Child Labour Protest at G8 meeting, the ugly reality of globalization
AFP, 21 June 1997
DENVER, Colorado, June 21 (AFP) - An alliance of pro-children activists, backed by the AFL-CIO labor union, on Saturday urged world leaders gathered here to stand up to western corporations that it said abuse workers and children abroad.
The groups released a letter to be sent to the Summit of the Eight charging that "already, children are bearing the brunt of economic globalization," working in horrific conditions for little pay.
Others, it said, suffer from infectious diseases and stunted prospects as "governments everywhere cut agriculture, education, welfare, health, labor and evironmental programs ... in the scramble to compete in the global market."
The letter asked the leaders of Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States to end their participation in trade agreements -- such as NAFTA -- that fail to guarantee core labor rights.
It said government export credits and risk insurance should be denied multinational corporations that do not meet "the highest labor, environmental and human rights standards" in their operations overseas.
"Corporations are doing abroad what they would never be able to get away with in the United States and Europe," said Daniel Seligman, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, a major US environmental group and a signer of Saturday's letter.
He charged that corporations active in developing countries, where they are unfettered by labor laws and other regulations, are exploiting child workers, polluting land, sky and water and busting unions.
The latter allegation may have prompted John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, to sign the statement.
Another signer, Ruth Caplan of the populist movement Alliance for Democracy, argued that multinational companies and their local agents should be compelled to pay livable wages to their workers in the developing world.
"If you don't want to see children in sweatshops, you have to ensure that their parents earn enough to feed their families."
Both Caplan and Seligman said they had taken heart at the recent legislative election in France, where victory for the Socialists and their allies was seen as evidence of public revulsion at the pro-market, US-backed austerity measures pursued by the country's right wing president, Jacques Chirac.
"The French are standing strong," Caplan declared, though she said she feared the safety net established in Europe could be "shredded" as governments throttle back on social programs in order to engage the United States in global competition.
"The French people have shown real leadership in saying enough is enough," added Seligman.