Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Education for solidarity within spaces of resistance

The tragic deaths in Brazil over the weekend have lent a further, separate and urgent impetus to limit fire-related deaths as a result of the neglect of multinationals and connected businesses in the global manufacturing chain supply 
As reported today on the Labor is not a Commodity blog (http://laborrightsblog.typepad.com/  - an umbrella grouping comprising reportage from The International Labor Rights Forum, STITCH, SweatFree Communities and U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project work)  even WalMart has pressured into action announcing a zero tolerance approach to health and safety standards and a range of other factors in the factories and workplaces of suppliers.
What remains to be seen however, is how serious WalMart take this new found zeal, and ultimately what impact it has. The catalyst to WalMart's decision was the unovering of the MNC's link to two companies both operating out of the Tazreen Fashion Factory which was the site before Christmas of the tragic, uneessary deaths of over 100 workers at the garment manufacturing factory in Dhaka: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/25/bangladesh-textile-factory-fire
This disaster is, sadly, nothing new in this sector nor in Bangladesh. I reported before Christmas on the excellent new book by Doug Miller (Last Nighshift in Savar) which chronicles the global campaign between the Clean Clothes Campaign and the ITLGW following a similar tragedy in 2005.
Doug's book, whilst first rate in execution and coverage, is only one illustration of the global scale of the continuing aberration of what are in effect human rights abuses achieved as a manufactured outcome in the global operation of MNCs, and driven by governments who week to attract their investment.
The latest coverage from the Labor is not a Commodity blog provides s short, sharp sense of the scale of the phenomena as its current homepage starts with the WalMart annoucement, covers two other factory fires in Bangladesh and focuses on the recent release by Apple of the outcome of its annual audit of global suppliers revealing, yet again, the largescale use of child labour - amongst many other examples of abuse and exploitation - across its supply chain and particularly in China.
As Last Nighshift in Savar illustrates trade unions, NGOs and other civil society organisations can and do have an important role to play in resisting the worst excesses of global capitalism and this is explored more broadly in a fascinating book Globalisation, Knowledge and Labour by Mario Novelli and Anibel Ferus-Commelo. Whilst the focus of the book is, amongst others, an exploration of the valuable role that workers' education can play in generating organised resistance to exploitation, it helps to unpick the complex nature of MNC global supply chains and the subsequent deadening impact upon wider, broader worker solidarity and consciousness raising - making the need for educational initiatives all the more vital. Although not a cheap book, I thoroughly recommend it as a means to analyse the roots to new forms of worker collaboration with wider socially progressive movments and to newer, altered forms of worker organisation.
As with most of my writing in the blog, what Globalisation, Knowledge and Labour points towards are the prospects and opportunities for continued and revitalised forms of solidarity that reach beyond traditional notions, fixed largely on the activity of singular trade unions located in the nation state.
There is incredible room for optimism in seeking the means to resist and overcome the ideological, political and economic systems which lay behind the factory fires in Bangladesh, and the other day-today injustices faced by workers globally, and thus an urgent need, I would argue, to revisit the central role that trade union education can play globally in being central to this process.
In Solidarity

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