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Poverty and Patriarchy
While poverty and patriarchy may seem like separate issues, the two connect deeply. As long as poverty exists, women’s rights and livelihoods will suffer. Likewise, women’s oppression leads to their inability to contribute to the economy and prevents a family’s escape from cycles of poverty. Here are some examples from around the world of poverty and patriarchy reinforcing each other, and some ways humanitarian aid can improve these situations.

Microcredit in Bangladesh Has Left Millions of Women At High Risk For Domestic Violence

From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, people thought that micro-loans would be the future of international development. In Bangladesh, most of these loans went to women on the belief that women could handle money more responsibly than their male counterparts. They received a small amount of money to invest in materials to start a business and earn an independent livelihood in order to bring their families financial stability. Unfortunately, when these women were unsuccessful at lifting their families out of poverty and their families plunged into greater debt as a result of the loans, they often suffered spousal abuse. For other women, as soon as they received the money, the men and their families took it and used it, leaving them to pay off the loans by themselves. As a whole, micro-credit has not had the intended impact on the people of Bangladesh that the international community once hoped for, and rates of violence against women have climbed, increasing the correlation between poverty and patriarchy

Solution: Investing in women’s education will provide them with the knowledge they need to become financially independent and ensure greater legal protection for victims of domestic violence could greatly combat this issue.

Poverty As a Weapon Against Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sixty-one percent of women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in poverty, compared to only fifty-one percent of men. This is because people have systematically excluded women from peace-building efforts in the country. Because there are no women’s voices at the decision-making table, countries set policies that prioritize men, often at women’s expense. Disturbingly, women’s rights activists in the country are often a target for violence. Many think that those who advocate for women-centered poverty-relief efforts are distracting from larger issues within the country.

Solution: Studies that researchers conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate that in areas with high levels of poverty, there are high levels of violence against women. Providing food security, as well as funding institutions and organizations to empower women, are important steps in relieving both poverty and oppression in the DRC.

Time Poverty Makes it Nearly Impossible for Indian Women to Contribute to the Economy

In India, the average man works seven hours per day. Although women usually work for nine hours a day, the vast majority of their labor is unpaid housework and childminding. This means that they have little time to earn any outside wages, and therefore, remain financially dependent on the men in their families.  The power dynamic that this situation creates is extremely dangerous. Women lose any agency they may have because they depend on their fathers, husbands or brothers for everything. This means that they have no power to go against their male relative’s wills. It also hurts the Indian economy, as women have little ability to contribute to it.

Solution: In rural India, women spend upwards of four hours each day gathering fuel and cleaning utensils to cook with. Providing them with solar or electric cookers could save them three hours of unpaid labor, giving them more time to do what they want to do or contribute to the economy as an untapped workforce.

These examples display just how poverty and patriarchy intertwine and push women and their families into poverty. If women could gain an education, receive food security or use alternative cooking equipment to limit labor, they might be able to improve their situation and lift themselves out of poverty.

Gillian Buckley
Photo: Wikimedia

Labour Behind the Label
The Clean Clothes Campaign’s United Kingdom-based nonprofit, Labour Behind the Label, is taking action to improve the deplorable work conditions found in factories across the world and provide support to workers in the garment industry. The organization promotes ethical clothing and collaborates with brands and trade unions to push for the reform of systemic problems found in the clothing business.

Change Your Shoes and Labor Rights

Recently, Labour Behind the Label held campaigns to uphold worker rights, such as the “Change Your Shoes” campaign, a project that called for shoe brands to provide greater transparency in their production process. Through its tireless efforts, Labour Behind the Label is working to amend the garment industry, combatting low wages, unsafe working conditions and abusive treatment, thereby holding brands accountable.

According to the organization, Labour Behind the Label is the United Kingdom’s only campaign group dedicated solely to labor rights in the worldwide garment industry. Past activity has included urging retailers to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, pushing for living wages for Cambodian garment workers, and bringing victims of the Rana Plaza factory disaster compensation.

