Tuesday, June 17, 2003

A Little Bit of Home in Baghdad

Remember how Bush said he wanted to bring universal health care and a quality educational system to Iraq? Well, according to a new report by U.S. Labor Against the War, we're bringing another little part of America to Iraq: Corporations with sordid records
marked by fraud, price-gouging, wage-cheating, deception, corruption, health and safety violations, human and labor rights abuses, union-busting, strike-breaking, environmental contamination, malpractice, and collusion with dictators.
The report, titled "The Corporate Invasion of Iraq: Profiles of US Corporations Awarded Contracts in US/British Occupied Iraq," is intended to provide much needed information to Iraqi workers and their resurgent labor movement about the US companies that are their new employers.

According to U.S.L.A.W, "A strong, independent, free and democratic labor movement and respect for workers and human rights must be an essential pillar of a new democratic Iraq."

We've heard a lot about the no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton, Dick Cheney's old stomping ground. Yet it turns out that a large number of corporations chosen by the Bush Administration to rebuild Iraq are
firms whose workers have no unions; several have well-established records of hostility toward unions and workers who seek to organize them. Some of the largest contracts issued by the Bush administration for work in Iraq have been issued without competitive bidding to firms with inside connections to the administration. Many have past and present associations with the Bush administration through business or political relationships or elected and appointed government positions that give them privileged access in their dealings with the government.
In addition to Halliburton, the report describes, for example: notoriously anti-union Stevedoring Services of America, DynCorp, which has been implicated in drug-running and prostitution scandals, fraud and environmental crimes and Flour, which has also had a number of environmental and labor "problems."

In fact all 18 corporations profiled are model corporate citizens, aside from a few flaws like
cost overruns, accounting irregularities, financial dereliction, fraud, bankruptcy, overcharging, price-gouging, profiteering, wage-cheating, deception, corruption, health and safety violations, worker and community exploitation, human and labor rights abuses (including use of forced labor), union-busting, strike-breaking, environmental contamination, ecological irresponsibility, malpractice, criminal prosecutions, civil law suits, privatization of public resources, collusion with dictators, trading with regimes in violation of international sanctions, drug-running, prostitution, excessive executive compensation, and breach of fiduciary duty to shareholders and the public.
The bottom line, according to U.S.L.A.W., is that if the U.S. is really serious about building a progressive society in Iraq,
nothing could be more important to the welfare of Iraqi workers and their families than having the right to organize, bargain collectively and, if necessary, strike to defend themselves and advance their interests against these corporations. This applies not only to fighting for decent wages and working conditions but also for making sure that the Iraqi people, not foreign corporations, control the resources and economic future of their country.
And I have now doubt that this is exactly what George Bush and Don Rumsfeld have in mind as they work toward their goal of a union-free U.S. government.