26 November 2007

Inferno: Globalization Meets "the Middle Ages"

As metal pours into ladles, sparks fly, sometimes igniting workers’
clothing, at Shakti Industries in Haora. Plant officials say accidents
do not occur. Photograph © J. Adam Huggins for
The New York Times.

Workers in Haora, India, have few protections while making manhole
covers for Con Edison and some cities’ utilities.
Photograph © J. Adam Huggins forThe New York Times.


So, the manhole cover scandal has hit NYC (and several other municipalities) having been prompted by photographs. The story is here. It seems that pictures of the Indian foundry where manhole covers are manufactured have shocked!, shocked! the public and private bureaucrats who write the contracts. Who is kidding who here? We are buying the lack of workplace regulation. That is what globalization means now. The problem, of course, is that increased safety regulations will no doubt be blamed for predictably rising costs and the loss of jobs.

The reporters from The New York Times write that the scene was astounding ~"flames, sweat and liquid iron mixing in the smoke like something from the Middle Ages." Call that globalization as we know it, where capital and product can move more or less effortlessly, labor cannot, and is almost wholly unprotected where workers live; and remember that these workers are relatively "lucky" to have their Medieval jobs.

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