In the past decade manufacturers based in North America have been pulled in many different directions by free trade issues. Free trade, as a concept, is an idea that looks good on paper but never quite seems to live up to the rosy projections its supporters have laid out. Everyone has heard of the horror stories coming from the growing industrial powers previously known as the third world.
We hear of the destruction of wildlife habitat, the degradation of the environment, near slave wages and slave working conditions. At the same time, North American Manufacturers deal with restrictive EPA regulation, Minimum Wage Laws, and a crushing Health Care System that seems designed to steal away profits and put North American Manufacturers at a disadvantage. No one seems to have a solution to this disparity.
Those we have chosen to lead us, on these issues, have moved to the side line and take no active position. Their philosophy is to turn every one loose and let those involved sort themselves out. The hope seems to be that eventually, third world workers' wages will grow as local workers demand a safe and fair working environment and a safe living environment. Our leaders appear to believe that all things will eventually sort themselves out all we need do is be patient and wait.
As we wait, it seems the problems only grow in magnitude with no immediate solution in sight. It has been suggested to the writer, from the resident philosopher at Zycon, the solution may not rest with government. The suggestion is made that a non-government trade association, similar to trade organizations we are familiar with in the Mid West, should be formed on a world wide basis. The organization would require a pledge of its members to conduct themselves as responsible citizens; that these manufacturers would agree to pay a reasonable wage, provide their employees with safe working conditions and be environment friendly. As a condition of membership, the manufacturers would allow their production facilities to be inspected by a third party institution that would certify the manufacturer is in compliance with the minimum standard set by the organization. Should a manufacturer not wish to join they may still choose to be voluntarily inspected and certified as complying with the basic standards. In nations that have environmental laws and wage and hour laws similar to those here in Michigan, proof of compliance would be easy. Those nations that do not have such laws would require independent inspection.
All those manufacturers that comply would be certified as compliant and their names would be published. This program would be completely voluntary. Enforcement would be by the members themselves. Members and non-members would be encouraged to deal only with manufacturers that are certified as adhering to the minimum standard. This program has several advantages. First, it would be voluntary with no government involvement. Second, the only action required for enforcement would be non action on the part of members and others interested in the goals of a reasonable wage, safe working conditions and a sound environment. Those who support these goals could look for those manufacturers that are certified compliant. Non-members such as retailers could use the compliance certification to assure that their suppliers all are working toward a fair wage, safe working conditions and a sound environment. Third, it can be done now. Manufacturers who share these goals can form an association that propounds these principles immediately. The mechanics of the inspection and certification can be worked out over time. Finally, I wish to point out that these goals are realistic and in fact have been espoused by most major European, North American and Japanese Manufacturers.
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