Clean Clothes and Living Wages

The nonprofit was founded in 2001 as part of the Clean Clothes Campaign, the garment industry’s most prominent alliance of labor unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Labour Behind the Label’s endeavors include raising awareness and putting pressure on companies to support workers’ rights, as well as lobbying governments and policymakers.

The group is currently advancing programs such as the “Living Wage” campaign, working with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance to demand a living wage in Asian garment producing countries. The campaign would help provide garment workers, 80 percent of whom are women, with living wages to cover their basic needs.

Worker Safety and the Shoe Industry

The organization is also holding a “Worker Safety” campaign,” providing compensation for victims of Pakistan’s 2012 Ali Enterprises factory fire. In addition, it has led actions such as a weeklong initiative to lobby brands to ban dangerous practices such as the sandblasting of jeans.

Labour Behind the Label launched the “Change Your Shoes” campaign to look specifically at the operations of the shoe industry. Twenty-four billion pairs of shoes were produced in the year 2013, with 87 percent of them manufactured in Asia. The program has called upon leading shoe brands in the United Kingdom, as well as brands such as Prada, Birkenstock and Camper, to provide information pertaining to their production processes.

The program also asks members of the shoe industry to publish the names and addresses of suppliers, report on steps taken to move away from dangerous chemicals and demonstrate that the companies are providing fair wages and safe working conditions. The campaign has led research and investigations into the manufacturing processes of major shoe brands, observing that the system involves high-intensity labor, short deadlines and worsening living conditions of exploited workers.

Ending Fear and Silence

In many countries, there is a climate of fear and silence in the production chains. The project acknowledges that some companies, such as Nike and Adidas, have already begun to publish information about its processes and will hand its petition to brands to promote change.

Through projects such as the “Change Your Shoes” campaign, Labour Behind the Label is taking action to bring about fairer conditions in the garment industry worldwide. The organization is working to hold companies more accountable and create transparency in the industry, demanding living wages and calling for safer work environments in the clothing manufacturing business.

Ongoing Positive Change and Accountability

Labour Behind the Label’s activism has led to the creation of “codes of conduct” for companies, as well as “ethical trading” initiatives, which have promoted the annual inspection of factories. Labour Behind the Label acknowledges that sweatshop abuses are an elusive and deeply ingrained problem, as there are no easy solutions. But through its advocacy, campaigning, and research, Labour Behind the Label is taking steps to galvanize change in the clothing business on an international scale.

– Shira Laucharoen
Photo: Flickr

Behno StandardConsidering the work that millions of people do in factories around the world, progress is often valued not for the quality of the work but for how quickly the product can reach the market. If money is the primary objective, human beings can be endangered in the process. Without teamwork and employee wellbeing as priorities, products will not make it past production and the economic gains will not materialize. One solution to this culture is Shivam Punjya’s Behno Standard.

Punjya is a man who has sought to revolutionize the conditions in which factory workers operate, especially women. During a 2012 research trip on women’s health in India, he witnessed some extraordinary handmade textile work in rural villages. He was appalled to learn that 90 percent of these beautiful artworks were tailored by women who are paid less than $1 per day.

One year later, a tragedy would ultimately push him into advocacy. On April 13, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers, the majority of whom were women. This incident brought intense awareness to factory conditions and the need to support workers.

Behno is a word used to describe love, harmony, and balance in its most beautiful connections with creative solutions. It is primarily an artistic expression used by communities full of like-minded individuals who strive for that harmony and balance with love. It is also the name used for the ethical fashion line that Punjya founded in New York.

Its central focus is on providing these factory workers with an environment to pursue their designs without their health being compromised. Through a partnership with a large nonprofit in rural Gujarat, India, called Muni Seva Ashram, Punjya began The Garment Worker Project. This was debuted in July 2016 as the first implementation of the Behno Standard through a collection of social programs.

