The WTO and Globaloney

[Editor's Note: This is the text of Jim Hightower's remarks at an anti-World Trade Organization rally in Austin on October 18.]

This is one of those arcane sort of matters that are usually dealt with on the mid-level of the business pages of the newspapers, if they deal with it at all. But [globalization] is an issue that is not about business. It's not about trade. It's about the fundamentals of our lives. About basically who's going to have power in this country and around the world, whether "We the People" are going to rule or these creatures called corporations are going to be our sovereigns.

In my last book, There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos, you're allowed an epigram page in which you can kill several trees just to put a single quote on this page and I chose an old cowboy saying out of West Texas that said "Speak the truth but ride a fast horse." And that is, I think, our job, to get out to the American people because we are pretty much the last to know. The media has deliberately, I believe, tried to hide this issue from we the folks because they are conglomerates. Elsewhere around the world ... the WTO, the MAI, the NAFTA and so on are at the center of a major political discussion and we've got a phenomenon in this country where, entering the 2000 elections ... the candidates of the two parties will not address this issue. You're not going to hear George W, you're not going to hear Al Gore, you're not going to hear Bill Bradley get into any conflict at all about this process of globalization.

A global corporate coup against We the People is what we're really talking about here -- a coup to seize power so that they might reign as sovereigns. You say "Hightower, how is it that you come to such a conclusion as that." I say, well, no less a light than Renato Ruggiero has said so. You all know Renato, don't you, a high public official? "We are writing the constitution of a single global economy," said Renato.

Who is Renato Ruggiero? Did you vote for Renato? Who is "we"? "We are writing a new constitution" -- that's kind of big, isn't it? Will we get to vote on it? Will there be yard signs? What is our role in the writing of a new global constitution?

Renato Ruggiero was, until recently, the head of the World Trade Organization and he spoke the truth when he said that, because yes, indeed, the powers that be had gathered to try to write a new constitution that undermines our very own Constitution, by which I mean our right to be self-governing. And this is well underway. NAFTA, now trying to extend that [with] NAFTA for Africa, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, that extends NAFTA to 23 Central American and Caribbean nations, the World Trade Organization, already in place, thanks to a lame duck session of Congress in 1994, the MAI, Multilateral Agreement on Investments -- all of these acronyms really spell "Gotcha!" in all seven of the Romance languages, so you don't have to worry about the acronyms, but in every case the point is that it takes power from us and it extends power to corporate interests and speculator interests, indeed putting their power above all others.

The point about this is that people pay the price for this, and I mean real folks, because this amounts to class war. I was two years ago outside of Atlanta, Georgia, at a Lucent Technologies plant with some stalwart members of Congress who were daring to take this issue of the World Trade Organization globalization on the road, and at this Lucent Technologies plant we met a woman named Anna Harris, who has worked for Lucent Technologies, a $26-billion-a-year conglomerate that makes telephones and other high-tech products.

She had worked there 25 years and worked her way up to $15.59 an hour. That's not bad. That's about 31,000 bucks a year. You're not going to summer in France on that but you can get a little slice of the American middle class out of that. She got that high because she was skilled, she was efficient, she was hard working, she was loyal, she was a quality employee producing a quality product.

Despite Anna Harris and some 1,000 others who worked with her at that Lucent Technologies plant in Atlanta, the company kept messing with them and said Mexico beckoned, and they needed to speed up production. And that if they didn't that they were going to haul off to Mexico. And indeed they said at one point that you've got to take a pay cut.

So Anna Harris and her co-workers did. She went from $15.59 an hour to $13 an hour. That took about a $5,000-a-year slice out of Anna Harris' life. Now if you're Bill Gates, $5,000 doesn't matter, but if you're Anna Harris $5,000 is a real piece of change. She's a single parent.

Well the company kept messing with them, talking this talk, and they took the pay cut, and then along came NAFTA in 1993 and within a couple weeks of the passage of NAFTA, Lucent Technologies backed up U-Hauls to the Atlanta plant and hauled off the equipment and hauled off the jobs of Anna Harris and 1,000 other people. They went to Reynosa, Mexico, right down here at the tip of Texas, where they can pay a buck an hour plus a taco -- literally, in the morning they hand out a breakfast taco as the workers come in.

A buck an hour they're paying to Anna Harris' replacement down there. That is a poverty wage in Mexico. You can't make a living on a buck an hour in Mexico. Then, thanks to NAFTA, as pretty as they please, they ship that telephone equipment right back into the United States, back onto our markets, right into our stores without paying a tariff, without honoring any kind of quota, without saying as much as a hidy do to us.

