Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, February 23, 2007

PARD and Your Tax Dollars At Work

The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development continues to use taxpayer funded facilities for its own private campaign against Wal-Mart.

Below is an e-mail from PARD.
From: PARD Webmaster:
To: pawsmeet@pullman-ard.org:
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 4:25 PM
Subject: [PARD - PAWS Campaign] Wal-Mart Sweatshop Workers Panel Presentation


Workers from Colombia, India and US to Confront Giant Retailer

WHERE: Washington State University, CUE 203

WHEN: Monday, February 26th at 7:30 PM

Two workers from Wal-Mart supplier sweatshops and farms abroad will hold speaking at WSU expose the abuses they experience in making products for Wal-Mart’s stores. One worker from a Florida Wal-Mart retail store will also speak of abuses to US workers.

The workers have traveled here to hold Wal-Mart publicly accountable for the human rights violations its policies encourage and abet in its supply chain and retail stores

Beatriz Fuentes from Colombia produces cut flowers for Dole and Wal-Mart at Splendor Flowers.

Kotagarahalli Ramaiah Jayaram from India worked in garment factories supplying Wal-Mart & other stores from age 18.

If you are not familiar with the WSU campus, the campus map is available online at: http://www.campusmap.wsu.edu/campus-map/FULL/quadrant-14.html
Fuentes and Jayaram have been touring the country touting their anti-Wal-Mart message, no doubt paid for by labor unions fighting Wal-Mart. Someone from PARD should ask if those "other stores" include Target in their "sweatshops" as well.

PARD has every right to trash Wal-Mart 365/24/7, but not on our dime, in buildings we paid for. You can't use state facilities for political purposes. Why is this any different? If PARD wants to have a "panel" on "sweatshops," then present both sides of the issue and allow debate. This is not education, it's pure propaganda. Will WSU allow for a rebuttal panel? Sure, right about the time I get my third set of teeth.

Write WSU Provost Robert Bates and let him know you don't appreciate taxpayer funded WSU facilities being used in this manner.

Technorati Tags:


Bruce Heimbigner said...

Sorry, but it is an all or nothing deal. The university either allows anyone to use the facilities (and can charge a 'reasonable' usage fee) OR they allow NO outside use. Student clubs can sponser events to do just about anything. Employees cannot do that. So, the questions to ask are: Is a student club (or department) sponsering the event? If not did the user of the space pay the going rate for that space?

Tom Forbes said...

Thanks Bruce, those are the questions to ask. As PARD is made up of an Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and various department chairs and vice-chairs, I suspect it is neither, just like their shoing of the anti-Wal-Mart movie a while back.

Another good question to ask, as part of a public records request, is how many other university resources such as e-mail and printers, have been devoted to PARD's anti-Wal-Mart crusade?

Luckily, there is a state agency that looks into those things.

andrew k said...

My question is: is PARD's trashing valid? You've probably dealt with this question before, but I'm still curious. Wouldn't boycotting Wal-Mart help deter the blatant human-rights violations of some of its suppliers? (and its own occasional HR gaffes?)
Wal-Mart is Arizona's largest private employer, with I believe 14,400 full-time equivalent employees. Is it really possible that this company, with its monolithic policies, does not have some degree of coercion over its employees?
I apologize for going off-topic in this comment, in the future I'll search out the posts that deal with my questions more directly.
In that tone, I would like to thank you and your fellow bloggers for the work you do. I'm honestly tired of the blind, uneducated Wal-Mart-bashing that seems so chic to the elite these days.

Tom Forbes said...

Andrew, thanks for stopping by and please continue to do so! We always appreciate intelligent discussion of the issues here.

With regards to a boycott, I agree 100% It is PARD's constitutional right to boycott Wal-Mart and urge others to do the same. My objection is that they are using taxpayer funded facilities to do so. In an educational setting such as a university, there should be diverse views presented. Clearly, in this case, there are not. Also, PARD's tactics are not the boycott. There are using land use laws to delay Wal-Mart's entry into our market, thus preempting any boycott. They are effectively making a choice for all consumers in Pullman, which is unconstitutional and un-American.

