Did you know that budget guitars are made by super-exploited labor? Did you know that these guitars, that used to be made by Korean workers in a Korean-owned factory, are now made by workers in China and Indonesia?
The continued expansion of neoliberal capitalism gets worse and worse. In the 1950s and 1960s, we saw American jobs lost to Japanese companies. By the 70s, Korea and Taiwan became the "Asian Tigers" taking not only factories, but entire industries, like personal computers.
Then, in the 80s, China pushed to be the next country for manufacturing, and to do so, they did something novel: instead of trying to develop their own companies, they simply allowed American, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean companies to outsource manufacturing to Chinese companies. The only well-known Chinese brands in the West are Lenovo and Haier. I'm sure most folks don't know Haier.
Despite this lack of "brands", it's well know that Chinese companies manufacture products for Apple, Dell, Honeywell, Sony, Samsung, Acer, Asus, Master Lock, Presto, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and on and on.
The victims of this neoliberalism are the workers. And when the wages in China rise, they will find themselves the victims of neoliberalism as well. They, too will have a two-class society.
The President is pushing to pass a Korean "free trade agreement" (FTA), that is being protested by Korean farmers and local manufacturing. It seeks to reduce farmer, worker, environmental, and online privacy protections.
It's being vigorously supported by the beef industry, which seeks to export US beef to Korea. (I suppose they've seen great sales in K-Town.)
It has been supported by the UAW; it's payback for the government loans to keep the American auto industry in business. The agreement is expected to result in sales of around 6,000 cars to Korea. Of course, the flow of cars to the US is greater - expected grow by around 100,000 cars per year (Kia and Hyundai). Korean plates already manufacture in the US (non union plants) and are expected to eventually gain up to 12.5% of the market (up from 5% today).
One less known aspect of the FTA is that it would eliminate Korean data privacy laws. They prevent the export of personal data from Korea. If the FTA is passed, data processing can be outsourced to American companies... and the American companies in turn would outsource the work to India, the Gulf nations, and elsewhere. It would also open up the Korean market to US finance-services companies.
In Korea, farmers oppose it. Agricultural imports generally decimate the local production.
Protest this continuation of neoliberalism. If you're in Orange County, it's been made convenient - the protest is in Anaheim. Last year, Tom Morello and friends showed up to sing protest songs. It's good times and friends.
Their release/blog post is below.
Many people have asked how they can support.
Whether you are a musician, a guitar lover, or an everyday citizen that cares about what is right, there are many things you can do.
On January 10th, 7pm, there will be a forum in LA’s Koreatown about the US-Korea FTA. At that forum, the Cort and Cor-tek workers will speak about their struggle as well. (Location: KIWA Cultural Education Center, 3472 West 8th Street, LA, 7-10pm)
During NAMM, we will be at Anaheim Convention Center every day from January 13- 15th, from the start to the end of the business day.
We invite MUSICIANS and SPEAKERS and VOLUNTEERS from all walks of life to share their support, whether through music or through whatever talent you have, helping us hand out fliers and speaking to NAMM attendees about how Cort’s guitar sweatshops are not acceptable, and that workers have the right to negotiate for better conditions without getting fired. (Please download, print, email the flier below to friends, local music stores, and to musicians who can support us at NAMM)
WHERE: At the Anaheim Convention Center, between Halls B and C, near the Palm Courts (and also near the Hilton Hotel)- where Convention Way road meets the convention center.