Anna Harris, it took her several months but she did finally get another job, she got one of those 23 million jobs that Bill Clinton brags about having created since he's been in office. Hers is at Target and she gets $7 an hour, not $13 or $15.59. She gets $7 an hour, but she only gets part-time work. They keep messing with her so they don't have to pay benefits.

The irony is that Anna Harris working at Target now sells the telephones she used to make. Marcy Kaptur, a member of Congress out of Toledo, Ohio, and a very stalwart member of Congress on this issue, asked Anna Harris, "Well, are those telephones any cheaper now that they're paying not $15.59 an hour but a buck an hour for the labor?" And Anna Harris' eyes turned stone cold and she looked at Marcy Kaptur and said, "There's no difference in the price. They're still selling them for 80 to 90 bucks apiece.

Welcome to the New World Order -- globalization -- globaloney, of course, is what it really is.

People pay the price for this, not just in this country but around the world. There's a place called Saipan -- do folks here know where Saipan is? It's way out in the Pacific Ocean. If you knew it at all it's from World War II, where there was a huge fight there against the Japanese. As a result of that battle and as a result of that war the United States became the owner territorially of Saipan. It is a commonwealth of the United States. It's an island 13 miles long and six miles wide, a tiny place, but on this island is established the Saipan sweatshop system, a system that produces clothing for The Gap, for J.C. Penney, for Tommy Hilfiger, for Ralph Lauren Polo, etcetera, major marketers of clothing in this country and around the world.

They produce those clothing under a sweatshop system that has mostly Chinese-owned, Hong Kong-owned, some Korean owned, some Japanese-owned sewing factories, and there's not enough people on Saipan to fill these jobs so they send what are called recruiters out to Bangladesh, to China, to the most impoverished areas to bring mostly young girls to make this clothing, promising them that they are going to the United States of America and that they are going to make this big wage, such a big wage that these girls and their families borrow money to pay the recruiter to get them this job and send them to Saipan.

When they get to Saipan these girls have their passports taken from them so they cannot leave; they sign a shadow contract, which means they cannot date or marry, they cannot practice their own religion, they cannot speak of forming a union, they give away all of their civil liberties upon going into these plants.

They make a poverty wage, they live in an 8-foot by 10-foot room, eight to a room, with razor wire around it, a dormitory situation that's set up.

It is indentured servitude. That is a polite way of putting it. The uglier way of putting it of course is that it is slavery. This is part of globalization.

Then those products are shipped right back into the United States, not only without paying a tariff or honoring a quota, because this is a commonwealth of the United States, but they come in here with a "Made in the USA" label on them.

Globalization. Globaloney.

The big protector of this system is our own [U.S. Rep.] Tom DeLay, down here in Houston, the bug man. I can't help looking at Tom DeLay and saying, "a hundred thousand sperm and you were the fastest?" Tom DeLay protects this system in Saipan and he is so enamored of it that he seeks to bring it to the United States. He says why should we not have a sub-minimum wage factory system in this country and send recruiters into Mexico and Central America to bring the workers in? Globalization, well underway.

The World Trade Organization exists to enforce this insanity and they have an astonishing lineup of precepts that supposedly is the embodiment of what globalization is all about:

Number One: Throw open the borders of all nations so that any corporation can control the market in any country for anything and everything -- banking, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, etcetera. A country has no control over its borders anymore, no control over its own basic industries.

Two: Rewrite the rules of investment so that any corporation or speculator group can own the factories, own the farms, the mines, the banks, the hospitals, all other essential and basic industries and resources of any and every country if they want to.

Three: Rewrite the rules of investment so that it is under foreign ownership. You can't protect your own land. We have protections in this country, for example, in Missouri, and South Dakota just passed a constitutional amendment saying you cannot farm if you are a corporation, you cannot own a livestock operation if you are a corporation. That is against the law now under the World Trade Organization. Delete trade and investment policies from any principal concerns about human rights, about labor rights or working conditions, poverty, ecological destruction, etcetera.

Four: Do not allow any national, regional, state or local government to impose any restrictions on any corporations exercising free trade. That means you just gave up your sovereignty. If the city of Austin wants to pass an ordinance saying we're going to buy Made in the USA products, or we're going to buy Made in Austin products, we're going to buy products that are not made in sweatshops using our tax dollars, that's against the law, if the World Trade Organization gets its way.

And fifth: They establish supreme tribunals, through NAFTA and the World Trade Organization that are, in essence, star chambers. So if there are arguments over these rules and regulations, they don't go to our court system, they go to these trade tribunals that are set up in Geneva [Switzerland], and even if you wanted to participate, you're not allowed to, even if you could get to Geneva to participate, because you're not a party, even though it's your life that's affected by it.

