Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
A recent article in the New York Times titled "Shipping Costs Start to Crimp Globalization" raises some very interesting questions about how the supply chains of US multinational corporations will change in the coming years due to increasing oil and transportation costs and climate change, among other factors.
As the article says,
Cheap oil, the lubricant of quick, inexpensive transportation links across the world, may not return anytime soon, upsetting the logic of diffuse global supply chains that treat geography as a footnote in the pursuit of lower wages. Rising concern about global warming, the reaction against lost jobs in rich countries, worries about food safety and security, and the collapse of world trade talks in Geneva last week also signal that political and environmental concerns may make the calculus of globalization far more complex... [M]any see evidence that companies looking to keep prices low will have to move some production closer to consumers. Globe-spanning supply chains — Brazilian iron ore turned into Chinese steel used to make washing machines shipped to Long Beach, Calif., and then trucked to appliance stores in Chicago — make less sense today than they did a few years ago.
It's hard to say if increasing environmental and political concerns will result in significant changes in the way corporations are managing their supply chains. Companies like Firestone are still planning to shut down plants in the US in order to search for cheaper labor costs. However, if the trend toward moving production back closer to consumers develops, it could have major implications on workers around the world. How could this effect workers in the Global South and will it benefit workers in the US or end up hurting them? What do you think?
The article also brings up questions about how workers, unions and other labor organizations are factoring environmental concerns into their broader strategies for improving the lives of workers. Groups like the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and their Green-Collar Jobs Campaign is one interesting example of a campaign working to create opportunities for poor people and people of color to benefit from the green economy and to foster eco-equity. There is also the Blue Green Alliance which is a partnership between United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club. Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, says the goal is "to provide good jobs, a clean environment and a safer world."
Do you know of other organizations and campaigns working to bring together environmental and economic justice? What should environmental and labor groups be doing to work together for a more just and sustainable economy for all?