Modern Times

That’s the title of a film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin in 1936. It’s linked at the end of this post, if you wish to watch it. But this post isn’t about that film, but about why I will not buy anything at Decathlon, wear a pair of Nike sneakers, or eat a burger in McDonald’s.

Modern Times
Modern Times (1936), Charlie Chaplin

The West

In 1850, at United Kingdom, the Factory Act limited work to 60 hours/week: 10,5 hours/day (12 hours, with half hour for brunch and 1 hour for lunch) from Monday to Friday and 7,5 hours on Saturdays.

158 years later, in 2008, an European Union Working Directive allows a maximum of 65 hours/week. The Directive was rejected by European Parliament on December 2008. In 2010, the Directive for 65 hours is introduced again, and again it’s rejected by European Parliament.

That’s all? No, of course that isn’t all. We saw it with the European Constitution. It was rejected in referendum by France and Holland, so it couldn’t be approved. What’s the problem? Then our democratic representatives made the Treat of Lisbon to replace the Constitution: the same thing, but naming it with other title and not allowing citizens to vote it. When citizens don’t vote as we must, our representatives are forced to skip citizens. “Democracy”, the actually existing democracy, works in that way.

In this case, it isn’t needed to do that. The actual directive says that the reference working time is 48 hours/week as maximum. But ..

– It’s possible the private agreement between employee and employer to extend the workday. That means, “sign or I’ll employ another”, or “sign or you’re fired”.

– The only limit is a rest of 11 hours/day and 24 hours/week. If you do sums, that lets 78 hours/week.

Having this in mind, the worth of this failure to pass the 65-hour Directive is arguable. Multinational companies like Microsoft, Nike or McDonalds haven’t had troubles to degrade job, more and more, during the last 30 years, like every employee of these companies know very well. To know their practices, how multinationals increase benefits as they degrade job, I highly recommend the Naomi Klein’s book ‘No Logo’. It was written 14 years ago, but the only difference between 1999 and nowdays is that the companies policies that she describes have been highly increased and spread, and social inequality has highly grown as well.

And the next step will be to allow the child labour, I guess, in this return to XIX.

child labor
picture taken from

Export Processing Zones

But, again, it isn’t needed to change anything: thousands of children work nowdays for great companies, the companies to whom we buy their products in shopping centers at the West countries. We can see the same labour conditions that were usual at Europe in XIX century, the same labour conditions that multinational companies have imposed in many parts of the world and are now imposing here. That conditions exist nowdays at Asia, Africa, South and Central America, the places where the USA and European companies are moving their production, in the so named offshoring: 12 years old children working, 14, 16, 18-hour workdays, sometimes even 24 hours when orders rise, subsistence wages, unpaid overtime, absolute lack of security measures, verbal and sexual harassment.

picture from Captured by Cotton, published by SOMO and ICN

This is happening nowdays, in factories supplying products to many known companies. You can close your eyes and to buy in Wal-Mart or Marks&Spencer, to drink Coca-Cola and Baccardi, to buy a Ralph Lauren shirt and a Decathlon bicycle… after all that exploitation allows these companies to sell their products with a cheaper price, and that is better for the smart consumers, isn’t it?.

But some people is choosing to stop buying products of companies that exploit adult and children in inhumane ways.

Just Damaging
picture from

Even from a selfish point of view, we should stop buying to that companies. After all, the offshoring is causing millions of lost jobs at USA and Europe, and pushing to the loss of labor rights that is happening in the West since 80’s, now accelerated thanks to the crisis-scam. We, the West people, are shooting ourselves on the feet each time we buy products of these companies.

Here some links to know more:

Black list  a list with 77 great companies using slave labour around the world, published by SOMO and ICN.

SOMO (Center for Research on Multinational Corporations): an independent, non-profit organization, since 1973 investigating multinational corporations and the consequences of their activities for people and the environment around the world.

ECCJ (European Coalition for Corporate Justice): represents over 250 civil society organizations present in 15 European countries such as FIDH and national chapters of Oxfam, Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth.

Clean Clothes Campaign: improving working conditions in the global garment industry.

makeITfair: an European project focusing on the electronics industry, to let people know about the labour abuses and environmental problems of this industry around the world.

By the way, it’s remarkable that the description of slave workplaces that Naomi Klein does in her book ‘No Logo’ is very, very similar, to the descriptions of manufactories made by writers in XIX century. After a brief interval caused by the fear to Soviet alternative, capitalism has returned to its natural condition: the brutal and unlimited exploitation.

However, there is a significant difference: in XIX and first part of XX, governments had some control yet on the economy and laws. Nowdays, banks and multinationals rule over governments. For that reason, the current crisis-scam will not finish in the short or medium term, because economic power continues dictating the rules to governments. There will not be a Roosevelt nor a New Deal.


Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin

To end this post, as I promised in the first paragraph, here is the movie Modern Times. A film that every human being must watch sometime. Bankers can watch it too.

Modern Times (youtube)

Enjoy it.


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