationals Red Aid network. Most famously the ILD helped save the lives of the Scottsboro Boys nine African-American boys and men wrongly convicted of raping a white woman from a legal lynching in Alabama in 1931. Bloors writings and activism inspired other women, such as the Red Angel, Elaine Black Yoneda, who quoted Bloor on the need to protect those wrongly accused: We must not fail these fighters, our defenders, those who go to the front.
In 1929 the CPUSA dispatched Bloor, then sixty-seven, to work with struggling farmers in the Great Plains. In South Dakota, she worked as an organizer for the United Farmers League fighting bank foreclosures and organizing mass demonstrations, during which time she met and married Andrew Omholt. With her oldest son (also a communist), she promoted the Farmers Holiday Association, which engineered the Iowa Milk Strike of 1932. In 1934, while protesting on behalf of striking female chicken pluckers in Loup City, Nebraska, Bloor was arrested one of more than thirty such arrests. After appeals failed, the seventy-three-year-old served most of her thirty-day jail sentence.
In 1937 Bloor made her fourth visit to the Soviet Union, this time to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Upon her return, she published Women in the Soviet Union (1938), a pamphlet praising the Soviet system of child care. In the 1930s and 1940s, the party began to celebrate her birthday and even hosted Mother Bloor picnics, further raising her status beyond the party.
Its fair to ask whether Bloor had doubts about the Soviet Union, the then-leader of the communist project, and communism more generally. By the 1930s, Stalin had demonstrated an utter lack of concern for democracy or human rights, imprisoning and killing millions of his own people. Stalin, and Lenin before him, had also sought to destroy anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, Trotskyists, and other on the Left who questioned Soviet policy, most notoriously in crushing the Kronstadt rebellion.
However, in the 1930s, the Soviet Union and Communist Parties around the world embraced the Popular Front. In the United States, the CPUSA seemed to act quite independently of the Soviet Union and attracted a great many to its ranks and countless more fellow travelers with its bold commitment to working peoples struggles during the Great Depression. Moreover, as demonstrated in the Scottsboro case, American Communists, white and black, boldly led the fight for racial equality and industrial unionism. Bloor, who referred to the CPUSA as her family, was hardly alone in excusing Soviet crimes in the hope that socialism was just around the corner.
In 1940, at the age of seventy-eight, she published her autobiography, We Are Many. In the books introduction, fellow Communist (and former IWW) leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn wrote:
We love and honor this extraordinary American woman as a symbol of militant American farmer and working class, of the forward sweep of women in the class struggle and in our Party, as an example to young and old of what an American Bolshevik should be.
Bloors book also inspired Woody Guthrie to pen songs about rapacious capitalists willing to murder innocent women and children to defeat strikes in the nations copper and coal mines. Mother Bloors outsized role resulted in radical American soldiers writing letters to her from overseas during WWII.
In her autobiography, Bloor touchingly recalled how she knew Walt Whitman as a child, a product of regular visits to an aunt in Camden, New Jersey, discussing her love of riding the ferry between Camden and Philadelphia (decades before a bridge spanned the Delaware River). As she wrote, Perhaps it was on those ferry-boat rides that the course of my life was determined, and that Whitman somehow transferred to me, without words, his own great longing to establish everywhere on earth the institution of the dear love of comrades.
Despite her nickname, which may seem dated and essentialist, Bloor lived a modern feminist life. She divorced several men who didnt bring her happiness and desired something better. She married several times for intellectual and political companions. She supported herself and her children. She fought for suffrage, the premier womens rights cause of the 1890s, until women won the right to vote in 1920. She became a union organizer and socialist, getting to know every prominent leftist of her time and countless ordinary ones too.
By the 1890s, she concluded that womens oppression included both patriarchy and capitalism. Committed to revolutionary change, she believed unions necessary to achieve her long-term goals as well as to improve the immediate lives of workers, women and men. Truly, she predicted the rise of socialist feminism in the 1970s.
Though some might indict such views for being restricted to middle-class white women as Barbara Ehrenreich said in 1975, the term socialist feminism is much too short for what is, after all, really socialist, internationalist, anti-racist, anti-heterosexist feminism Bloors life remains a signpost for all: fight for equality and expect as much in ones own life. Support unions and get others to do so. Strike, as needed. Take risks, even if that means getting arrested. Join the struggle while you can.
