Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Tuesday, September 16, 2008


IRN NOTE: We urge IRN readers and NNIRR members to visit the links of these articles to post analyses and comments that support immigrants labor and civil rights on the news and information web outlets to counter the hate and other ignorant and counter analyses. IRN and other NNIRR posts are available at www.nnirr.blogspot.com


1. The Grand Island Independent: Muslim protest for right to prayer


2. Inter Press Service News Agency: What Is So Fair About Fair Trade?


3. AFL CIO Now Blog: Immigration Laws, U.S. Trade Policy Hurt All Workers



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The Grand Island Independent



Muslim protest for right to prayer


By Tracy Overstreet tracy.overstreet@theindependent.com

The Grand Island Independent

Posted Sep 15, 2008 @ 04:44 PM

Last update Sep 15, 2008 @ 08:21 PM


GRAND ISLAND A group of 500 Muslim workers from Grand Island's JBS Swift & Co. plant staged a protest Monday afternoon.

Members of the B shift (3 to 11:30 p.m.) and some members of the morning A shift walked off the job after being denied time to pray during what they said is the holiest of times for them -- Ramadan.

A group of protesting women said they were kicked by a supervisor when they attempted to pray at work.

Asha Abdi said she knelt to pray when the supervisor said, "You can't pray here," kicked her feet and told her to go home.

Another woman, Hawo Mohammed, said she told her production supervisor she needed to go to the bathroom. She attempted to pray quickly in the bathroom until the male supervisor followed her in and told her she was taking too long.

"The main point is freedom for religion," said Ridwan Abbi, a second-shift production worker who gladly supported his peers.

The workers said they pray about four to five times a day -- two times of which fall during the A shift schedule and two of which fall during the B shift.

"The company said we aren't going to give you any time to pray, but this is a free country," said Ahmed Abdi, a spokesman for the largely Somalian group, who formerly worked at the plant. "We are Muslim and this country is about freedom."

The protesters walked about a mile from the Swift plant to Grand Island City Hall about 3:30 p.m. Monday carrying hand-lettered signs professing religious freedom.

After grouping in the parking lot at Grand Island City Hall, waving American flags and speaking to the media for about 20 minutes, the march continued into downtown Grand Island.

Grand Island police officers stopped Highway 30 traffic on Second Street as the protesters peacefully weaved their way through downtown.

Abdi said the protests will continue with each shift until something is done.

"Enough is enough," he said. "We came to City Hall today to let the leaders know this is serious."

A call to Swift's corporate office in Greeley, Colo., was not returned, but the company has apparently reacted to similar conflicts in Greeley by terminating workers.

Swift spokeswoman Tamara Smid was quoted by Colorado media that more than 100 workers at the Greeley plant had been fired last week after a similar prayer dispute involving Muslim workers there.

Ramadan involves fasting from dawn until dusk until the month-long holy season ends Oct. 1 with a feasting celebration known as Eid ul-Fitr.

Last spring about 125 Somali workers resigned from the Grand Island Swift plant, but about 70 returned to work after Swift and the workers' union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local No. 22, worked on the issue. The plant said then it couldn't accommodate prayer time, but did move many Somalis to earlier shifts that better fit their prayer schedule.


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Inter Press Service News Agency

Monday, September 15, 2008 17:35 GMT




What Is So Fair About Fair Trade?


Hilaire Avril


PARIS, Sep 15 (IPS) - Fair trade is held up as promoting fair prices for producers and guaranteeing social and environmental standards. These ideas are neither new nor controversial. But the recent boom in fair trade has drawn attention as standards and models multiply while authentication mechanisms lag behind.


Artisans du Monde (''Artisans of the World''), a federation of 170 French fair trade outlets, estimates that Europe accounts for 60 percent of the fair trade market. In 2000, it reckons, one in 10 French consumers had heard of fair or equitable trade.


In 2007 the figure jumped to eight out of 10. In 2006, 42 percent of French consumers in fact purchased a fair trade product.


