In the Sept. 22 editorial in support of NAFTA parity for the Caribbean and Central America, The Post claimed that "trade has promoted prosperity and prosperity has promoted freedom." If only it were so.
Unions are not alone in rejecting this simplistic notion. James Wolfensohn and Joseph Stiglitz, the president and chief economist of the World Bank, have argued that economic growth does not always promote freedom. Human development in their view requires "democratic, equitable and sustainable increases in living standards." Measured against these criteria, NAFTA parity for the Caribbean fails.
In the Caribbean, basic human rights of workers are violated frequently. The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, in a report on the Caribbean Basin's maquila factories, wrote; "Should [they] multiply in their current form, the countries would be specializing in supplying cheap labor, and [the sector's] growth would depend on the continual cheapening of this factor. This is not compatible with a long-range strategy of growth with social equity."
Workers in the Caribbean and Central America deserve better. And the 1.2 million U.S. workers in the apparel and textile industry should not be sacrificed so companies can profit from sweatshop labor.
Union of Needletrades,
Industrial and Textile Employees