Ella Reeve Bloor died on this day in 1951 in Richlandtown, Pennsylvania and was buried in Camden, New Jersey. In tribute, Langston Hughes, the legendary African-American poet, declared, Mother Bloor was in person as sweet and full of sunshine as could be yet she battled the capitalists tooth and nail for seventy years.
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Posted: at 6:09 pm
The government estimates the problem of modern slavery is higher than expected and Anti-slavery International claims the business is “thriving” throughout the UK.
An investigation by Lincolnshire police led to the conviction today, August 11, of 11 people for being part of a modern slavery ring which targeted victims that were vulnerable and homeless – one person was held for 26 years.
The group are set to be sentenced on September 7, 8, 11 and 12 at Nottingham Crown Court for the crime.
What is modern slavery?
In the UK the common form of modern slavery sees people trafficked into forced labour for very little pay.
This applies to a variety of industries but is most commonly seen in agriculture, hospitality, car washes, and manufacturing.
Women may also be trafficked for sex.
Children can also be forced to commit crimes such as petty theft or cannabis production.
Horrific stories of victims held as slaves that helped police snare notorious travellers revealed
Who are victims of modern slavery?
Anyone can be a victim of slavery but people who are classed as vulnerable are often targeted. This also includes those who are from a minority and socially excluded groups can also be targeted.
The Government says that two-thirds of victims of modern slavery are women and one in four victims is a child.
A variety of things can contribute to someone being a victim of modern slavery this can include lack of education, poverty and limited opportunities at home.
How are people targeted?
Generally someone is offered what seems like a decent job but then when they start the job the conditions are completely different.
Violence can also be used against the victim once they have started work.
How common is slavery in the UK?
Anti-Slavery International claims it is much more common than people think with around 13,000 being exploited in the UK alone.
But the National Crime Agency have said it’s just the tip of the iceberg and there are lots more people up and down the country who are being kept as slaves, but their cases have never come to light.
How can you spot modern slavery?
There are a variety of signs to look out for which may mean that someone is a victim of modern slavery. A person may have false identity.
Director of Anti-slavery International, Aidan McQuade, said: “In terms of observations if you see people living in crowded conditions, they are not using proper work clothes, they are not mixing with other communities, and are driven around from one house to the next.
“If you get a sense they are a slave you need to find out if their identity documents have been taken off them.”
He added people also have to find out whether they are paid minimum wage.
To report modern slavery call the government’s hot line on 0800 0121 700.
Operation Pottery, which led to the conviction of eleven people in Nottingham Crown Court, was one of the largest investigations of its kind in the country.
It probed the group – largely from the same family of travellers – who targeted victims because they were “vulnerable and homeless”.
Some of the victims had learning disabilities or mental health issues, while others were dependent on alcohol or drugs. Some were forced to sign over their homes.
Officers carried out seven raids across Lincolnshire, Nottingham and London simultaneously on September 22, 2014 to smash the slavery ring.
Mr McQuade added it is good news the gang has been convicted.
He said: “The fact this has been going on is not a surprise – it’s shocking, but it’s not a surprise.
“It’s positive that they’ve been prosecuted and the police have stopped cruelty and it has raised awareness of the issue.
“It does highlight a problem we need to face.”
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Posted: at 6:09 pm
The group said its hotline will enable employees to raise concerns confidentially, without fear of repercussion about colleagues or suppliers. The hotline will be promoted during inductions, on wage slips, in worker handbooks and on noticeboards around its sites across the country.
Trained telephone operators will categorise each call on severity, alerting the appropriate level of management, or Cordants HR, legal or compliance teams, to investigate or respond to the concerns raised. Cordants compliance team will monitor all responses and report back to the groups senior leaders weekly.
Additionally, following the lead of PMP Recruitment, other Cordant brands have committed to becoming Stronger Together business partners.The campaign requires organisations to upload evidence to publicly demonstrate their commitment to tackling hidden labour exploitation.
Yesterday the BBC reported on a warning from the National Crime Agency claiming modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK is “far more prevalent than previously thought,” with the NCA estimating there were tens of thousands of victims of modern slavery with cases affecting “every large town and city in the country”. The agency added that it has more than 300 live policing operations.
