The saga of the ‘unprofessional’ associations

I have been remotely monitoring the ongoing saga between the Professional Associations and the Jordanian government with great interest. For some reason I feel compelled to comment on whatโ€˜s going on: These "professional" unions are becoming a waste of space. Many unions that impose mandatory subscription fees fail to do anything useful for members, instead wasting time, effort and energy indulging in regional politics.

I wonder: If they are so keen on debating political issues then why not pursue other avenues to do so? The unions shouldn’t be a platform for voicing frustration about issues like the American administration’s foreign policy, as but one example.

Instead of focusing their time on, say, increasing the minimum wages of their members and finding ways to improve their respective professional fields, the unions organize rallies, events and sit-ins discussing regional (Note: regional not local) politics — something that will advance their particular body absolutely nowhere!

Inspired by a Thomas Friedman column, I’m compelled to say that the associations focus all their energy on anti-Americanism, failing to see the problems in their own backyards. If they insist on putting regional politics such as Iraqi elections (as another example) ahead of their real raison d’รชtre then I would not shed one tear if they were closed down!

By Natasha Tynes

Iโ€™m a Jordanian-American journalist, writer, and media development professional based in Washington, DC.

35 comments

  1. wow natasha,
    That is such a a strong stand ๐Ÿ™‚ but actually you are right… I am bothered as well that nothing advances, people just use any gatehring as a way to voice their frustration as you put it… mostly because they are too worried to voice it under their own names.. anyway… I believe Jordan as a society will advance only when people use the right times to do the right things and not mix everythin together.

  2. Well, I happen to disagree with you in here. Although the Unions main focus should be the members wellbeing, what is happening in Jordan is that the Unions is taking the role of political parties because of the poor parties structure we have. No one can deny that the Unions are more influential and open than political parties in Jordan. Another thing, members of the unions elect their representatives in different boards partly because of their political views. And the representatives should be able to express those views.
    I agree that the unions are getting themselves head2head with the gov, specially with the “Normalization with enemy” thing. And the fact they they expel members from diffrent professional Associations due to their political views or stands, specially when it comes with dealing with Israel. Now this is against Freedom, and I am against that. But what the gov is doing by disallowing the Unions to express their political views is a disgrace as well.

  3. Some of the benefits I got when I was a member of the Engineering Association were a discount on admission to their swimming pool( I had a near death experience in that pool), and few lectures on certain topics. Putting some companies and names on their black lists and encouraging others not to deal with them, is way too much and I am glad that the authorities are alert for their extremism. I believe that those associations can play a good role in the development and luxury of their members and the community as well, and expressing opinion is something healthy and should be pursued; but to mandate their opinion on members and others is way too much.

  4. Hmmm. Well, I’m probably not one who’s opinion should count here, but after working with PAC (particularly during the whole Jordan Engineers Association and the Anti-normalization Committee dustup) while at The Jordan Times I do want to add one thing. Isam, you are right that because political parties have such poor structure the unions are becoming the place to voice political issues. But that seems a poor excuse.
    The king on a number of instances has called for the parties to shape up. Why allow frustrations to run from a poorly implemented party structure to unions, where the primary modus operandi should be on professional/job politics (i.e. what’s good for the individual members and not what is “good for the kingdom”).
    What I’m hearing and heard many times from PAC while at the JT was the argument: “The parties system is broken, so we’ll use the unions.” Isam, you’re a computer systems guy right? Does it make sense to abandon a system designed for one purpose and twist another system to suit those ends, particularly when the other system is in no way designed to do so? Things get at cross purposes that way because while initially there might be some traction eventually the “twisted system” will break simply because it is not designed to handle those actions/transactions.
    Perhaps as a band aid you could suggest such manipulation. But over the long haul it will create a problem and it has. Very little effort has gone into restructuring the party system. Why is that? That’s the proper venue.
    I think it’s because, as you note, PAC has some clout, some real power. But that power came because of their connection to their professions and the opportunities that provides and that the unions have created over time. Using it in this way will eventually — and that time may be nigh — spend up that political capital, ruining what power they had.
    To me the “my voice must be heard, don’t stifle my freedom” idea here is a red herring. There are organs created for this, specifically the parties. People are frustrated, sure. But to prevent anarchy the right avenue must be taken. Imagine if every time you dealt with a colleague they put their particular political grievance in your face. In every corporate setting they stated: “Unleash corporate greed. Let the big boys win,” (something you happened to disagree with) stamping it on every company document they got their hands on. Eventually, they are trampling on other people’s rights and freedoms.
    This is why you establish particular organs in a society to allow for this free expression. Without such order anarchy is only a few steps away. It seems confusing when so many agree with a particular agenda. But what is the next step when so many agree? Well it points to a need for change and the way to get change is through the political parties system.
    The unions were supposed to help working people get working rights. They were not established to bring change to society or to the government but they are heading down that path. That’s going to be a problem and is proving so. Why not fix the parties or work within that already established system? Why abandon them? Is it just because it proves easier through the unions?
    That seems a lame excuse and, again, with foresight, it’s clear eventually that path will end without the change desired coming to fruition. The idea is not to stifle people’s freedoms or rights but to direct them to the proper organ (political organ I mean) where those concerns can be constructively addressed and *hopefully* real and meaningful change can come if the majority of the society thinks it should. The unions have become twisted to be a very visible place to air one’s grievances about society and the government. That’s clearly not what they were designed for so why not use the system that was created for just such a purpose: The parties.