According to the French Platform for Fair Trade (Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Équitable, or PFCE), a collective of 39 organisations, the sector's European turnover amounted to 1.25 billion euros in 2006, and fair trade sales have jumped by 20 percent every year since 2000.


At the other end of the chain, Artisans du Monde estimates that fair trade benefits 1.5 million small producers, the vast majority of whom are from developing countries. But what makes fair trade so fair to them?


Most fair trade organisations, whether buyers, importers, distributors or certifiers, operate under a self-imposed charter. Respecting a number of criteria will earn producers the right to use a network's label and grant their product access to a fair trade distributor's shelves.


But charters are as diverse as operators. Umbrella organisations such as the International Fair Trade Association, which claims 300 members, have a hard time unifying operational standards.


For Julie Maisonhaute, coordinator of the PFCE, trade is fair when it abides by three principles: paying a fair price for the product, assisting producers' communities and advocating a more equitable form of international trade.


"'A fair price is a price which allows artisans and farmers to make a decent living from their work,'' says Maisonhaute. Fair trade buyers and importers thus commit to paying a fixed price, regardless of the product's current price on often volatile world markets.


According to the PFCE, producers who sell to fair trade operators earn 20 to 30 percent more than their product would normally fetch on the market.


Some critics argue that guaranteeing a minimum price is useless if buyers do not ensure the purchase of a certain volume every year.


Although PFCE buyers do not guarantee volumes to be purchased, they commit to buying over a period of time from the same producers. ''It doesn't work if it's a one-shot thing, if we place a single order and reconsider everything next year,'' Maisonhaute believes.


Part of the price is paid in advance: ''Importers commit to pre-paying a part of their order, so that small producers have something to live on during the year of production,'' she adds.


This also helps covering the costs of adjusting production to the importers' standards of quality. The process is sometimes long and costly but necessary for importers to be able to sell their products in the West.


The PFCE's second principle is to assist producers by helping them organise their community. ''Fair trade seeks to work in priority with producers who are organised into farmers' cooperatives, artisans' unions and even private companies, as long as their employees have a say in governance,'' Maisonhaute explains.


''We also help them getting organised by bringing lone producers into such structures.''


Finally, the PFCE insists on a more political aspect: ''Our members pledge to advocate this different conception of international trade to consumers, institutions and elected officials. Otherwise this is only a business,'' she argues.


Minga, the other major fair trade network in France, also insists on the political side of fair trade. ''Transparency is of the essence. If you can't prove to the public and the media that it's fair, then it's not,'' says Michel Besson, Minga's president.


Minga differs from PFCE by insisting on ''North to North'' trade within developed countries. It promotes ''local solidarity partnerships between producers and consumers'' which bypass major distribution chains and supermarkets.


It also advocates fairness of the entire supply chain and does not apply its charter exclusively to the production phase. ''There is no such thing as fair trade yet because it's a constant struggle to make the entire chain fair,'' Besson admits.


''For instance, most goods are shipped and we insist on transporters guaranteeing their sailors decent social conditions in line with the International Labour Organisation's guidelines,'' Besson explains.


''We also pay attention to the environmental impact of transporting goods. What is the benefit of buying a fair trade tomato in France, if it comes from, say, Poland and burns a litre of diesel for each unit?'' Besson asks.


But, whatever the definitions, the charters and the organisations' role in the chain, both the PFCE and Minga admit that certification is the weakest link in ensuring that trade is indeed fair.


Both networks rely on self-evaluation. There is no independent verification that producers do in fact abide by a network's charter and principles.


In order to join Minga and have its products sold by the association's outlets, a producer must fill in a questionnaire with about 400 questions.


''We also encourage a participatory system of verification where a member organisation visits another and evaluates economic, social and environmental practices,'' says Besson.


For Maisonhaute, it is unthinkable to systematically verify production standards on the ground in developing countries: ''Given the number of producers and the distances to cover, the cost of travelling to each location would be unbearable.''


