The Multinational Monitor


N E W S   R O U N D U P

Bittersweet Vindication

Last May, the Reagan administration decided the U.S. didn't need sugar from Nicaragua if the product could be imported from "democratic" countries like Honduras and El Salvador, and slashed Nicaragua's sugar exports to the U.S. by 90 percent (see M.M., June 1983). Nicaraguatogether with 12 Latin American nations and several members of the U.S. Congress -accused the administration of violating several international trade agreements.

On March 13, a council of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)-an accord between 90 nations that sets international trade policy guidelines and resolves trade conflicts-supported Nicaragua by ruling that the U.S. action violated the GATT accord by allowing political considerations to enter trade relations, and called upon the U.S. to immediately restore Nicaragua's sugar exports to their previous level. While the council has little enforcement power, its decisions have led to policy changes in several countries by influencing international public opinion.

The Reagan administration appears unfazed by the ruling. Rolly Praeger, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative, the executive office that recommended the sugar cutoff, says that they are "not making any overtures" toward Nicaragua to renew sugar exports, though she says they are willing to discuss the matter at Nicaragua's request. But resolution of the conflict, Praeger insists in clear contradiction of the GATT ruling, still depends on "addressing the larger political issues."

Explosive Dynamics

The United Auto Workers (UAW) recently attacked General Dynamics, the number one U.S. defense contractor, as "the nation's premier symbol of the arrogance of corporate power."

The blistering attack came as the UAW announced a campaign to expose what it considers a pattern of company anti-labor policies and taxpayer abuse, and its failure to comply with "accepted principles of law, justice, and common decency." The campaign was launched in February with rallies in Detroit and St. Louis, the site of General Dynamics headquarters, and has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department and six other major unions.

At a February press conference in Washington, D.C., UAW president Owen Bieber charged General Dynamics with "gouging" American taxpayers through grossly overpriced spare part sales to the Pentagon, irresponsibly endangering its employees health and safety (Bieber listed two needless deaths at company plants), and with engaging in union busting tactics.

The labor campaign coincides with a bitter nine month strike of 2,200 UAW members at General Dynamics' Electric Boat subsidiary in Groton, Connecticut, where Trident nuclear submarines are built. Bieber calls it a "company instigated and prolonged strike," citing the UAW's offer to sign a contract with terms originally suggested by the company which the company subsequently refused.

The UAW charges were dismissed by General Dynamics General Counsel Edward E. Lynn as "outrageous, slanderous, and irresponsible," and a "tired rehash of unsubstantiated allegations." "It is the union and not the company that is prolonging the unfortunate strike," he said. Lynn claimed the company's position at the Electric Boat facility was "upheld" when the National Labor Relations Board recently refused to issue a complaint against the company on charges brought by the UAW.

But Bieber is undeterred. "We intend to shake the corporate empire of America's largest defense contractor from St. Louis to the Pentagon," he says.

Atlanta's Third World Connection

Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young promised voters in 1981 he would turn his experience as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations into cash for the city. True to his word, Young is using his trans-Atlantic contacts to benefit Atlanta as well as set an example for how other mayors can recruit international business.

A telling example of Young's appeal came last summer when his friend Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, chose to address a gathering of Atlanta business executives before traveling to Washington to meet with high-level U.S. officials.

The Mayor's successes also include: the supply of high-tech communications equipment from an Atlanta firm to a Nigerian news agency; a weeklong trade mission to Jamaica and Trinidad which brought $150 million in trade agreements to local businesses; and sponsorship of a conference with Saudi Arabian business leaders which netted $100 million in U.S. contracts.

Young insists that promoting international trade is not just good business; it also fulfills a social and political responsibility the U.S. has largely ignored toward trading with former European colonies whose leaders want to establish their independence.

"Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre has saved his city by hunting international business," Young told city planners at a conference on international development in September. "The federal government has failed us, so mayors have to deal with corporations and foreign countries to establish new models for trade and development to keep their cities alive."

Reprinted with permission from Southern Exposure, a bimonthly magazine. Subscriptions are available for $16 from Southern Exposure, P.O. Box 531, Durham, NC 27702.

Of Machines and Men

Rural women in Third World countries are among the first to suffer and the last to benefit from technology, according to a new study by the U.N. International Labor Organization.

The study, entitled Technology and Rural Women in the Third World, examines rural societies in Africa and Asia where modern technology has been introduced and finds that women are frequently forced to give up traditional income-generating activities and denied access to training in the use of new technology. In addition, the traditional sexual division of labor in these societies is often reinforced as a result of technology.

In one example cited in the study, Indonesian women's-opportunities to earn income through hand-pounding rice was completely destroyed when introduced. In others, women who brew beer at home in rural Africa as well as women who produce molasses from sugar cane and date palm in Bangladesh must now compete with industrial production of these goods.

When technology does generate new opportunities, they invariably go to men. "Men take over responsibility for women's tasks as soon as they are mechanized or when they are transformed from a subsistence into market production," the study reports. In Gujerat, India, for example, where a modern dairy complex displaced women who had traditionally made butter and cheese, not a single woman was trained for employment.

When they are not completely displaced, women must sometimes work even harder than before, the study finds. This has occurred in several countries where new land is brought under cash crop cultivation and women bear the burden of increased weeding, hauling and harvesting.

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