The Behno Standard is broken into six categories: health, garment worker mobility, family planning, women’s rights, worker satisfaction and benefits and eco-consciousness. Its crucial emphasis is on offering a new meaning to the label ‘Made in India,’ often synonymous with unspeakable worker conditions. With the Behno Standard, Punjya strives to change that outlook and prove that a healthy working atmosphere leads to efficiency and high-quality products.

In Punjya’s own words, “Ethical fashion is such a collaborative space because the supply chain is massive and so convoluted. We encourage other brands to reach out to us, and we reach out all the time, to collaborate and utilize each others’ platforms.” Due to his inspiration for starting in the fashion business, he doesn’t want Behno to be a brand that tries to compete on the basis of profit. Instead, he wants his brand to be the unique type of team that collaborates with other companies.

Business doesn’t necessarily need to be a competition but can delve into a community goal. In that sense, the Behno Standard is transforming the connotations of factory work and joining together to revolutionize how the fashion business operates through human connections.

– Nicole Suárez

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

3D Printing
Reflow, an Amsterdam-based startup, is using 3D printing technology to transform plastic waste into a valuable resource. According to its website, the company converts recyclable plastic into ethical, high-quality 3D print filament, which is the material needed for 3D printing.

Every day, millions of waste collectors in developing countries earn $2 a day sifting through endless masses of garbage. In the developing world, cities are experiencing rapid urbanization, brought about by fast population growth and high immigration rates.

Rapid urban expansion, combined with a lack of infrastructure, leads to the buildup of open waste in low-income neighborhoods, slums and squatter areas. The result is informal waste collection by members of those communities.

Reflow works directly with waste collectors to convert the plastic they pick up into high-quality print filament. The company increases the value of the recycled plastic by up to 20 times, increasing the waste collectors incomes so they earn the wage they deserve.

According to Kickstarter, the Reflow process begins by carefully selecting the plastic needed to make the print filament. The startup then works with local waste collectors to clean PET bottles and shred them into tiny, 6-millimeter plastic flakes.

PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, which is used in common plastic packaging such as water bottles, soft drink packaging and cosmetics bottles. A report by The Planet Bottle states that PET is popular for its strength, thermo-stability and transparency, while being inexpensive, lightweight and recyclable.

Once the plastic has been shredded, Reflow uses a low-cost, open-source extruder to convert the plastic flakes into 3D print filament. The company partners with universities and their corporate partners to test the filament, before shipping it in recyclable packaging to individuals who use the product for 3D printing.

Of note, 25 percent of Reflow’s profits are invested in local manufacturing and $3 from each roll of filament contributes to waste collectors’ incomes.

According to the Huffington Post, 120 plastic bottles can produce one kilogram of filament. However, Reflow said that the process is not so much about the final product as it is about empowering individual waste collectors and improving their lives.

Typically, waste collectors have to deal with unfair pricing from middle men in the recycling process. Their working conditions are extremely poor, as they collect garbage in toxic areas and must wade through unhygienic environments to find the appropriate waste to recycle.

Reflow also aims to provide the waste collectors with necessary tools to pick up and carry the plastic, so their health is not at risk.

The company is launching their project in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. According to a report by the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, there are approximately 1,267 waste pickers in Dar es Salaam, who collect, move and trade 20 kilograms of recyclable waste per day. Most waste pickers that were interviewed for the report stated that the nature of their work was “exhausting”, “dangerous” and “unhealthy.”

“Of fifty waste pickers interviewed, forty-three reported that they had been ‘injured or admitted to a health facility’ in the past twelve months due to their recycling operations,” said the report.

So far, Reflow has raised €2,943 of their €25,000 goal (US$ 28,520). “We know this technology is going to transform our societies and lives,” said the company in a statement on their website. “We want to harness this innovation to create a better and more equal world. We want to ensure the revolution is shared.”

