25 January 2014

Ever heard of ‘in-sourcing’, Mr. Ki-Moon?

[Ban Ki-Moon is not in the news these days.  There are other entities that skirt the news, so to speak.  Like 'in-sourcing'.  Heard about it?  This was written a little over three years ago and published in the Sunday Island, December 26, 2010.  Worth a re-visit, I thought.]

Ban Ki-moon, a righteous and justice-fixated man if ever there was one, has appointed a panel to advise him about Sri Lanka.  He didn’t brief the panel adequately it seems for we heard the Chairman of the body shooting his mouth as though he had just been appointed Viceroy of Sri Lanka.  Very quickly and quite predictably the terrorist-loving sections of the international media told the world that this panel was mandated to investigate alleged war crimes.  Ki-moon, good man by the way, perhaps because he was harangued by corruption charges, appointed people who were either incompetent or too politically compromised to maintain impartiality or both.  Not his fault, poor man.

Ki-moon is a justice-lover.  He is our last hope against corporate crime. He is the biggest threat to global thuggery, led of course by the United States of America and Britain and in our corner of the world, India (if we are to take seriously Rahul Gandhi’s recent statement conferring himself the title of Chief Justice, Sri Lanka).  Ki-moon will not let one pin get flicked if he can help it.  He would abhor the idea of slavery and would gladly lay down his life defending individual and collective freedoms.  He would not suffer racism for a single moment.  He is almost a saint.

Almost. I use that word because he’s not perfect.  There’s something he has missed. I don’t blame him for he has just two eyes with which to gaze on all injustices perpetrated in the world.  We really can’t expect him to be aware of all acts of inhumanity in this terribly flawed and scarred world.  It is our duty, therefore, to take his face in both hands, tenderly, and gently turn his face in directions he appears to have let his glance move over without resting for a while.  In this instance, the terrible and morally unacceptable fact of slavery in the United States of America (Ms. Patricia Butenis, please note: you are being watched). 

Now Wikileaks is yet to release communiqués from the corporate thugs of this world, missives that would tell us about the corruption and inhumanity that not only resides but constitutes the foundation and king posts of that outwardly shining edifice.  This, just like much of what Wikileaks has ‘put out’, was known (although Ki-moon in his innocence and tough schedule has missed it) by those who regularly peruse the alternative media.  But slavery? In the United States of America? Unbelievable, you say?  Died around the time Abe Lincoln was gunned down?  Sadly, no.

Ask this question from yourself: where do you find the cheapest labour? Some poor third world country to which white-led multinational capital shifts pollution? No.  It’s the Prison-Industrial Complex of the United States of America.  The average wage in these wonderful places is less than 40 cents an hour (that’s about Rs, 30/hr).  Excellent working conditions?  Hmmm.   

There’s a trend in the USA.  People are losing jobs. No, not to third world countries. They are losing them to prisoners.  The minimum wage in the USA is $7.25/hour.  Corporate entities that run prisons in that wonderful country, home of the brave and land of the free and all that jazz, friends, save close to 7 dollars an hour by using prisoners in their manufacturing operations. That’s a killing, in US slang.  
In the USA, Mr. Ki-moon, there are two kinds of labour markets.  The ‘free’ national market and the walled industrial complex market.   Corporations that used to ‘outsource’ to cut on overheads and other such things have discovered a better way. In-sourcing.  Literally.

It is legal. Above board.  My friend Lydie Meunier informs me that ‘corporations wishing to participate in using prison labor, partner with prison industry operations under the federal Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP). 18 USC 1761(c) is the controlling federal statute of PIECP.’

‘Though private sector corporations are prohibited from closing private sector operations in favor of prison operations, they do so without consequence. There are other mandatory requirements that must be followed in order to participate in PIECP, but those also are rarely enforced. ‘

Who is doing all this? The mafia? Well, Mr. Ki-moon, here are some names: Microsoft, Boeing, IBM, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, BP and Sodexo.  These are not mom-’n-pop corner-store operators. Big names. Big bucks. CEO with lovely smiles, well-tailored suits. Thugs. Lydie points out that the prison industrial complex shows the fastest growth in profits, with politicians and judges and lawyers, and the top 2% investing in its stocks, which constitutes the most corrupt conflict of interests: for each incarceration, the private prison industry is not only paid big bulks by our tax money, it also disposes of the people as private property subcontracted to corporations.

The US tax payer, meanwhile pays for all this even as he/she runs the risk of losing his/her job.  What a wonderful world, Louis Armstrong would exclaim!

Prisons are factories, Mr. Ki-moon. Those who run them don’t have to pay employee benefits such as medical insurance. They don’t have to worry about giving paid time off or vacations. It’s round-the-clock work. No labour unrest to worry about. It is a corporate paradise, in fact.  

Mr. Ki-moon, please google ‘insourcing’. You will get a whole lot of material about the ugly underside of the Ugly American. You will find out that the USA has the highest incarceration rate in the whole world.  No prizes for guessing why!

Do something about this Mr. Secretary General. Please!

Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of THE NATION and can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com