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Triangle Fire redux: Deadly Fires in Two Pakistani Clothing Factories
More than 100 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in NYC took the lives of 146 workers trapped by illegally blocked exits, similar work conditions are still only too common elsewhere in the world. About two weeks ago, nearly 300 workers perished in a blaze at a cramped textile factory in Karachi, Pakistan; and separately, at least two dozen shoe factory workers died in Lahore. In both cases, workers were trapped in the flames by illegally blocked exits. Today we look at this issue from two different angles. First, we bring you an interview with Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Unions Federation (NTUF) of Pakistan, about what these fires tell us about labor conditions in Pakistan today. But a large part of the responsibility for these fires also lies with the international corporations that were getting work done in these factories, willingly condone such terrible working conditions. To cover that issue, we talk to Judy Gearhart of the International Labor Rights Forum about what American consumers can do to improve working conditions in Pakistan.
Welfare Reform, Australian style
The US is hardly unique amongst industrialized nations in the disdain that it has for its poor. In Australia, lawmakers have been reforming the country’s welfare system through an intrusive and paternalistic program known as Income Management, which involves quarantining poor peoples’ welfare payments and then controlling how they spend this money through a Basics Card that can only be used on essential items so that the poor do not ‘misspend’ their money on drinking, gambling and pornography. The program was piloted in Australia’s impoverished aboriginal communities and is being expanded to immigrant groups. But a number of groups are now pushing back. To talk about the program and the opposition it has generated, we bring you an interview with Randa Kattan, head of the Arab Council in Bankstown that serves many poor immigrant households of Muslim and Arab descent.
South Korea’s Restrictive Labor Laws
South Korea is known as one of Asia’s big economic success stories. But because of the country’s poor labor policies, this bounty has bypassed many of the workers whose hard labor provides the foundation for this wealth. Recently, the International Trade Union Confederation issued a report to the WTO that blasts South Korea’s labor laws and regulations as poorly enforced and often deliberately anti-worker, preventing certain sectors from organizing, marginalizing migrant workers, and perpetuating discrimination against women. We discuss the report’s findings with Jeff Vogt, legal advisor to the ITUC, and then follow up with an interview with Mikyung Ryu, International Director of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in New York City
Last week, in an historic event, Burma’s opposition leader, recently freed from 15 years of house arrest, made her first trip to the US in some 40 years. As part of that trip, she spoke at Queens College, addressing a crowd made up mostly of her fellow Burmese, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Miami and North Carolina to see her. APF’s Hyun Lee was in the audience, and in our final segment she brings you a segment of Suu Kyi’s speech.
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