Sarah Newell cached version 09/02/2019 09:29:49 en I’m not sure Ivanka knows what “empower” means <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first daughter once again positions herself as a champion for working women – but only certain women.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">US President Donald Trump displays the national security presidential memorandum launching the "Women's Global Development and Prosperity" initiative. Martin H. Simon/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Ivanka Trump has had numerous opportunities to do right by women workers in her life, and the record shows she hasn’t taken them. Since her father took office, she has adopted a number of pet projects related to women’s economic empowerment. Her latest effort is more of what we&#39;ve come to expect from Ivanka: talk of empowerment without paying any attention to what really makes a difference. The <a href="">Women&#39;s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018</a> (WEEE Act), signed into law by President Donald Trump in early January, claims to “address gender-related barriers to economic growth and support women-led businesses” by mandating that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) take certain steps to be more gender-sensitive in grant making and reporting. The most significant piece requires USAID to dedicate at least 50% of its small- and medium-sized enterprise resources to target businesses owned by women.&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite its lofty title, this law has a <a href="">limited scope</a> and weak language. It pays lip service to gender-based violence, access to fundamental labour rights, and women’s access to property rights, but fails to establish measures to substantively address these important issues facing women workers. Jobs and economic empowerment opportunities are only useful insofar as they are <em>good</em> jobs – jobs that pay a living wage and allow workers to form unions, without fear of retaliation. There is no guarantee that because a business is woman-owned, that business will provide good jobs. And if an initiative is not pro-worker, it can’t claim to be pro-women.</p> <p>From the first announcement of this legislation, there was reason to be heavily skeptical. As <a href="">documented by the <em>Washington Post</em></a> in 2017, Ivanka Trump’s eponymous clothing brand was rife with reported labour abuses. The primarily women workers sewing clothes for the Ivanka Trump brand made some of the lowest wages in the world. Her company failed to take basic steps to improve its practices, like disclosing the list of its supplier factories or signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The brand, which is <a href="">now closed</a>, was hardly a positive sign of Ivanka Trump’s commitment to working women.</p> <p>Ivanka has also failed to take action to support <a href="">a new international convention</a> on gender-based violence in the workplace. Unlike the WEEE Act, this critical initiative would establish a global human rights standard around sexual harassment and violence at work, driving legal reform around the world. Unequal power relations in society and at work result in women, as well as trans and gender non-conforming people, facing increased exposure to violence and harassment at work. Yet<a href=""> no specific international standard exists on this issue</a>. Governments around the globe have been involved in negotiating a ground-breaking new benchmark, yet the United States has been <a href="">conspicuously unresponsive</a> to solicitations for comment from the International Labour Organization. </p> <p>Perhaps the most glaring omission from the WEEE Act is the millions of women whose economic opportunity isn’t of interest to the president’s daughter. The women from Central America seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, for example. Is Ivanka Trump invested in their economic empowerment? Is she concerned about their access to decent jobs, affordable credit and financial institutions? Not likely, since no one in the Trump family has spoken out against the humanitarian crisis at the border. The United States played a key role in creating the economic conditions that led to many asylum seekers deciding to migrate in search of good jobs. Why not take action there? As with her previous efforts in this arena, Ivanka seems to focus exclusively on women entrepreneurs and business leaders. This excludes most working women.</p> <p>It’s true that none of the mandates outlined in the law are necessarily harmful. All government agencies could benefit from taking a more gender-sensitive approach to their programs. But such a weak effort exists as talking point for Ivanka Trump, a feather in her cap. She wants to be perceived as pro-women, without actually challenging the power structures that afford her infinite privilege and access, and without challenging the root causes that keep the majority of women in the world in poverty. She wants to empower, but doesn’t want to give up her power to do so. This latest effort is a step in the right direction. But it is a step too small to register with the people who need it most.