Michelle Simon

Banana_Farmers
Ecuador is home to over 14 million people and an estimated 18 percent are involved in the banana trade or business. Banana sales comprise over 60 percent of the country’s GDP and Ecuador supplies almost 40 percent of the world’s bananas. These numbers help explain and prove the prevalence of non-fair trade companies.

According to TransFair USA, basic necessities for banana farmers cost $9.60 per day. This is in contrast with non-fair trade wages that can be as low as $3 daily. This has caused an influx of unlawful child labor violations, working conditions and extended hours. The Human Rights Watch has accused non-fair trade companies of employing children as young as 8 years old.

The international farming advocacy organization, Food Empowerment Project, states, “banana producers and distributors Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita have all refused to take responsibility for the conditions on plantations from which they source their product.”

These conditions have caused small-scale farmers to seek fair trade methods to help better provide for their families. For example, the El Guabo Association of Small Banana Producers cooperative started in 1998 when 14 farmers decided to take their chances by bringing a single container of bananas, totaling almost 40,000 pounds and selling directly to a European market. Their goals were to cut out all the intermediaries and deal directly with domestic and international markets.

The success of this collective business model has provided an alternative model of farming tactics and has lead other companies to adopt similar practices. International fruit companies such as Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita have sought business in other countries due to the mounting political support in Ecuador for farmers and small business. These prevailing attitudes create an environment of conditions where a fair trade sustainable fruit seller, like All Good Fairtrade (AGF), can thrive.

AGF is a banana company located in the Southwest of the country. The organization utilizes purely organic fertilizer and has banned the usage of over 100 agrochemicals typically used in mass fruit production. Furthermore, AGF is also able to pay their workers wages that are approximately $3 more per day than the average banana industry worker. The organization is supplied by over 400 Ecuadorian family farms in 15 communities, all of which are a part of the El Guabo Association of Small Banana Producers.

For each bunch of bananas sold, AGF delivers seven to ten cents back to the El Guabo collective for fair e-trade premium funding. In the five years of the company’s existence, AGF has given back over $600,000. As a community, the families vote democratically on how and where to allocate these funds. So far, the capital has been invested toward building a free medical center and a special needs school, supporting multitudes of school children and implementing various sustainable farming initiatives. Education and school supplies are also awarded to the children of the El Guabo collective.

Frasier Petersen

Sources: CS Monitor, Food is Power, Green America
Photo: Food is Power

FIFA
Qatar has an estimated budget of 62 billion pounds for the hotels, infrastructure, stadiums and other buildings that it needs for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar has relied on migrant workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to complete these building projects. However, the work for migrant workers is extremely difficult and many are dying, most likely as a consequence of the harsh conditions that they are forced to live and work in.

Since 2013, Qatar has been under investigations by groups such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, who are worried that Qatar’s migrant workforce is being treated as modern-day slaves. According to a 2013 report from the Guardian, over 4,000 workers will die as a result of the conditions that they are subjected to while they prepare for the World Cup. From June 4 to August 8 in the same year, 44 Nepalese workers died, and half of those deaths were related to heart failure or workplace accidents.

Heart failure and heat strokes are common, since many workers are forced to slave away in extremely hot temperatures—up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit—and are sometimes not given access to free drinking water. This has led to many complaints from workers. More than 80 workers from India died from January to May 2013, and 1,460 complained to the embassy about problems related to labor conditions.

While it may seem like the best solution is for workers to go home, unfortunately, it is not that simple. Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, have instituted the kafala system—a system of sponsorship in which migrant workers are not allowed to change jobs or leave the country without a sponsor’s permission. Many sponsors hold the passports of migrant workers, making it impossible for them to leave. Workers are also often jilted out of the money that they were promised, and contracts are sometimes in English or other languages foreign to migrant workers, meaning that workers are forced to sign contracts that they do not understand.

Qatar promised that they would reform the kafala system after the deaths of migrant workers were bought to light. However, as The Guardian states, the system that Qatar plans to replace the kafala with will still ensure that employees are tied to their employers for the length of their contract, which can last for as long as five years.

