The Hightower Report

Bad Bosses; and a Bill to Ban Sweatshop Labor


During his 13-year tenure, the recently retired CEO of ExxonMobil paid himself $144,000 a day – and he worked in an executive suite that was labeled the "God Pod."

Our culture lavishes both wealth and worship on the "boss." Yet, if you talk to the workers on the ground level who actually do the heavy lifting, you'll find that the chief is not exactly put on a pedestal. Indeed, it's probably no coincidence that "boss," spelled backward, is double-s.o.b.

To give worker bees a chance to speak out about real life in the corporate hive, the grassroots organization called Working America, which is organizing workers not represented by a union, held a national My Bad Boss contest. And the entries poured in, telling some very un-God-like stories of boss behavior. For example, one group of employees learned what their boss really thinks of them: Rather than going upstairs to his own private privy, he would use the employee restroom and urinate in their sink!

Many bosses concern themselves with how employees dress, which is perfectly understandable. But, one day, the VP of a large Minnesota company went bonkers over buttons. The vice-president noticed that a staffer had three buttons on the sleeves of his blazer, whereas the VP's blazer sported only two sleeve buttons. The staffer was compelled to cut two buttons off of his sleeves, so he did not appear to outrank the boss.

Then there's the stingy California company that made employees pay for everything they used – from chairs to trash cans. The firm also provided no time off for personal needs, so when one employee's father died, he had to use his five annual vacation days to tend to the funeral. The company did send flowers, but he was docked $200 for them in his next paycheck.

For more on bad bosses – and what you can do about them – call Working America: 202/637-5137.


The mantra of the global corporate establishment is "free trade ... free trade ... free trade."

Especially insidious is the establishment's insistence that "free trade" is the answer to world poverty. This has been the public rationale for every trade scam from NAFTA to CAFTA, including such single-country deals as the 1999 Jordanian Free Trade Agreement. To help the impoverished people of Jordan, went the argument, let's open up the lucrative U.S market to factories making clothes in Jordan. If we let the free market operate there without bothersome rules and regulations, then poor Jordanians will get jobs making clothes that retailers like Wal-Mart can import duty-free to the U.S. and sell to American consumers.

Sure enough, since 1999, Jordanian exports to America have increased 2,500%! But, wait. Jordan's factory owners, under contract to the Wal-Marts, didn't hire workers there. Instead, they flew in "guest workers" from even lower-wage countries, such as China and Bangladesh, and their factories became horrific sweatshops. Since "free trade" deals exclude labor-protection rules, these workers were paid a pittance, forced to work 20-hour days, frequently beaten, and jailed when they complained.

To stop this corporate scam of writing abusive "free trade" deals that let businesses bring sweatshop products into our country, it's time for the U.S. to assert our people's values in our own marketplace by outlawing the sale of sweatshop goods. Sen. Byron Dorgan, a fighting populist from North Dakota, has introduced a bill to do just that. SB 3485, the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act, is the first bill ever that simply says "no" to sweatshop products in America, and it comes with the necessary incentives and enforcement power to make it stick.

To get behind this bill and to help campaign for fair trade and common decency, call Sen. Dorgan's office: 202/224-2551.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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ExxonMobil, Working America, My Bad Boss contest, free trade, NAFTA, CAFTA, Jordanian Free Trade Agreement, Wal-Mart, sweatshops, Byron Dorgan, SB 3485, The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act

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