  5. Well I believe that everything is related and affects the whole country with its unions, members, parties, organizations and everything.
    Memebers are not free to speak their minds, and they suffer to get a job coz of connections “wasta” so they turn to unions believing they’ll find help. Unions (that consist of these members) are restricted from many things, have limited freedom and are not able to get over โ€œwastaโ€, so theyโ€™re controlled in a different way. Organizations, also have limited freedom no matter how hard I try to convince myself of the opposite, even NGO’s get under the watching eye of governmental rules and restrictions. What I’m trying to say is that in Jordan, just like most of the Arab world, there is no freedom in action or speech (although I admit that Jordan’s freedom of speech is way much better than other Arab countries) and when people lack freedom they start forming official entities to express their grievance and depression, otherwise, they take the shortcut and start focusing on regional or foreign policies, the topics where they can somehow express their opinions without being punished.
    So I guess the problem is bigger than associations, and to solve this problem we shouldn’t neither blame it on the system nor on the people. To solve it we have to work on both, educating the people with twisted minds who believe in no compromises and who think war and terrorism is the only way to peace, and fix our systems who give limited freedom to selective issues and offer the best to the last name or biggest account.
    Oops, that turned out long ๐Ÿ˜›

  6. Very interesting discussion. I spent the last 25 years of my life defining and setting precidents in labor relation cases for Unions, Growers and Workers in the agricutural fields of California. We were able to do that due to political parties (Democratic Party) and trade associations pushing for laws(Agricultural Labor relations Act of 1975) working together to establish rights and responsiblities for each of the affected entities. It seems to me that political parties and trade associations work hand in hand within the scope and range of their defined rules,regulations, and procedures to bring about the necessary precidents under the law which determines the relationships and behavior between
    the affected entities. THAT IS THE CIVILIZED WAY OF GETTING SOME IF NOT ALL OF THE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES ONE STRIVES FOR DURING HIS/HER SHORT LIFE SPAN ON THIS SHIP CALLED EARTH.

  7. Well you guys, I have to say that this is an interesting disscusiion about unions, because I am learning a great deal about unions in Jordan.
    What Akram just posted is what I have most knowledge in when it comes to unions. I am a big union supporter, thus, I boycott places like Starbucks and WalMart. (But if Wal Mart even had a union i think i would still not go there because I hate that place with a passion. The second i go in there i get nervous, ticked off and annoyed). Any way, I digress.
    Unions need to have political stances, because thorugh politics and laws they can get regulations passed. With that said, once their stances are made, they need to do the primary work they were created for the sole purpose of doing: making sure their members are not exploited for their labor, their memebers recieve the proper wages they deserve for thier labor, and any other benefits their members deserve.
    Imagine if Cezar Chaves (a man i will always admire) said farm workers need to form a union to earn the right wages and benefits they deserve, and once the unions he was fighting for were created, started to digress and only focus his energy on a war that was going on or political issues that had nothing to do with his begining purpose of forming a union? well, we probably would not celebrate his birth as a state holiday in California.