An estimated 1,200 workers have died since Qatar began to construct its stadiums for the World Cup. However, this week, Qatar’s state news agency has issued a statement claiming that no workers have died during construction for the World Cup. They claim that no workers died while at work, and therefore argue that the assumption that the deaths of migrant workers are work related, is incorrect.

While it is most likely true that not all the deaths of migrant workers are work related, the fact remains that many of the deaths probably are a result of the poor living and working conditions that migrants are forced to face. Qatar is also hesitant to let reporters research the conditions of migrant workers in the country. In May of 2015, they arrested a group of BBC reporters who attempted to do so.

The problems with workers for the FIFA World Cup are representative of larger socioeconomic problems in Qatar. Qatar is the world’s richest country by income per capita. Its growing industry and infrastructure attract migrant workers determined to improve their living conditions by moving to such a rich country. However, migrant workers are treated extremely poorly. They are crammed into overcrowded living conditions of six to eight men in a room, and up to 40 men have to share a kitchen. The living conditions are unhygienic and bathrooms and washers are so dirty that some men are forced to use buckets of water to wash instead.

There are over 1.2 million migrant workers making up the workforce in Qatar. These workers are subjected to physical, verbal and sexual abuse. It is especially difficult for migrant workers who work in domestic situations. As the Human Rights Watch states, these workers are normally women, and they are especially vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, as they are sometimes locked in the homes where they work and are not given protection under Qatari Labor Law.

The poor treatment of migrant workers might be an attempt by Qatar to keep its population under control. After all, over 80 percent of the Qatari population is now composed of migrant workers, meaning that 20 percent of the population actually benefits from the riches of Qatar, while the rest are forced to suffer. As one Nepalese migrant worker states, “No one respects our feelings, we are just labor, all people hate us.” Unless Qatar changes its laws and issues drastic reforms, it risks becoming a country where modern day slavery becomes more and more prevalent, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.

— Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, BBC, BBC, Business Insider, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, Migration News, The Guardian, The Guardian, The Guardian
Photo: The Telegraph

solidarity
The Solidarity Center is dedicated to helping workers around the world build a shared prosperity in both their local and global economies.

Workers who struggle to find safe and healthy job sites as well as family-supporting wages have concerns that far too often go unheard.

This nonprofit aims to help these workers find their voice on the job, working with unions, worker associations and community groups worldwide to achieve equitable and sustainable development.

Since 1997, the Solidarity Center has made it their mission to stand up for international worker rights so that workers can gain the social protections they need to improve their working and living conditions.

With programs expanding across some 60 countries, the Solidarity Center provides workers a range of education and training that focus on the following: worker rights, union skills, occupational safety and health, economic literacy, human trafficking, women’s empowerment and bolstering workers in an informal economy.

In addition, they provide research, legal support and other resources that help build strong trade unions and more equitable societies.

More specifically, the Solidarity Center assists unions with strengthening internal structures, like gender parity, and helping workers recover stolen wages or benefits illegally denied to them. They also connect migrant workers to protective networks to decrease vulnerability. Most importantly, they boost advocacy efforts so that campaigns can go beyond borders.

These examples can be found in a short bullet-point list on the Solidarity Center’s website, where one can also find the annual reports they conduct for each country that they work in.

In addition, the Solidarity Center keeps their news and events up-to-date, a testament to how actively involved they are in their work.

Recently, the Solidarity Center received the biggest testament to their efforts when President Barack Obama spoke at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative about the need to develop young civil society leaders.

The first person that he recognized as a contributor to the development of his community was Solidarity Center’s own Walid Ahmed Ali, a Kenyan social justice activist.

President Obama congratulated him on his work in creating jobs at the Kenya-Somali border for unemployed youth, telling him that he “strives not just for the idea of democracy,” but “to cement the practice of democracy.”

