I am in the US for 2 weeks as part of a Wal-Mart speaking tour in Oregon and Washington. This is my first time outside of India.
It almost seems that socialism is growing in the USA. So many students, academics, and citizens care about what I have to say and want to learn more. I was shocked to see homeless and poor people on the streets and some people have talked with me about the many problems within the US.
Students are very active and interested in learning more about the garment industry in India and other countries. Citizens in the US have demanded that their governments allocate money to stop sweatshops. So far we have visited Lewis and Clark College and Reed College. Thanks to Frazer Lanier for being very supportive of factory workers in India. Thanks to Linda and Ralph Schmoldt in Portland for allowing me to stay in their home for so many nights.
On Tuesday Feb 20 we went to Bend, OR and met with members of Jobs with Justice. They are all working to improve the lives of garment workers and this makes me very happy. Sometimes in India we think we are all alone but after visiting Bend its clear we have so much support.
Not only have we educated students but we also met with Portland City Council offices. I spoke with 3 offices and even met with Jim Middaugh, the Chief of Staff for Portland Commissioner Eric Sten. He sat and spoke with me about the problems and also the other issues they are supporting in the city of Portland. Many of the other offices responded in favor of the Portland Sweatfree ordinance. This is very promising for the working class of India. I only hope that the city of Portland will make the necessary financial commitments that are a very important part of the Sweatfree ordinance. Thanks to Deborah Schwartz for introducing me to the city of Portland commissioner offices.
When the government of the US stands up to injustice around the world, other countries listen. For instance in 1999, the US demanded there be no more child labor in the garment industry and so child labor has drastically decreased.
I was very surprised by the low prices at Wal-Mart stores. I have learned more about how Wal-Mart exploits workers at every level because they want to see things at low prices.
Thanks to Trina for doing all the driving and feeding us when we are hungry. I have learned from Cynthia that workers in the US are also exploited. Betty is a strong union leader and I am learning about how to do better organizing from her. Unfortunately Betty and I can’t speak too much directly since she speaks Spanish. Thanks to Nora for helping Betty and I communicate!
Thanks to ILRF for giving me this opportunity and I hope to be able to come to the US more often. Finally thanks to Los Angeles immigration officers for letting me come into the US.