Layoffs and Sweatshops Threaten Our Economy
In response to your Sept. 4 article describing
the criminal practices of several owners of garment factories in New York:
The fact that this situation--in which men and women work behind illegally
locked fire exits and at wages as low as $106 a week--exists at all is
one of the most shameful things to ever take place.
As chief negotiator for a large union and as
a union organizer, I've seen many horrors that go on behind closed factory
doors throughout the metropolitan area, including frequent industrial "accidents" such as severed fingers and crushed bodies, and workers regularly fired
for trying to change horrible conditions that often include wages below
the poverty level.
Eli Siegel, the American philosopher and founder
of Aesthetic Realism, understood and explained that our economy, based
on using the labor of many for the profit of a few, is fatally flawed and
essentially over, because it has arisen from the worst thing in the human
self: the desire to have contempt. Mr. Siegel defined contempt as
"the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase
as one sees it." Contempt can be the feeling that you are better than another
because of your family background, nationality or skin color. And
contempt is also what makes one person see another in terms of how much
money can be gotten from him or her. It is what causes some employers
to squeeze as much work as possible out of managers, secretaries, assembly-line
workers, while giving them as little as possible and hoping to discard
them. Contempt for people is what I see on a daily basis as employers
try to slash wages, cut benefits, force longer working hours, violate safety
regulations, throw out longterm employees--all in the name of profit for
themselves and stockholders.
In a series of lectures beginning in 1970,
Mr. Siegel described what has been going on in our economy and why it will
never recover. He said: "There will be no economic recovery in the
world until economics itself, the making of money, the having of jobs,
becomes ethical, is based on good will rather than on the ill will which
has been predominant for centuries" ("Goodbye Profit System: Update," Definition Press, 1982).
The massive layoffs throughout America, the
closing of whole industries that are then moved to places where labor is
"cheaper" and labor laws are weaker, and the huge increase in sweatshops
every year since 1970 have borne out the truth of Eli Siegel's lectures.
Lynch, head of Teamsters local 1205, has written editorial articles for
the New Jersey Star-Ledger and the Los Angeles Times.