At the Solidarity Center, you’ll find people like Walid Ahmed Ali who do just that. Though not all can be recognized in the same manner, everyone is fully committed to helping working men and women to be a force for democracy and shared prosperity.

If you believe that all people who work should receive the rewards of their work – decent paychecks and befits, safe jobs, respect and fair treatment – then visit the Solidarity Center to learn how you can get involved in creating a more inclusive economic development.

– Chelsee Yee

Sources: Solidarity Center, ALFCIO
Photo: Bangor Daily News

uk_migrant_workers_abused
A Human Rights Watch report reveals that traveling employers often abuse their migrant workers in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the government tends to neglect the abuses and has thus far made it harder for the workers to escape the prison-like conditions.

According to the report’s press release, migrant workers face a range of abuses such as “confiscation of passports, confinement to the home, physical and psychological abuse, extremely long working hours with no rest days and very low wages or non-payment of wages.”

In 2012, the U.K., despite being challenged by UN experts and NGOs, terminated the migrant workers’ right to change their employers upon their arrival from a different country.

Before traveling to the U.K., under the Overseas Domestic Worker visa, domestic workers are required to have been employed by their employer for no less than a year. The visa also limits the employer and the migrant worker to a temporary visit.

“The most serious consequence of the new tied visa for migrant domestic workers is that if they leave their employ they become undocumented,” the report explains. “As a result, domestic workers who have escaped for abusive conditions can be afraid to approach the police out of fear of being deported from the U.K.”

Similar abuses such as the ones occurring in the U.K. take place in the Gulf under the “kafala” system.

According to Graham Peebles, director of the Create Trust, “The draconian Kafala sponsorship system, (which grants ownership of migrants to their sponsor), together with poor or non-existent labour laws, endemic racism and gender prejudice, creates an environment in which extreme mistreatment has become commonplace in the oil-rich kingdom.”

Although the U.K. government was criticized for doing little to stop the practice of kafala within its borders, HRW suggested it could still act to prevent further abuses.

For example, many abusive employers also serve as diplomats who are given immunity due to their profession. On the other hand, one possible course of action that could be taken involves waiving the immunity given to them when they commit crimes against the migrant workers.

As for the U.K. parliament, HRW suggests that the institution should pass legislation that criminalizes the confiscation of the workers’ passports.

While the government decides what to do next, diplomats who already practice kafala in their own countries are given the impression that they can continue to abuse their migrant workers while traveling in the U.K.

– Juan Campos

Sources: Counterpunch, Human Rights Watch
Photo: Flickr

secrets_end_world_poverty
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement originally drafted in 2005 between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. It has since included vested interest from the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.

Much like previous trade agreements, the TPP’s main goal is to promote trade and investment among partner countries and eliminate tariffs on goods and services.

The TPP differs greatly from previous trade agreements as it includes a number of controversial clauses that could negatively impact millions of people around the globe. While trade agreements typically deal with lowering trade barriers, this agreement encompasses additional points of contention ranging from intellectual property rights (ex: extending copyright protections, making approval process harder for generic drug makers) to limiting public support for state-owned enterprises in order to foster competition.

The agreement has received extensive backlash from internet freedom activists, environmentalists, labor activists, advocacy groups and elected officials.

Although trade negotiations are typically conducted in private in order to protect the positions of the involved states, the TPP is disconcerting as it is significantly more comprehensive and encompasses many facets of society. Naturally, this has many concerned over its contents.

There have been a number of critiques that the multi-national trade agreement would exacerbate economic inequality on a global scale. Much like NAFTA and other “free” trade agreements, it has been argued that the TPP would place corporations ahead of the people, destroying job opportunities at home and increasing poverty for workers abroad. Further, the agreement will increase competition for low-skill, low-pay jobs that cannot be shipped off shore; the workers at home will be even more hard-pressed to find jobs, making them worse off than ever before.