  8. By the way, if anyone is interested, reading up on Cezar Chaves would be good to learn about great examples of what great unions are like.

  9. Linda, exactly! That’s the whole issue here. PAC greatly overstates the idea that their voice is being surpressed. Never will a union exist without politics; it’s very presence is a political one. But one is the organ for one thing. Parties, in this case, is the organ for the other. They have to work together. At this point it is very one-sided.
    I think that’s because of the press they draw and such (the power PAC now commands). They get their voice heard by many, something particularly important when so many are so frustrated. But once their position is clear, which happened a long time ago, it is time to go the next step: work with the parties. And, of course, they must never forget their real purpose in this: supporting the worker.
    Right now, unfortunately, they are highly distracted. The wife pointed to Friedman and I think in this case at least he got it right: For Europeans hating Americans is a hobby. In the Arab world it’s become a full-time profession.

  10. Unions are a recent phenomenon in the US. They were established after the depression of the 30s. actually, The political purpose for unions was to establish a vehicle through which communism can be checked before it establishes a foothold among depression affected americans. The idea is unions okay communism not okay (McCarthy-ism). That worked real well. Now that communism is dead the need for unions is up for grabs. Hence, low participation in union membership. How does that compare with whats going on in Jordan today?
    The opposite seems the case. To check the power of outside influences over trade associations (unions of technocrats) controlled political parties are the answer. Will it work in Jordan? why not?

  11. Natasha,
    I have been thinking of the issue for a while now but refrained from posting anything about it because I was sure it will spur a debate which, unfortunately, I don’t have time to follow closely; but thanks! Once again you proved that I can rely on you to speak up!
    I agree with mostly all the comments posted here (Jeff, I will start quoting your last sentence).
    I would like to draw an analogy with labor unions and the UJ student council. Natasha may know what I mean because of her experience at UJ. In both cases, the Islamists are more active in running for office and winning. Eventually they try to impose their doctrine on members (they do that in a style and using vocabulary that was only suitable until the fall of the Ottoman Empire). They both clash with the authorities (UJ administration or the Ministry of Interior) which use less-than-democratic means of shutting them up. Perhaps the only difference is that there are still certain unions which are not fully controlled by the Islamists, but are under, for example, an Iraqi Ba’athist influence with the end result being no different. The regular hurly-burly and pictures of Hamas “martyrs” and the clashes with authorities are, as pointed out above, a result of the failure of political parties.

  12. I would not say that American union participation has decreased due to the fall of Communism.
    If anything, it has decreased due to the loss of manufacturing jobs, including in union heavy industries like steel, and prescient companies treating their workers better so that they will have an easier time convincing them not to unionize.

  13. Hahahaha. Hello, Unions may not be that large here in America, but they are still strong and well. The biggest are unions for teachers, bus drivers, grocery market workers, farmers, doctors, writers, actors; you know, if you think about it, there are a great deal of unions in America. But they differ very much than those of Jordan. This is what I think at least to the way you guys are describing them. In fact, unions are so popular, a recent one i had one of my reporters write a story about last semester while editing for campus paper was the Graduate student/ Teacher’s Assistants union. hahahaha.
    No, unions are alive and well in America, except of course when it comes to places like Wal Mart and Starbucks. Any time one of their employees try to start one they intimidate him or her or get them fired. Thats why I encourage all of you to boycott wal mart and starbucks.
    hint hint Natasha.

  14. Linda…..Employees who engage in union activities are protected. The clock starts clicking from the instance they are either discriminated against through intimidation, coercion or terminated due to engaging in union activities. In some cases a pretext is used by management and often a good board agent handling the case can see through the defences and pierce the vail. Make whole remedies are provided by the NLRB. I agree that unions are alive and well in the U S. However, statistics clearly indicate that participation and membership today is less than half what it use to be. I feel that the powers to be in the political parties are not effectively pushing unions now a days as in the past when communism was a threat. I am sure unions may very well resurge if the economy in some sectors continues to decline.