</p> <p>In an era of fake news, an extra dose of skepticism serves you well. It’s time to apply that principle to the world of ‘women’s empowerment’ initiatives. We need to start asking: who is driving this change? Is this an evidence-based, bottom-up initiative to address the root causes of inequality, or is this a smokescreen to distract from the real causes of inequality? The one thing you can count on is that just because something says it is empowering doesn’t mean it is.</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/fow/judy-gearhart/voluntary-confidential-corporate-social-responsibility-helps-hide-worker">Corporate social responsibility helps hide workers’ rights abuse until brands can quietly exit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/fow/lupe-gonzalo-marley-moynahan/how-can-funders-support-creation-implementation-and-sprea">How can funders support the creation, implementation, and spread of worker-driven social responsibility?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/fow/nithya-natarajan-katherine-brickell-laurie-parsons/is-race-to-bottom-over-reflecting-o">Is the race to the bottom over? Reflecting on ‘surplus’ populations in Cambodia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/fow/ava-caradonna/from-brothels-to-independence-neoliberalisation-of-sex-work">From brothels to independence: the neoliberalisation of (sex) work</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Sarah Newell Sat, 09 Feb 2019 08:00:00 +0000 Sarah Newell 121627 at In lieu of a silver bullet: #metoo in the global workplace <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When we talk about gender-based violence in the world of work, we need to talk about non-white, non-wealthy women too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="100%" /><span class="image-caption">Photo by the&nbsp;International Labor Rights Forum.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Stories of sexual harassment and violence on movie sets and in newsrooms continue to dominate media cycles. Following a stunning 80 women coming forward to accuse former movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual violence, survivors in entertainment, journalism and&nbsp;<a href="">even US Congress</a>&nbsp;have begun to share their experiences and the names of industry predators. By now, it follows a familiar pattern: first one person comes forward, followed by a second, then a seemingly endless onslaught of stories come out. Celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan have come forward with their own testimonies of rape and harassment. Social media is flooded with accounts from people who had experienced sexual assault or harassment, using the hashtag #metoo.</p> <p>Here’s an indisputable fact: women and other marginalised people face challenges in accessing the right to work free from gender-based violence. This problem is not going away, and, in lieu of a silver bullet solution to dismantle patriarchy in its entirety, it’s going to take a considerable effort – one that includes governments and corporations taking responsibility for protecting workers from gender-based violence in all parts of their supply chains in ways they’ve resisted before.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Here’s an indisputable fact: women and other marginalised people face challenges in accessing the right to work free from gender-based violence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite all the attention to the issue, there continues to be international debate around whether it even makes sense to create a binding international standard on gender-based violence, with a number of governments and corporations dragging their feet on lending support. The International Labor Rights Forum’s new report, “<a href="">Time For Change: Advancing Legal Protections on Gender-Based Violence at Work</a><em>,</em>”<em>&nbsp;</em>explores the ways in which gaps in international norms and national laws allow women and vulnerable populations to fall through the cracks.</p> <p>Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, recounts in the report her recent experience convening a series of workshops for garment workers to discuss gender-based violence at work. At first, she said, the women insisted they didn’t know anyone affected by the issue and felt the topic shouldn’t be discussed at all. Then, she said, “Finally, during the fourth workshop one woman recounted that she had been raped multiple times by her supervisor under threat. He used economic fear, forcing her to go to the factory on the weekend saying that she would lose her job if she didn’t and then he raped her.”</p> <p>After that, “everyone else started speaking,” she said. “It was our own #metoo moment. All the women in the group had their own story of sexual violence or harassment at work.”