Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Labor South Travels to Taipei, Taiwan

I will be traveling to Taipei, Taiwan, over the next week and a half, conducting research into an issue that seems to be everywhere: migrant workers.

It's certainly an issue here in the U.S. South, where migrants from Latin America are now tending the fields and working the assembly lines while politicians utilize them as a convenient scapegoat in these hard economic times.

Migrant workers find themselves in similar situations everywhere in the Global South, and beyond. Recall my reportage for this blog from my trip to Singapore last May.

Lawmakers in Taipei in recent months proposed a law eerily similar to the pre-U.S. Civil War "Fugitive Slave Act", penalizing migrant workers who try to escape 14-to-16-hour work days and the often slave-like working and living conditions of their lives.

Hundreds of thousands of workers from Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines have come to Taiwan in recent years to work in construction or as domestic workers, often arriving deep in debt from the exorbitant brokers' fees charged them to be able to come. Organizations such as the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office and the Migrant Worker Empowerment Network have worked on their behalf, and the Taiwanese government has tried to put some restrictions on the brokers' fees.

However, many brokers have been able to circumvent these through deals with agents in the migrants' home countries.

I'll be reporting on these and related issues very soon. Keep posted!

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