  15. well, Jeff, I may agree that the Unions are made and designed to have a different purpose that what they are doing now. But this may be considered natural evolution, where something may grow to fit the purpose of the missing other. I am not saying it is right, but for sure, the way the Interior minister is reacting to it won’t fix it or make it better.
    Iyas, regarding the anomaly between the Unions, and UJ student council and so. I think that you blame Islamists too much. The wouldn’t reach the boards in either UJ council, or the Unions if they weren’t elected. And when they clash with Authorities, they do so, while trying to practice the programs they got elected for. Now the problem is, why would I (as a student or a union member) elect someone to the board who have a program that have nothing to do with my direct well-being ? that use the vocabulary that you are talking about above ? This is the question to ask. (Same question could apply on the election and reelection of Bush BTW ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  16. Yes, this blog just gets more and more instructive for me!
    I read Friedman and agree with Natasha on it. Even with a pretty tough skin about being American, the Unions statements have amazed me with their myopic venom. Surely the creative energy of these well-educated, passionate people could be better utilized?
    I’m not a fan of teacher’s unions in the US. I believe they have strangled and marginalized the educational system to the point of no return.
    Linda, sorry I can’t join you in the Wal-Mart boycott. Just gotta keep those poor Chinese laborers working ! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. Even the pizza delivery drivers are getting in on the action with starting a union!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am usually against unions and don’t have a problem walking past the picket lines when I feel the workers are wrong in their demands…be it at the grocery store, Fed-Ex, airline workers…you name it. These vulnerable workers become greedy b/c of unions and the unions use scare tactics to get companies to give in to their demands. When an autoworker makes over 100K a year, without even a HS diploma, or a grocery clerk is asking for $15 an hour with health benefits then is a problem. Unions drive up prices unnecessarily and in my opinion have led to the offshoring of much of the labor jobs in the US.
    I do admire, CC though. The agriculture workers were getting treated terribly and what he did was right. I think I too would have a problem with getting sprayed with insecticides while working the fields picking grapes. In that way I can see the need for a union, but had CC advocated for wages of $25 per hour and premium health insurance for all the workers or the grapes would rot on the vines, then I doubt I would hold him in such high regard.
    Although I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, I do go to Sam’s Club on occassion.

  18. Booooooooooooooo Sam’s Club.
    Wendy, if organizations such as Wal-Mart had unions, bought products from comapnies that create their products in a non-sweat shop environment, then over time, sweat shops would not exist. Thus, if enough people boycotted these places: Wal-Mart, Starbucks, the Gap, etc, big exploiting companies would have to to create their products the right ways, and not take advantage of poor people in thrid world countries. I am not saying that the jobs should be take away from these poor people, but they should be able to work in better conditions, and that is exactly what Wal-MArt should demand from the people they buy and sell their products from.
    And as for uion leaders getting all greedy, well they should. These people work for big corporations that make make billions off of their labor workers. Here is a perfect comparative example of what would happen to you if you worked in a non-union organization. I must refer to Wal-MArt again. There have been many stories of how Wal-Mart management will purposely make their employees work a few hours a week under full-time, just so they will not get full benefits. Night shift workers have continually complained about how Wal-MArt used to lock down all the doors at nite because they feared their employees would take too many smoking brakes. Well, once the fire alarms went off, and an employee broke his leg to brake down a door so they can all exit. Come on, do they have no respect for their employees? They treat them like animals. Thus, I would rather have a H.S. graduate making good money and recieving good benefits rather than breaking his leg from trying to brake down a door so he can escape a fire.
    And if we are actually going to say that unions drive up the prices of stuff here in America, than that is just a joke. Look at places like the guess store or the Gap. they dont have unions and they use sweat shops in third world countries, yet you walk into their stores and their prices are skiy high. So union or no union, greedy corporations will always drive up the prices because they know the buying public is apathetic and does not question any of their unethical corporate practices.