</p> <p>Out of victims of workplace gender-based violence, those that are not wealthy and white far outnumber those that are – in the US and globally. The media may not reflect this, but these same patterns of powerful men abusing and harassing people in their workplace happen everywhere. Regardless of where the conversation focuses, the issue is very much global. Without widely applicable legal protections that provide specific, comprehensive coverage for gender-based violence in the world of work, women and marginalised groups will continue to suffer.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">When we are in the street we face barriers, and then in the factory. [...] Everyone is a victim of abuse: by their husbands, by the company, by the garment factory owners.</p> <p>The fact that so much of the public conversation is focusing on workplace abuse is a testament to the ways in which our lives intersect at work. One Bangladeshi garment worker, speaking under the pseudonym Taslima for fear of retaliation, described the relentless harassment women fend off during a workday. “When we are in the street we face barriers, and then in the factory. Even in the house we have barriers, don’t we? … Everyone is a victim of abuse: by their husbands, by the company, by the garment factory owners.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The ubiquity of gender-based violence doesn’t negate the fact that it stands apart from other workplace violations. The traumatic, personal nature of violence, and the shame and fear associated with reporting it, require specific attention in international standards and national laws. If created, an&nbsp;<a href="">International Labour Organization Convention, supplemented by a Recommendation</a>, could provide much-needed clarification, structure and processes to guide governments, employers and unions around the world on this issue.</p> <p>When the wealthiest and most well-known women in the world sometimes can’t get through even a day at work without being groped – what does that say about the rest of the world? The majority of working women lack similar access to the support, the money and the privilege of being perceived as ‘believable’. So, when we talk about Alyssa and Rose, we need to talk about Kalpona and Taslima too.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/judy-gearhart-penelope-kyritsis/gender-based-violence-at-work-when-boss-is-threat">Gender-based violence at work: when the boss is the threat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/penelope-kyritsis-cassandra-waters/protection-lotto-against-gender-based-violence-in-u">The protection lotto against gender-based violence in the US</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/penelope-kyritsis-iris-mungu/gender-based-violence-in-central-american-agricultural-in">Gender-based violence in the Central American agricultural industry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/penelope-kyritsis-kalpona-akter/surviving-violence-in-bangladeshi-garment-factory">Surviving violence in a Bangladeshi garment factory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/penelope-kyritsis-ram-n-torres/they-came-into-showers-why-we-formed-independent-farm-w">Why we formed an independent farm workers union</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/genevieve-lebaron-neil-howard-cameron-thibos-penelope-kyritsis/confronting-root-caus-2">Confronting the root causes of forced labour: identity and discrimination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/genevieve-lebaron-neil-howard-cameron-thibos-penelope-kyritsis/confronting-root-caus-3">Confronting the root causes of forced labour: limited labour protection</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Sarah Newell Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:00:00 +0000 Sarah Newell 115618 at Is Foxconn a fantasy? The high cost of bringing manufacturing jobs to Wisconsin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Who are the real winners of Foxconn's investment in Wisconsin?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="100%" /><span class="image-caption">Prachatai/Flickr.&nbsp;(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)</span></p><p>Last week, President Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Foxconn – an electronics manufacturing company owned by a wealthy Taiwanese tycoon – <a href="">announced plans</a> to build a factory in the United States to produce LCD screens. Trump lauded this as a victory in his stated quest to bring manufacturing jobs to the United States. But the reality may be something different.&nbsp; </p> <p>If the name Foxconn rings a bell, you may be remembering the epidemic of suicides that horrified the world at the so-called Foxconn City industrial park in Shenzhen, China. In 2010, 18 employees attempted suicide, and 14 died as a result of those attempts. Many reports attribute this rash of suicides – which continued through 2016 – to the <a href="">harsh working conditions</a> workers endured in the factories, with forced overtime and unrealistic production quotas.