Sunday, February 19, 2006

Use of contractors tramples workers' rights

In the film version of John Steinbeck's classic novel "The Grapes of Wrath," there is a memorable scene in which tenant farmers are told that they are about to be evicted from the land that their family has worked for generations.
The tenants, overcome with bewilderment and anger, ask: "Whose fault is it?" The official who has given them the news first names a land and cattle company, but then notes that the company is controlled by a bank, which in turn takes its orders from an unnamed entity "back East."
Finally, reflecting the enormity of the problem faced by ordinary people during the Depression and the increasing complexity of corporate ownership and business organization, the official wearily shrugs and concludes: "I just don't know who is to blame."
The experience of workers in Eugene who deliver packages for DHL, the largest courier company in the world, reminded me of this poignant scene and of the struggle to determine employer responsibility. A German-based firm, DHL has been rapidly expanding in the United States over the last decade.
Attempting to seize market share from UPS and FedEx, DHL is the official delivery provider for the 2006 U.S. Winter Olympic and Paralympic teams and has spent massively on advertising in an aggressive attempt to gain public recognition. Full story here.......

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