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The Actual Brazil World Cup Scandal Isn’t About Thongs

6:21 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Demonstrators in Recife, Brazil, fill the streets in the mass protests that erupted across the country last June in response to massive spending to host the World Cup. Controversies have continued over the construction. (Semilla Luz / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Originally published at In These Times

The 2014 Brazil World Cup made big headlines again this week after a controversial Adidas promotional campaign that the country’s tourist board says suggests that Brazil is a lascivious pit of sexual debauchery. As part of the elite club of mega-sporting event host nations, the “emerging” economic powerhouse of Brazil is understandably concerned about its public image and was quick to condemn the thong-shaped t-shirt logos. But officials of this rising star of Latin America seem noticeably less concerned about a touchier scandal buried beneath the pageantry: systematic human rights abuses and labor exploitation.

In recent months, several workers have died on construction sites for stadiums and other huge infrastructure projects designed to accommodate this summer’s football extravaganza, and in the lead-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In early February, Portuguese technician Antônio José Pita Martins died in a crane accident while working on the construction of the Arena da Amazônia football stadium in the steamy city of Manaus, the largest metropolis in the Amazon basin. The death came after two other construction worker fatalities in the same area in December: Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira, 22, plunged 115 feet to his death from the stadium rooftop. Around the same time, another worker at a nearby convention center site died of a heart attack, reportedly linked to overwork, since workers were being pressed to keep up with the scheduled construction timetable. In November, two others were killed when a crane fell at the Corinthians arena in São Paulo, which will host the World Cup’s opening match.

The fatalities, as well as other labor disputes, have led to work stoppages and threats of strikes, which have further disrupted the already-behind-schedule construction timetable and exacerbated the deadline pressure from the World Cup governing authority FIFA. The possibility of another strike was raised earlier this month after the death of Martins. Read the rest of this entry →

Qatar Launches Into 2022 World Cup on Backs of Abused Migrants

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

(Cocoate.com / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Originally posted at In These Times

Qatar sits like an oasis of hypertrophic capitalism amid a landscape barren in all respects except for its oil reserves. The emirate sustains itself by pumping out vast fossil fuel resources while importing human ones, in the form of legions of migrant workers from Bangladesh, Nepal and other Global South countries.

Labor activists say this fierce imbalance between the elite and the laboring underclass is headed for catastrophe as the country prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The event, and the massive infrastructure projects it will involve, will magnify Qatar’s international prestige as an ultra-modern kingdom, but labor and human rights activists say the country is neither ready nor willing to align its regressive labor practices with its ultra-modern development agenda.

An investigation by Equal Times, a publication supported by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), documents patterns of employers and labor agencies cheating workers, deceiving them into exploitative jobs in unsafe and precarious conditions.

As with many other wealthy Gulf countries, Equal Times reports, Qatar’s economy displays stunning inequalities:

Read the rest of this entry →

Labor Campaign Calls on Olympic Brand Companies to Play Fair

6:53 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Photo: Olympic product factory worker in China (Play Fair 2012)

Cross-posted at In These Times

The world’s greatest games are about to begin in London. But outside the sporting spectacle this summer, few will notice where the real cheating is going on: in Asian factories that churn out plush mascots and other Olympiad gear, corporations have freely exploited lax labor regulations. As the Olympics approach, activists are racing to push the brands behind the games to play by the rules of fair trade and human rights.

Trying to avoid an instant replay of London’s age of imperialism, the Play Fair 2012 campaign aims for accountability and transparency in the corporations scoring massive profits from cheap labor in the global south.

The campaign got a boost recently when organizers of the London Games agreed to take measures to uphold labor standards in the supply chain for Olympic paraphernalia. The agreement came in response to pressure from unions and other activist groups, who published a scathing report on the industry that churns out piles of fluffy “Wenlock and Mandeville” mascots, badges, keychains and other Olympic swag. The report, which investigated two Chinese factories producing London-2012 gear, depicts a global sweatshop on steroids:

as the demand for consumer merchandise mounts in the build up to the Olympics, workers must work excessively long hours of overtime, for very little pay, in often dangerous and exhausting working environments, with employers showing little regard for internationally recognised labour standards or national laws. Read the rest of this entry →