HIGHTOWER: Pentagon Subsidizes Sweatshops
Time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you through a time warp to a factory where workers are made to do their jobs at a grueling pace on dangerous machinery, where they are exposed to a cancer-causing chemical, where their pay is based on a piece-rate system that cuts their income so low they can't meet basic family needs, where they're threatened with job loss if they complain too loudly or even whisper the word "union."This sweatshop is not out of America's distant past, nor is it in some sweatshop haven like China. It's in the here and now of Beattyville, Kentucky -- an impoverished town in the Appalachian foothills. Mother Jones magazine reports that some 650 workers toil in these deplorable sweatshop conditions in a factory there that's owned and run by Lion Apparel.What makes this story even more grim is that our tax dollars subsidize Lion. The company is one of several with more than $800 million in Pentagon contracts to make uniforms for the military. The Pentagon even highlights Lion Apparel as a great success story, hailing it for providing uniforms at a major cost savings. Yes, indeedy, it's amazing how a little sweatshop labor can cut your costs!In turn, Vice President Al Gore -- The Dudley Dooright of cutting government spending -- has given 51 cost-cutting awards to the Pentagon agency overseeing the Lion Apparel contract -- apparently not noticing or caring that the lower costs come at the price of exploiting American workers. The Pentagon just shrugs its shoulders at the exploitation -- a spokesman says, "We're getting out of the Big Daddy thing. We have no right to tell our suppliers how to do their business."This is Jim Hightower saying . . . But don't we taxpayers have a right to tell the Pentagon that we don't want our tax dollars subsidizing corporations that use sweatshop labor?