  19. Linda….Didn’t mind you trashing Wal-Mart etc even Starbuck but The Gap? please…. where else can you go and get a decent sweater and a pair of pants if not at The Banana Republic. which is owned by the Gap. How about Old Navy. Where every kid I know wears their products. Owned by The Gap. I got to draw the line here. Besides my son Sam works for them.

  20. Linda…I am just curious, where exactly do you shop? Don’t tell me you knit your own sweaters and make your own shoes. Just kidding with ya
    ๐Ÿ™‚
    What about the UAW. It’s about the union making all these demands that make it difficult for business to make money. Pretty soon the companies are losing money and find it better to close the plants or stores. Flint, Michigan and General Motors Case Study….Once a thriving city thanks to GM, I blame the unions for turning it into a decaying metropolis. Unions make it virtually impossible to fire workers. If a company threatens to fire someone the unions says we all walk off the job. So what if he came in stoned, was drinking on the job, or didn’t bother to show up we are the union and you can’t do a thing about it.
    As for Wal-Mart, it provides those with not much of an income a place to shop for things that are usually higher at other stores. They are not selling Gucci or Prada, or even Nike and Polo. Customers go where the low prices are and if you add a union to the mix, certainly higher prices will follow and than where will all those who currently shop at WM, go? The profit margin is already too small and with an increase in expenses due to union demands, the constomer will make up the difference with raised prices.
    I really feel for that poor guy with the broken leg. He wanted to smoke on company time. Why should WalMart pay him while he is out smoking. But this is America, the land of lawsuits. I am sure that guy is no longer working at Wal-Mart, but owns many, many shares of the corporation he received in the settlement agreement.
    If workers feel they work in a threating environment, then look for another job. Better themselves..go back to school…don’t just stay and complain. I don’t blame the corporations who are businesses. They are there to make a profit and make stockholders happy and provide a safe working environment.
    And Gap, Express, Limited can charge whatever they want cause people pay. $80 jeans, 40 t-shirts, $15 socks… you name it. But comparing shoppers at these stores to shopper of WalMart is a strech in my opinion. Those at WM are most likely bargin shopper, on fixed incomes or poor and they are not going to Williams Sonoma to buy a spatula for $20 when they can get one at WalMart for $1.49 Businesses will charge whatever the customer is willing to pay or the consumer will go somewhere else or just have to do without it.

  21. Luai,
    You make excellent points, but I guess what I am trying to say is that I wish both unions and corporations follow ethical business practices, which in my opnion, it is not happening.
    As for customers going somewhere else if they are not happy, that is really hard to do, especially in small towns where Wal Mart comes in and puts all the ma and pa shops out of business.
    By the way, that guy who broke his leg was not smoking. The fire alarm went off and he was trying to brake down the door so he and all the other workers could exit. I will do a search on the story on Lexus Nexus and send you them.
    There are many companies that send their products to be made outside the USA and thats great. but there are many comapnies who knowingly still do business with manufacturers that abuse their workers. And well I personally would not want to wear something made by a child who works in a wearhouse under very poor conditions (condtions we would never work under)and only makes 12 cents a day. Thats just how i feel about it.
    As for where do I shop? I try to buy labels that at least try to make their products in an ethical way. Since I have most recently learned and have been educated on this topic by many of my fellow graduate students, I unfortuantley have labels in my closet that are sweat shop made. But now, since I have been enlightened about this topic (hey im only 21) I know try to shop at places like American Aparel, Liz Claiborne (which fixed their act after 1996), DKNY. Im not absolutely perfect in trying to be a responsible shopper, but i do my research and try to be a better shopper. It is the least i can do.

