Annual Fundraising Appeal

The US Geological Survey recorded a minor earthquake this morning with its epicenter near Wasilla, Alaska, the probable result of Sarah Palin opening her mail box to find the latest issue of CounterPunch magazine we sent her. A few moments later she Instagrammed this startling comment…

Ayers

The lunatic Right certainly has plenty of problems. We’ve made it our business to not only expose these absurdities, but to challenge them directly. With another election cycle gaining steam, more rhetoric and vitriol will be directed at progressive issues. More hatred will be spewed at minorities, women, gays and the poor. There will be calls for more fracking and war. We won’t back down like the Democrats. We’ll continue to publish fact-based critiques and investigative reports on the shenanigans and evil of the Radical Right. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.

Day10

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
button-store2_19

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Inside Nike's Sweatshops Squeezed Vietnamese Workers Strike Back

Squeezed Vietnamese Workers Strike Back

by JEFF BALLINGER

The current strike wave in Vietnam can be traced to a seemingly benign statement by Adidas officials last year, attempting to explain a sharp increase in profitability. Since the German shoe giant’s acquisition of the Reebok brand, it gained new leverage over supplier factories. This predatory relationship with the mainly Taiwanese and S. Korean sports shoe manufacturers collided with a rising rate of inflation, bringing the near-subsistence wage to a level workers would not tolerate.

The largest indirect employer of Vietnamese workers is the Nike brand. Last December, the company told producers of a U.S. television documentary that there had recently been 10 strikes in its 35 supplier factories; since that time, 31,000 more contract-workers have launched strikes–one over forced overtime and the other for higher pay. Indeed, fully 85% of strikes in Vietnam have taken place in foreign-investment factories producing for export, according to government figures.

The documentary aired by CNBC went on to quote observers averring that Nike was the corporate-responsibility "gold standard" amongst shoe and apparel companies. How to explain this paradox? A good bit of the problem is related to how the "sweatshop" story has been (mis)reported over the last decade.

When Hannah Jones, the top CSR person at Nike had to deal with the wages question, she merely scolded the CNBC reporter for asking: "there is no magic wand" and, "we don’t think there’s anything, you know, that you can suddenly do overnight like flipping the switch and artificially hiking wages in factories."

The truth of the matter is that this former BBC staffer almost never has to deal with the media and it is extremely rare for the company to be asked about wages paid to its 900,000 mostly-Asian contract employees; the triumph of PR/Corporate Social Responsibility is "re-defining ‘success.’" For example, Nike won an award last month for producing the "best CSR report," according to a recent "news" story.

Indeed, Ms. Jones spends her days holding court, so to speak, as THE top global practitioner in the burgeoning CSR field, addressing audiences all over the world on corporate citizenship, the triple bottom line, incentivizing suppliers and creating systemic changes. She’s a rock star in the PR/CSR biz. With such a strike wave going on, one would think that Ms. Jones would be more earnest–rather than patronizing and dismissive. (And non-responsive, it must be said.)

The documentary team left the real story on the cutting-room floor–brave workers standing up to brutal bosses in a system with no tolerance for independent unions. They had interviewed workers sacked–and jailed overnight – for leading the forced overtime strike but did not use it in the nine-minute segment on Nike’s Vietnam suppliers.

A few months ago on the day before I arrived in Vietnam to talk with workers, four leaders of the banned "United Workers & Farmers Organisation" were convicted of "posting to a reactionary web-site, abusing democracy and spreading distorted information to undermine the state"–the UFWO founder, Doan Van Dien, received a 4-year sentence.

At the factory which had a strike in April, twenty were forced to resign (meaning that they do not receive severance pay) and four were detained by security forces for passing out leaflets urging workers to hold out for the 20% raise they demanded instead of accepting a Party-run union agreement with management providing only 10%.

There could be many more disciplined for leading the resistance; the only information that I have comes from these two factories. Hopefully, the more courageous bloggers in that part of the world will soon begin to act as a conduit for information about fired activists and we can begin some cross-border solidarity efforts.

JEFF BALLINGER is teaching and researching industrial relations at Webster University in Vienna. He can be contacted at jeffreyd@mindspring.com