Workers at N.Y.U.’s Abu Dhabi Site Faced Harsh Conditions

Ariel Kaminer and Sean O’Driscoll, Workers at N.Y.U.’s Abu Dhabi Site Faced Harsh Conditions. The New York Times, 18 May 2014. “Facing criticism for venturing into a country where dissent is not tolerated and labor can resemble indentured servitude, N.Y.U. in 2009 issued a “statement of labor values” that it said would guarantee fair treatment of workers. But interviews by The New York Times with dozens of workers who built N.Y.U.’s recently completed campus found that conditions on the project were often starkly different from the ideal.

Virtually every one said he had to pay recruitment fees of up to a year’s wages to get his job and had never been reimbursed. N.Y.U.’s list of labor values said that contractors are supposed to pay back all such fees. Most of the men described having to work 11 or 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, just to earn close to what they had originally been promised, despite a provision in the labor statement that overtime should be voluntary.

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The ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse

Dan Barry, The ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse. The New York Times, 9 March 2014. “Toil, abuse and endurance in the heartland…. For decades [1974-2009], dozens of men with intellectual disabilities belonged to a close-knit Iowa community. They lived in an old schoolhouse, worked in a turkey plant, and frequented the local mini-mart. But [few] knew just what these men endured.”

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Breathless and Burdened: Dying from black lung, buried by law and medicine

Chris Hamby, Breathless and Burdened. The Center for Public Integrity, three-part series, 29 October, 30 October, and 1 November 2013. “This yearlong investigation examines how doctors and lawyers, working at the behest of the coal industry, have helped defeat the benefits claims of miners sick and dying of black lung, even as disease rates are on the rise and an increasing number of miners are turning to a system that was supposed to help alleviate their suffering.” This series won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. One part of the three-part, 25,000-word series was produced in partnership with the ABC News Investigative Unit, whose work included an in-depth Nightline segment.” Updates from The Center for Public Integrity, 30 September 2015: “‘Sweeping reforms’ proposed for black lung benefit program” and “Johns Hopkins terminates black lung program.”

Winner of the 2014 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

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The Way of All Flesh: Undercover in an industrial slaughterhouse.

Ted Conover, The Way of All Flesh. Harper’s, May 2013. Reprinted by longform.org by permission of the author.”Undercover in an industrial slaughterhouse.”

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The new free-trade heel: Nike’s profits jump on the backs of Asian workers

Jeffrey Ballinger, The new free-trade heel: Nike’s profits jump on the backs of Asian workers. Harper’s Magazine, August 1992. “Her only name is Sadisah, and it’s safe to say that she’s never heard of Michael Jordan. Nor is she spending her evenings watching him and his Olympic teammates gliding and dunking in prime time from Barcelona [1992]. But she has heard of the shoe company he endorses–Nike, whose logo can be seen on the shoes and uniforms of many American Olympic athletes this summer. Like Jordan, Sadisah works on behalf of Nike. You won’t see her, however, in the flashy TV images of freedom and individuality that smugly command us to JUST DO IT!–just spend upward of $130 for a pair of basketball shoes. Yet Sadisah is, in fact, one of the people who is doing it–making the actual shoes…

Update: Max Nisen, How Nike Solved Its Sweatshop Problem. Business Insider, 9 May 2013. “It wasn’t that long ago that Nike was being shamed in public for its labor practices to the point where it badly tarnished the company’s image and hurt sales. The recent factory collapse in Bangladesh was a reminder that even though Nike managed to turn around its image, large parts of the industry still haven’t changed much at all. Nike was an early target for the very reason it’s been so successful. Its business model was based on outsourcing its manufacturing, using the money it saved on aggressive marketing campaigns. Nike has managed to turn its image around. Nike hasn’t been completely successful in bringing factories into line, but there’s no denying that the company has executed one of the greatest image turnarounds in recent decades.”

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Harvest of Shame: The Plight of Migrant Agriculture Laborers

Edward R. Murrow, Harvest of Shame. CBS Reports, 25 November 1960. John Light: “The people who harvest our fruits and vegetables are, today [2013], among the country’s most marginalized. They earn well below the poverty line and spend a substantial portion of the year unemployed. They do not have the right to overtime pay or to collective bargaining with their employers. In some cases, workers have faced abuses that fall under modern-day slavery statutes…. This is not a new phenomenon….”

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The Harvest Gypsies: Migrant Agriculture Laborers in California in the 1930s

John Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies. San Francisco News, 5-12 October 1936. PBS, Need to Know, 1 March 2013: “Before he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck was commissioned by The San Francisco News to write a series of  articles on the migrant laborers of the Salinas Valley. The result, ‘The Harvest Gypsies” (1936) were published consecutively from October 5 to October 12, 1936. In 1938 the Simon J. Lubin Society published The Harvest Gypsies, with an added eighth chapter, in pamphlet form under the title, Their Blood is Strong. Steinbeck’s reportage is stark. The images seen in the Farm Security Administration’s photos bear out his every word.”

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Two Thousand Dying on a Job: Silicosis deaths resulting from working on the Hawks Mountain Tunnel Project in West Virginia in the early 1930s

Bernard Allen, Two Thousand Dying on a Job. New Masses, 15 January 1935. “Two thousand workmen, according to the estimated figures of the contractors, were employed for over a period of two years [in the early 1930s] in drilling a three and three-quarter mile tunnel under a mountain from Gauley’s Junction to Hawk’s Nest in Fayette County, West Virginia. The rock through which these men bored was sandstone of a high silica content (in tunnel number one it ran from 97 percent pure silica to as high as 99.4 percent) and the contracting company neglected to provide any safety devices.”

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The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire: Eyewitness at the Triangle

William Shepherd, Eyewitness at the Triangle. Milwaukee Journal, 27 March 1911. “The nation learned of the horrible fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company through the eyewitness account of a United Press reporter who happened to be in Washington Square on March 25, 1911. He phoned in details while watching the tragedy unfold. At the other end of the telephone, young Roy Howard telegraphed Shepherd’s story to the nation’s newspapers.” [Read more…]

The Daughters of the Poor: A Plain Story of the Development of New York City as a Leading Center of the White Slave Trade of the World, Under Tammany Hall

George Kibbe Turner, The Daughters of the Poor: A Plain Story of the Development of New York City as a Leading Center of the White Slave Trade of the World, Under Tammany HallMcClure’s, November 1909.

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