Posted: at 6:09 pm
In the past ten years, the world has taken notice in Chinas growing interest for trade and investment in Latin America.
As a major import country for consumer food products, such as cereals, legumes, cattle and processed foods, as well as mineral raw materials and energy, its inevitable for China to focus on resource-rich Latin America. This comes with multiple facets of how each will benefit from building a relationship.
Take note: With China having a GDP value of over 18 percent of the worlds economy, and a 6.9 percent growth in Q1 and Q2 2017, it is without question how great the Chinese economy impacts global markets. In addition, Chinas population is over 1.38 billion, which makes it the most populous country in the world its more than double the total population of all Latin America and more than four times the population of the United States.
On the other hand, Latin America has half the GDP and nearly half the population as China. China is also the third largest exporter and second largest import partner for Latin American goods, including commodities due to the regions arable, agricultural, and resource rich lands. While it is a supplier of raw materials, its lack of industrial manufacturing makes it a prime buyer for Chinas products, such as toys, household goods, clothing, appliances, technologies and more.
Given this information, and since Chinas arable land is less than 13 percent, in the context of a desertification process that has not proved possible to stop, the country has understandably very high levels of demand, and thereby has become a major importer, for raw materials and food, and exporter for consumer products.
In the 2000s, this demand has contributed to growth and economic resilience in Latin America, but the regions slight deceleration due to global economic trends and political transitions in recent years has had a very negative impact on the region and its economic projections.
Furthermore, given its energy needs, China is convinced that it must innovate and lead the way in the search for alternatives to oil. However, since China will continue to rely on oil and raw energy resources until alternatives have been fully developed, its investment in the industry and relationship with Latin America has not faltered, despite losses for Latin American exporters due to a decline in crude oil and iron ore prices. For example, China has committed $65 billion USD for 500,000 barrels of oil per day from the reduced production capacity of PDVSA, a Venezuelan state oil company this is in addition to a number of infrastructure investment projects and a greater quantity of exports to the South American country.
As an exporter for consumer products, Chinas labor force has seen a major influx in industrial jobs. This has caused nearly 400 million Chinese citizens to move from rural areas to urban centers since the end of the 1970s. However, given that supply has not been able to keep up with demand, many of these factory jobs were met with inhumane conditions and dismal wages between 15 and 20 times lower than international averages since inception (aka labor slavery). Currently, although the wage differential gap has lessened, China continues to produce goods at costs well below those of other countries. From this perspective, Chinas huge industrial base, supported by an exploited labor has allowed for the industrial powerhouse to monopolize the market and expand globally, even when the quality of its products is constantly subject to criticism. This issue of labor and humane standards has been the source of endless disputes and negotiations within the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under pressure from their trade unions, several G8 countries have demanded wage homologation to ensure fair trade terms.
In the container import sector, the U.S. reigns with receiving over 20 percent of its goods from China, amounting to 4 percent of the U.S. GDP. This has caused a domino effect for the U.S. originated, number one retail giant in the world, Walmart, to import nearly 80 percent of its consumer goods from China. As low-cost manufacturing and middle-class wealth has expanded in the country, China has also become an important market for many North American companies.
However, as previously noted, inhumane treatment and internal labor pressures is among the most controversial issues for electoral debate in the U.S. and G8 partners.
The rise of China as a great importer and exporter adds to its financial power. To fully convey the tenacious and tremendous climb of their economy to become a main rival of U.S. trade and financial markets, it would take more than the limited space that this article allows. Furthermore, Chinas capacity for buying, selling and financial investment resources has permitted the country to become a systemic and significant player in the Latin American marketplace.
Due to their growing trade relations, Chinese President Xi Jinping developed an ambitious five-year plan from 2015-2019 for exchange with Latin America that includes: $500 billion USD in trade and $250 billion USD in foreign direct investment over its course. This has been more than fulfilled already and China is gaining greater economic influence in the region than the U.S. on a daily basis.
The Chinese model is clearly mercantilist, not political a B2B, you-do-you, I-do-me approach. For example, the Sino-Venezuelan cooperation model previously described has provided the Chvez and Maduro governments with weapons and financial aid, and in turn with a pragmatic silence regarding violations of human rights, political freedoms, and the prevalent hunger and disease that exists in the country. The two countries offer each other mutual voting support in the various multilateral global organizations every time the community of democratic nations tries to demand compliance with international law or human rights.