As so the sweatshop allegations, read what Pranab Bardhan, an economics professor at the University of California Berkeley, had to say in the April 2006 Scientific American:

"Global market competition in general rewards people with initiative, skills, information and entrepreneurship in all countries. Poor people everywhere are handicapped by their lack of access to capital and opportunities to learn new skills. Workers in some developing countries--say, Mexico--are losing their jobs in labor-intensive manufacturing to their counterparts in Asia. At the same time, foreign investment has also brought new jobs. Overall, the effect appears to be a net improvement. In Mexico, low-wage poverty is declining in the regions that are more involved in the international economy than others--even controlling for the fact that skilled and enterprising people migrate to those regions, improving incomes there independently of what globalization accomplishes. A recent study by Gordon H. Hanson of the University of California, San Diego, which took into account only people born in a particular region (thus leaving out migrants), found that during the 1990s average incomes in the Mexican states most affected by globalization increased 10 percent more than those least affected.
In poor Asian economies, such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia, large numbers of women now have work in garment export factories. Their wages are low by world standards but much higher than they would earn in alternative occupations. Advocates who worry about exploitative sweatshops have to appreciate the relative improvement in these women's conditions and status. An Oxfam report in 2002 quoted Rahana Chaudhuri, a 23-year-old mother working in the garment industry in Bangladesh:

This job is hard--and we are not treated fairly. The managers do not respect us women. But life is much harder for those working outside. Back in my village, I would have less money. Outside of the factories, people selling things in the street or carrying bricks on building sites earn less than we do. There are few other options. Of course, I want better conditions. But for me this job means that my children will have enough to eat and that their lives can improve.

In 2001 Naila Kabeer of the University of Sussex in England and Simeen Mahmud of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies did a survey of 1,322 women workers in Dhaka. They discovered that the average monthly income of workers in garment-export factories was 86 percent above that of other wage workers living in the same slum neighborhoods.

Another indication of this relative improvement can be gauged by what happens when such opportunities disappear. In 1993, anticipating a U.S. ban on imports of products made using child labor, the garment industry in Bangladesh dismissed an estimated 50,000 children. UNICEF and local aid groups investigated what happened to them. About 10,000 children went back to school, but the rest ended up in much inferior occupations, including stone breaking and child prostitution. That does not excuse the appalling working conditions in the sweatshops, let alone the cases of forced or unsafe labor, but advocates must recognize the severely limited existing opportunities for the poor and the possible unintended consequences of 'fair trade' policies."

The same liberals who say the U.S. cannot impose American democracy in Iraq must realize that we also cannot impose American working conditions in developing countries.

My biggest issue with PARD's sweatshop panel is the blatant hypocrisy of it all. PARD has stated that Target is more "appropriate" for Pullman and that they would not oppose one locating here. However, Target makes as much use of sweatshop labor as Wal-Mart or any other discount retailer. That is just pure snobbery, unrelated to any moral objections concerning "sweatshops" or "human rights."

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

I guess if you are the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts you can do these things. Still, it seems to me this would be a perfect case for a whistleblower.

Bruce Heimbigner said...

According to pard’s web site the event is being sponsored by Chicana/o Latino/a Student Center, the Progressive Student Union, and the Comparative Ethnic Studies Department. The first 2 are RSO’s (Recognized Student Organizations) (official student clubs) As RSO’s they can do just about anything they want to do campus. I don’t know what The Comparative Ethnic Studies Department has to do with “WAL-MART SWEATSHOP WORKERS”. There is no mention of the event on the department’s or libarts.wsu.edu website. I’m a science and computer guy so I don’t really know the rules about what kind of events a department can sponsor. But, I’ll ask the question in a generic way. I'm certain, I'll get the response we’d all expect, then point out the specific example of someone breaking the rule, and suddenly ‘the powers that be’ explain ‘oh’ that is an exception OR ‘oh’ I did get approval for that (of course when I first asked if they got approval they told me they didn’t know they needed approval. (I’ve done this before.)
I’m looking for my whistle, but so far there just isn’t much air here.

Tom Forbes said...

Ah, those champions of free speech, the CES Department, the home of David "Your Papers Please" Leonard and John "Sh!^bag" Streamas. No wonder there will be no opposing viewpoints presented.

What a sweet deal PARD has. One moment there the "grassroots citizens group." Thgen when they need to use university facilities, they switch to the guise of some left-wing department of student organization. Conveniently, PARD's "Labor Outreach Coordinator" is Jose Alamillo, a CES professor with ties to the Chicana/o Latino/a Student Center.

Be sure to check out the Progressive Student Union's MySpace page The "friends" space is a veritable who's who of Palouse radicals, including our recent poster Moebius, Moscow liberal gadfly Joan Opyr, and Professor David Leonard.

Tom Forbes said...

Oh, by the way, Jose Alamillo is also the faculty advisor for the Progressive Student Union. See how it all fits together?