  22. Linda,
    I really respect and admire you for taking the time to be an educated consumer and allowing your $$ and feet to do the talking for you in your stand against employee/ 3rd world factory worker exploitation. Many of us don’t have the time or patience to do that. I would be interested in some kind of expose’ story with hidden cameras and secret interviews. Maybe you could do that on your trip this summer. ๐Ÿ™‚
    BTW, don’t be surprised if you see “Made in Jordan” on labels. I don’t know the conditions these workers work in, but I would be interested to know. I know that many come from China seeking employment in Jordan and there are locals who work in these textile mills.
    Yes. Many business don’t follow ethical practices for a variety of reasons. But I think that to blame the customers that shop there is difficult. They are in a bad position. The best entity to put pressure on are the stockholders. But they invest to make money and most don’t care how. If these shareholders would demand better business practices then change may happen. But happens when profits start to fall…they jump ship and leave the company on it’s own with a much lower stock price.
    As for Wal-Mart coming in. There is a local effort trying to stop just that. But from the standpoint that the infrastructure cannot handle the increase in traffic that will be generated the small town feel of this city of 5500 residents will change. I support the fight against this particualar WM, b/c of the problems that will come out of it’s construction. The best thing about it is that citizens can have their voices heard and from what I’ve heard will have to opportunity to vote on whether is will be allowed to be built. But, there a Wal-Mart nearby that serves the poor and those that live on “the other side of the tracks”… ma and pa shops have long left that area due to crime and neglect and WM has filled a need. Actually it has promoted business with many larger retailers filling the strip mall where is is located to capacitiy. It has actually had a reverse effect to what the community expected and it spurred economic growth.

  23. WEll thank you Luai for your kind words. As for the citizens who shop at these stores I say the problem lies with news media. An informed community is a powerful one, and unfortunatley, mainstream news and investigative journalists are not doing their job. YEah there are a few stories about this topic, but not enough. And we all know why that is. News is no longer a duty, something needed for the country, but instead it has become a business where money is the most important factor. Its coprporate media and what are we to do?

  24. I have never dealt with it from a retailers perspective, but I have worked on several turnarounds involving large US based manufacturers competing against imports. In all cases we had to shut down plants domestically and move towards production in Asia. It is not the big corporations that create the low cost producers in Asia (and even if they are not sweatshops they will be low cost due to wage rates, government assistance, and no environmental or other regulatory laws over there), enterprising people in those countries start producing things at low cost and trying to sell in a high price market (US). Absent effective tariffs, if the domestic companies I work with continue to produce entirely in the US, their product will be more expensive. In the end, consumers will not, and it may not be reasonable to expect them to pay more, for a product because it is made domestically, and retailers can not have things at higher prices than their competitors. Now, I haven’t worked with clothing (where maybe you can price high due to brand name), but in other industries this has been a killer.
    In my experience, the unions have a role, but it is often abused. Every time they have an election for union leader, the person who wins wants to prove that he will fight for more for them, so whether or not there is anything wrong, they will present ever-increasing demands. Unfortunately, the increasing labor costs often force plant closures.
    Also, for things like locking employees in at night, there are already laws against that – usually in fire codes in most places.

  25. Luai and Linda,
    Victoria’s Secret and JC Penney’s both have factories in Jordan. They trained unemployed Jordanians to do the jobs. Happy shopping!

  26. Wendy, yes, Cnn did a story about the manufacturer in JOrdan that takes care of some of the Victoria Secrets projects. They also mentioned that they put Made in Israel on the Labels instead of Made in Jordan. I forget why the reporter said they did that. I have to look that up on Lexus Nexus. But the great thing i remember about that story was the working conditions were great, and they were giving women in villages (who were uneducated) the chance to work and make money and go to college. Some of the women interviewed in the story were talking about how independent they felt and how they wont have to worry about getting married because they can take care of themseleves. Now this is a great example of a good manufacturer and comapny.

  27. Wendy,
    Yep. You are right. I’ve met a few of the factory owners and employees through relatives who do business with them…but have not visited the factories to see the working conditions. I am not sure though if it is the company VS (I think they also own Express and Bath and Body Works, The Limited) or JC Penny that are the business entities that run the factory, but rather these companies contract the making of the garments to the owners of these mills. For example, JC Penny may place an order for 250K pairs of jeans and the company will deliver these. Many of the workers though are from China or SE Asia. There are also locals working in these but not to the extent many would think. I have heard that the salary is 75 JD per month…but I could be wrong as that is second hand. The important thing I think here is that the exports from these QIZ, go to the US. Jordanian exports are moving into the billions of dollars per year whereas only a few years ago were only in the tens of millions. And although many of the laborers are from outside of Jordan, they also spend their money in the cities they live in. I am sure this has helped other businesses and the Jordanian economy.