This allows the Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank that promotes free trade and is one of fair trade's harshest critics, to denounce what it sees as a marketing initiative rather than a new model for economic justice.


''Just 10 percent of the premium consumers pay for fair trade actually goes to the producer. Retailers pocket the rest,'' the Institute claims in a report titled ''Unfair Trade''.


Trying to cut the debate short, fair trade operators in France called on public authorities to lay down a set of standards acceptable to all in 2005. But the proposed norms never made it into law as the different networks have not, so far, agreed on a definition of ''fair trade''.




The report, “Unfair Trade,” referred to above can be found at:



Responses to the critique of “fair trade” practices can be found at






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AFL CIO Now Blog



Immigration Laws, U.S. Trade Policy Hurt All Workers


Posted By James Parks On September 11, 2008 @ 5:57 pm In Organizing & Bargaining | 13 Comments


Large corporations and the lobbyists they employ in Washington are running a familiar “game” on workers in the United States, Latin America and Mexico. The object of the game is to get as much out of the workers at the cheapest price. What most people don’t think about is how U.S. trade and [1] immigration policy are both part of the game.

Photojournalist David Bacon, author of [2] Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, who spoke at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., last night, says our flawed trade policies “enforce poverty in other countries.”

Bacon says so-called free trade exacerbates poverty and inequality in our trading partners, spurring migration flows. One example he cites is the way the North American Free Trade Agreement opened the Mexican corn market to cheaply produced U.S. corn, making it impossible for Mexican farmers to “get a price for their corn that would pay for the cost of growing it.”

Then people have to do what it takes to survive. So what that means is many of those people come to the United States. When they get here, they are placed in a position where the same corporate structure wants to use their labor here at a cheap price.

After they migrate to the United States, employers, in turn, are able to pay the immigrant workers low wages by selectively using our immigration laws to intimidate them with the threat of deportation.

One of the purposes of our immigration policy and of some of the bills in Congress—you’d have to call these labor supply bills—is to supply labor to corporations at a price they want to pay. They are not to help people achieve human rights and organizing rights that would allow them to build strong communities and strong families here.

Bacon says it’s no accident that many highly publicized immigration raids come when immigrant workers are trying to form a union. He says companies often use intimidation and fear of deportation to keep workers from demanding good wages and working conditions. But in the end, the intimidation hurts all workers, he says. For example, two immigration raids at the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, N.C., not only affected immigrant workers but also shut down an effort by the rest of the workers to form a union.

He says he empathizes with U.S. workers who are vehemently opposed to allowing undocumented workers to remain in the country.

Workers are afraid that with unemployment high, if there are more people, it will be harder to get jobs—job competition. And they fear that the desire of corporations for cheap labor means immigrants are going to work for wages that undercut the wages of workers here. Those are not unreasonable fears. But we have to look at solutions that benefit all of us. The criminalization of work really is hurting everybody. We need a more just immigration policy and a trade policy, so we can have a common ground where all workers can advance.

A new trade and immigration policy, he says, ought to include policies that don’t produce huge economic pressure for people to leave their home countries just to survive. And it must protect the rights of immigrant workers as well as those who were born here.

If we start saying that some people should have rights and some shouldn’t, we have a long history of where that leads. It leads to a very discriminatory, racist system where all workers suffer. We need to lift up the bottom. All workers should have the right to organize. We need the [3] Employee Free Choice Act, and we need to remove the ability of corporations to punish people when they try to organize.

Finally, Bacon says we need jobs programs. When the private sector cannot generate enough jobs for people who want to work, then the government has to step in and provide jobs.

Article printed from AFL-CIO NOW BLOG: http://blog.aflcio.org

URL to article: http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/09/11/immigration-laws-us-trade-policy-hurt-all-workers/

URLs in this post:

[1] immigration: http://www.aflcio.org/issues/civilrights/immigration
[2] Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants: https://unionshop.aflcio.org/Illegal_People_P1411.cfm
[3] Employee Free Choice Act: http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/



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