The big question is how are the benefits of closer relations with China shared? The answer, in most cases, is that the big beneficiary has been China. In Latin America, it has found a secure flow of raw materials, fundamental for its expansion, at prices below the world average. In the case of Mexico, some of the products that it exports to the North American market have been affected by unfair Chinese competition in the form of goods produced with very low-cost workers.
Furthermore, many economists argue that trade with China hinders the process of regional industrialization. This is due to when demand for raw materials increases in price and in effect strengthens local currencies, importing products finished or manufactured from China as opposed to manufacturing it in the home region is economically more attractive. Consequently, another question is if building China relations are perpetuating a dependence on exporting raw materials making Latin American economies more reliant and vulnerable?
As a larger trading partner with China in Latin America, the case of Venezuela is most eloquent in this regard: it shows that China is a ferocious negotiator, especially if it meets with an interlocutor like the governments of Chavez and Maduro, who have sold oil at giveaway prices in exchange for receiving loan payments in advance. In fact, the terms of successive agreements between the two governments, which total almost 500 from 1999 to date, are not publicly known. Diplomats and experts have pointed out that the commitments made by Venezuela violate its own laws, including the authorization of Chinese companies to ignore the Labor Law that prevails for other companies in their relations with Venezuelan workers.
Finally, another issue where China works without limitations is that of corruption. Unlike the U.S., European Union and the United Kingdom, where laws prohibit and penalize companies and citizens for corrupt practices when conducting business in foreign countries, Chinese businesses are able to execute their plans in America Latina free from any oversight in the matter of corruption. It is precisely these aspects of relations with China that are causing alarm, inside and outside Latin America.
Growing relations between Latin America and China is multifaceted. Beyond the short- and medium-term benefits that can be generated by building economic relationship with the Asian giant, commitments and dependencies are being created. In many ways, these are contrary to human rights, labor rights and, finally, the institutional and economic development of our countries. Above all, China-Latin America relations are not projected to change in the coming years despite political transitions and economic changes. Business is business.
In light of this increasing Chinese presence in Latin America, with the issues associated to the same, one question emerges for United States policy makers and business leaders: Shouldn’t we strategically increase and prioritize our engagement and partnerships with our neighbors in the Western hemisphere? The answer is obviously yes, but there has been little action. Plus, it might be too late when we start.
Leopoldo Martnez Nucete tweets @lecumberry.
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Posted: August 10, 2017 at 6:04 am
UNPAID wages, concerns over a lack of drinking water and conditions described as close to modern day slavery has led to a cargo ship being detained at Sharpness Docks.
Complaints that the crew of five Turks, two Indians and two Georgians has not been paid for three months, with the Indians not being paid since joining in September and October, were raised.
Following an inspection of the Panamanian-flagged vessel by Cardiff-based Maritime and Coastguard Agency officials, 12 deficiencies were identified including wages resulting in it being detained on June 2.
Owned by Turkish shipping firm Voda Denizcilik, Tahsinis still being held at Sharpness Docks for over two months and will not be released until inspectors are happy that all regulations are met.
Its crew is being supported by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), and a spokesman described conditions aboard the vessel as a culture close to modern day slavery.
ITF inspector Darren Proctor said: The vessel entered Sharpness on May 31 and was detained by the MCA after a complaint was received regarding outstanding wages and drinking water.
None of them [the crew] had been paid for three months, but the Indian crew had not been paid since joining in September and October 2016, and had to pay to even get the jobs.
Following ITF intervention seven of the nine crew (the master still remains onboard and the cook only recently joined) were repatriated and paid in full.
There were many findings onboard, including evidence of the crew drinking seawater as there was no potable water on the ship for over ten days, out of date food, non-operational galley equipment and a genuine concern over the labour practices.
The master thought it was acceptable to pay the crew every three months and not keep wage accounts.
The vessel has since been revisited by the MCA and issued with a further list of deficiencies.
An MCA spokesman confirmed that they had detained the Tahsin on June 2 after inspectors found 12 deficiencies including a number of missing charts and documents and wages not meeting the Seafarers Employment Agreement. Eight of these were deemed to be grounds for detention.
No date has been set for the Tahsins release.
Voda Denizcilik did not respond to the Gazettes request for a comment
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