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Outwitting Outsourcing

At the most recent televised debate among aspirants for the Democratic nomination for president, the subject of “outsourcing” played a prominent role. In goodly part, this may have been due to the fact that the program was sponsored by the AFL-CIO.

Outsourcing is the common practice of multinational corporations, which have, over recent years, shut down plants and fired millions of American workers to get their work done in countries where cheap, child and even slave labor were and are available. Most prominent among such countries are China and India. But there are also countries in Latin America as well.

What can be done to halt this dangerous disease? Some states in our country have laws that deny state contracts to companies that practice outsourcing. It would help if our federal government did the same.

But that would not in itself cure the curse. But do not despair. There is a way to go that will solve the problem not only for the U.S. but for other countries that are plagued by outsourcing as well.

The solution lies in a marriage of two major agents of the international system. They are the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization. The WTO spells out a code of conduct that applies to all trade treaties. Countries that violate that code are subject to sanctions. The ILO — an organization established at the behest of our own President Woodrow Wilson — has elaborated a code of conduct to protect the rights and the safety of working people. Unfortunately, the ILO has no means of enforcing its ideas. It is a mouth without teeth.

A marriage of the WTO and the ILO would make the code of labor conduct part of every contract of the WTO.

We live in a global economy. To cure a global economic disease requires global action.

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