</p> <p>Foxconn’s track record in the United States doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. In 2013, Foxconn publicly announced they intended to invest $30 million in a Pennsylvania factory, creating 500 jobs. Today, a gravel pile sits on the site where the factory was to be built, and Foxconn has gone silent on the issue. In fact, they’ve made <a href="">similar empty promises in India, Vietnam, Brazil and Indonesia</a>. </p> <p>Foxconn employs 1.2 million workers worldwide, 500,000 of which are at the infamous Shenzhen factory complex. At its grandest vision, the Wisconsin plant would make up less than one tenth of one per cent of Foxconn’s global workforce. The 3,000 jobs they are initially promising represent such a minor number, they would ‘be considered a <a href="">“rounding error”</a> in China’, according to Christopher Balding, a professor of economics at Peking University. It doesn’t take much political acumen to guess the company’s true motivation: currying favor with a major importer of their Asian-produced goods by helping the US president score a win on his manufacturing promises. &nbsp;</p> <p>Foxconn’s shoddy record isn’t the only red flag associated with this proposal. The electronics manufacturing giant has grown accustomed to major handouts from governments and, if their <a href="">track record</a> is any indication, they expect these freebies to keep flowing the entire time they're in the country. In order for this plan to become a reality, the <a href="">Wisconsin state legislature would need to approve $3 billion</a> in corporate incentives to defray capital costs and workforce development costs. The math is startling: Wisconsin will pay out <a href="">$230,000 in tax dollars</a> for each one of the 13,000 jobs. This means Wisconsin taxpayers will shell out<a href=""> $66,000 per year to subsidize jobs that will pay less than the state average income</a>. In a state experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in 17 years, it’s difficult to imagine there would be political will to pass this legislation. </p> <p>This announcement was set against the backdrop of the Senate vote on whether to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. The repeal of this plan would not only have <a href="">stranded 32 million people without health insurance</a>, it would have drastically cut funding to Medicaid, hospitals, retirement homes, and other health facilities. These cuts would translate into job losses – a predicted <a href="">one out of every 20</a> healthcare jobs could disappear by the year 2026. Alas, for Trump, these jobs don’t seem to count; only jobs that feed into his apparent fixation on showing he can broker ‘deals’ that will deliver on his promise to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector.</p> <p>It’s also worth asking what kind of jobs the Foxconn deal will create. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s entire political career has been framed by his battle against organised labor. With funding from the Koch Brothers and other deep-pocketed out-of-state donors, he’s waged an unceasing battle against public sector unions, including teachers and other civil servants. He also helped make Wisconsin a ‘right to work’ state, which will make it much more difficult for Foxconn’s employees to join a union if they decide to. Under Walker’s watch, <a href="">union membership has plummeted</a> faster than in any other state in the country. </p> <p>Let’s be clear: the media splash created by the (potential) Foxconn investment is understandable, given the very real need to find way to support well-paying, family sustaining jobs in the US manufacturing sector. But given the track record of company and politicians involved, the Wisconsin legislature should take a long, hard look at whether the deal on the table makes economic sense for taxpayers and workers. Trump, Walker, and Foxconn may have to turn over a new leaf if they want to prove that they are genuinely interested in creating good, family-sustaining jobs, as opposed to simply garnering attention to further their electoral agenda.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/devi-sacchetto-mart%C3%ACn-cecchi/on-border-foxconn-in-mexico">On the border: Foxconn in Mexico</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rutvica-andrijasevic-devi-sacchetto-nuran-g%C3%BClen%C3%A7/fox-at-europe%E2%80%99s-door-foxconn-in-">The fox at Europe’s door: Foxconn in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/cathy-feingold-penelope-kyritsis/national-trade-unions-in-globalised-world">National trade unions in a globalised world</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Sarah Newell Mon, 07 Aug 2017 07:00:00 +0000 Sarah Newell 112716 at Sarah Newell <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sarah Newell </div> </div> </div> <p>Sarah Newell is a Campaigns Associate at the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">International Labor Rights Forum</a>, a human rights organisation that advances dignity and justice for workers in the global economy. Previously she was an organiser with the American Association of University Professors and a member of United Students Against Sweatshops.</p> Sarah Newell Sun, 06 Aug 2017 22:30:51 +0000 Sarah Newell 112717 at