U.S. foreign policy critic and professor at MIT, Noam Chomsky argues that the TPP is an “assault” on working people and intended to further corporate “domination.” “It’s designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one-another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity,” Chomsky has said in an interview with HuffPost Live.

The TPP is likely to follow in the footsteps of NAFTA where U.S. corporations will contribute to the trade deficit by manufacturing in developing countries abroad, rather than reviving the economy at home. Negotiations for the TPP, also known as “NAFTA on steroids,” have been largely kept secret from the public and members of Congress. This has forced the public to rely on confidential documents released by WikiLeaks and Huffington Post. Despite these leaks, the public is largely kept in the dark.

Corporate interests are pushing for agreements – or, regulations – in order to standardize otherwise “inconsistent regulations.” Most of the current regulations “may not be perfect, but they are serving their purpose regardless: to protect workers, consumers, the economy and the environment,” says economist Joseph Stiglitz. The TPP would reform these already-placed regulations potentially producing dire consequences for the majority of impacted people in the United States and abroad. The proposed clauses could decrease regulations so that the corporate sector will further profit from lowering “non-tariff barriers.”

In 2012, the Obama administration has called for the renewal of the “fast track” authority so that negotiations for the TPP can be expedited and approved with minimal debate and no amendments. This secretive agreement has the potential to pull the working class in America and those in developing countries deeper into poverty.

– Rozali Telbis

Sources: Alternet, NY Times, Huffington Post, Common Dreams
Photo: BlairBlog

sochi_2014_olympics_games
Sochi, Russia makes the news almost every day. Whether it be about the enormous security being put in place for the forth coming Olympic Games or the various political leaders who are boycotting the games to demonstrate their displeasure at Russian anti-LGBT law. What is left out of the news however are Russia’s poor.

There are currently 18 million Russians living on or below the minimum wage of 4,600 rubles, according to Forbes Magazine. That is the equivalent of $155 a month, in a country whose cost of living is 6,200 rubles or $210. In the United States by comparison, there are 46.5 million people living at or below the poverty line which according to the Huffington Post in 2012 was $23, 283 annually. That works out to around $1940.25 per month.

By the time the 2014 Winter Olympics occur, Sochi will have had spent $51 billion, making it the most expensive Olympic Games to date. However all is not well even inside Sochi, Human Rights Watch has put out a 67 page document detailing some of the abuses that many of the migrant workers have been subjected to while working to prepare Sochi for the Games.

Human Rights Watch points out that the majority of these workers are paid between $1.80 and $2.60 an hour working on constructing the various Olympic venues. Moreover, in an interview with the Washington Post, 64-year-old resident of Sochi, Alexander Dzhadze lives on a pension of $170 a month and was told to make improvements to it in order for it to be an acceptable part of Sochi’s backdrop.

There have also been accusations of corruption concerning the issuing of construction contracts dealing with the Games. For instance, two lifelong friends of Vladimir Putin, Arkady and Boris Rotenberg have received upwards of 21 contracts and $7 billion.

The gap between rich and poor in Russia is also widening. According to Bloomberg, the 110 billionaires in Russia own 35% of the planet’s wealth, in comparison, worldwide billionaires only account for 1 to 2% of the world’s wealth.

The Olympic Games are a time for nations to come together and share in the joy that is the competitive spirit of the sporting world. The games are a chance for nations to shine and to reconnect with their citizens and the athletes who represent them.

Russia’s foray thus far into the Olympics has been met with scandals, allegations of criminal activity and a myriad of other issues and conflicts. However, the Games have also given those in Russia whose plight would have remained a mystery had the games not come to Sochi, a voice and platform from which to tell and share their stories and experiences with the outside world.

This opportunity can result in media exposure for Russia’s poor and will hopefully allow for new and exciting opportunities for them once the Olympics begin. As the Games approach, the world can only wait and see how they will unfold.

Arthur Fuller

Photo: Autostrattle
Sources:
Mother Jones, Forbes, Business Week, Washington Post