This is the embodiment of globalization and it's not theory, it's practice and it's happening today.

Other folks on this panel can talk about these stories -- Chiquita Bananas? We're in a trade war with Europe over Chiquita Bananas because some guy named Carl Lindner in Cincinnati, Ohio, bought out Chiquita and he's a banana baron of the world now -- the largest banana producer. We are involved in a trade war for Carl Lindner even though we have no jobs at stake in America. We don't grow and export bananas from the United States but we are in a trade war with Europe over them.

Why is this? Because Carl Lindner got cozy with the White House. He had coffee with the president. Had a sleepover in the Lincoln bedroom and on April 11, 1996, Mickey Kantor, the head of the U.S. Trade Office, filed a complaint for Carl Lindner with the World Trade Organization. The next day Carl Lindner and his associates moved $500,000 into the Democratic Party's 1996 presidential election. That's why it happened.

Well ... there are plenty of stories, the court in Mississippi [was] completely overruled by an outfit called Loewen out of Canada, under Chapter 11 of NAFTA [after a jury awarded damages against the Loewen Group in a fraud lawsuit (see Dispatches, 8/99 PP).]. ... Massachusetts' state legislature passed sanctions saying they would buy no products for the state of Massachusetts from companies that did business in Burma, where the thugs have stolen democracy and oppressed the people there. The World Trade Organization has entered that fight, saying Massachusetts cannot pass an ordinance like that.

Water. We're in a huge battle over water that we've got to begin to pay attention to. Claude Barlow out of Canada has a wonderful report ... called "Blue Gold" about Canadian water. We've got a huge water shortage developing around the world. You think, well, 70 percent of the globe is covered with water; well, yes, but only one half of 1 percent of that is fresh water and drinkable water. And 20 percent of that is in Canada, so corporations have very strong designs on Canadian water, and I'm not talking about Perrier. I'm not talking about bottling the water. I'm talking about massive wholesale moving of that water out of Canada to the highest bidders around the world, which is mostly going to go to the agribusiness corporations, suburban developments and the golf courses.

The point of all this is, this is very serious business. It's about our jobs, it's about our environment, it's about our communities; fundamentally it's about our democracy: Whether we are going to rule or these corporations are going to rule.

The good news ... is that the people are fighting back on this. As that old rock and roll song of Patti Smith said, people have the power to wrestle the world from fools. That's our challenge, to take the world back from the corporate fools and their puppets in Washington and other capitals around the world. We've been winning these fights; we won on MAI, we won on Fast Track, we won earlier on NAFTA for Africa, we won earlier on the Caribbean Basin Initiative, but they're coming back with all of them. But ... we will be there in Seattle when the World Trade Organization gathers for its ministerial meeting. The meeting is usually behind closed doors and this will be behind closed doors, but we're going to be right outside the doors, at least 50,000 people are gathering there in Seattle, to the shock and amazement of Bill Clinton and the rest. They're trying to find ways to dodge this but they can't dodge it.

Susan DeMarco and our producer and I will be broadcasting from Seattle all five days of the World Trade Organization meeting. We're going to be there in their faces and the streets are going to be shut down. [To find radio stations that broadcast Hightower's daily "Chat 'N Chew" talk show, see his web site at (www.jimhightower.com).]

We cannot lose sight of this fact: Corporations do not exist except for us. We allow corporations to exist. It is a privilege, it is not a right. No corporation has a right to exist, except for the people allow it, and the people can set the terms for that existence. The Founders set very strong terms, very harsh terms, and did not want corporations to exist.

Let me tell you this: The original Constitution of the State of Texas outlawed banks. You could not create a bank in the state of Texas. I think they were on to something. And to get a corporation formed you had to go to the Legislature and get a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature, a very high hurdle, and very few corporations were created, and that's because the Founders in those days knew of the dangers of this corporate power, because it separates ownership from the responsibilities of ownership. And that's a privilege we grant them and a privilege that we can take back.

We've got to get that message across to the people of this country and elsewhere around the world, that we are the folks that are in charge, that the corporations are not in charge, that we are in charge.

I'll leave you with this final thought: I know it's going to be a tough task. Things are always hard, always difficult. But just remember this: No building is too tall for even a small dog to lift his leg on.

For information on protests of the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle, call toll-free 1-800-STOP-WTO or see (www.seattlewto.org). Also, see our WTO links at (www.populist.com/wto.html).

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