Tuesday, October 09, 2007
"Nobodies": John Bowe on Modern Slavery
Slave labor is sadly alive and well - and not in some distant third world nation. It thrives in the U.S., puts food and clothing in local stores and restaurants, all documented in journalist John Bowe's new book "Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy" from Random House.
The facts are grim and depressing, and Bowe's book of investigative reporting is nearly impossible to put down once you begin reading. Bowe starts with events in Florida, where companies rely on modern indentured servants to provide products for major companies like PepsiCo, Taco Bell, Tropicana and many more. Herded into hellish camps and manipulated with brutality by labor contractors, one known as El Diablo, human life is worth little. Providing products for sale trumps all other concerns.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the John Pickle Company, which makes pressure tanks for oil companies and power plants, workers from India arrived only to have their documents confiscated, forced to live inside a factory building and work for three dollars an hour.
In Saipan, the U.S. Commonwealth, workers make clothing for national retail chains like The Gap and Target - yet free from all U.S. labor standards and immigration controls. Labels are allowed to read MADE IN THE USA, thanks to congressional efforts from Tom DeLay. Most of the workers are women, who earn three dollars an hour and are urged to trade sex for green cards.
Bowe's book is scathing, telling true stories of how much the U.S. economy has melded with brutal labor camps, exempt from law enforcement standards and operate with the local and national officials all ignoring the sometimes deadly camps.
You can read an excerpt from Bowe's book here. Bowe is interviewed by Doug Krizner here.
For most readers, "Nobodies" will astonish and terrify. It not only tells the stories of those forced to work in constant fear and poverty, but also reveals how items we consume daily come from such labor.