  28. The QIZs are quite curious in fact. We ran many stories on them while I was at the Jordan Times. I do believe that everyone gets a minimum of 85 JD (a bit over $100), as that’s the mandated minimum wage in the kingdom.
    There are a large number of foreign workers there but that number is ever shrinking. The labor ministry was working diligently through a number of training programs to get locals up to speed. And the mills themselves are pushing for more local labor — it’s a big, big push actually.
    There’s even a bit of social reshaping occurring, where young girls that might never have left the house before marriage in some of the smaller villages are being allowed by their families to move to dormitories for the factories, living with other girls that work there. These locations may be hours from their homes. And these girls are becoming the primary bread winners for their families.
    It’s in some ways a bit disturbing and in other ways very interesting. The garments being created, I learned, go to names like The Gap, J. Crew and Land’s End. We were interested in seeing if any “outlets” might exist like they do in the US. After all, it’d be nice if locals (even us) could buy these garments for a price considerably lower than that adjusted for US average incomes.

  29. Jeff,
    Thanks for the additional information. I am quite facinated by them as well and very interested in how they operate and even more how families have been positively affected by them. They do seem to be popping up all over Jordan. As for Jordanian workers, I think the “shame” of working as a laborer is slowly evaporating from Jordanian society..at least I hope so. I was always amazed on how many Jordanians that would rather sit home unemployed while those from other countries filled these types of jobs.
    From what I know, locals are not permitted to purchase any of the clothing manufactured there; even workers are not allowed to purchase from the factory owners. Once the shipping containers are loaded they are sealed and sent off to Aqaba for loading onto the vessels. I am sure many would like to get their hands on some of that clothing…me included…as it is much more superior to that which is sold in the Jordanian marketplace.

  30. Jeff, Linda and Luai, thanks for filling in the gaps. I knew a Philippina seamstress who used to train the ladies and she said they did a great job, and would soon put the imported Chinese laborers.
    Why are they allowed to put “Made in Israel” labels? Insult to injury.
    I wish we could buy it here too. Friends and I have considered raiding the dumpsters. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Yes, isn’t that “Made in Israel” label an amazing thing. The way these QIZs work, as I understand it, is that they have to have a certain percentage of Israel in them — labor, content or something — as part of the US free-trade agreement USFTA). And I believe the percentage determines the label (sometimes it does say “Made in Jordan”).
    I also understand there are varying degrees of Israeli connection-participation with some of the QIZ areas, likely to the great ire of many associated (perhaps less to those making money from them). That part was always the bitter pill of this arrangement: Open up US markets but require a certain percentage of what you send to come from Israel; using commerce to achieve a political objective. It’d be nice if it could just be whatever it wants to be without that agenda, though the reasoning seems quite obvious and has become acceptable to many associated.
    And yes, we had confirmed to us time and again that none of these clothes would reach the Jordanian market. And honestly, I don’t understand why. These are good quality clothes that could be sold at an “outlet” price to locals. What harm could come of that? I’m not sure how it works in other parts of the world with similar arrangements. But in Jordan, they just ship any outlet stock to the US and sell it there sometimes for prices that would have been reasonable in the kingdom.

  32. The danger with selling locally at discounted prices is that enterprising locals sometimes figure out ways to get these products back to the US. I have seen this with another industry, where our products sold in Asia at lower prices wound up being sold by third parties to US retailers – sometimes they were not the same makes or quality, but they had our name on it. That could be what they are thinking.
    Putting “Made in Israel” on a product puzzles me a bit, as it is controversial enough to hurt sales. Most Israeli companies do not label products as such (even on non-subsitutable pharmaceutical and technology items, much less easily substitable clothing).
    Anyhow, I think the whole point of the QIZ’s is to give financial benefit to Egypt and Jordan, as Israel does not really benefit from them in any way.

  33. Of course true, though the US “outlet” retailers usually tear the original brand name tag, sometimes even stamp something in it to show “outlet” level. Outlet can also mean “old” or “broken” or “overstock” depending on the vendor. The original manufacturer usually goes to great lengths to make sure it is clear that you are holding an outlet piece and not a brand new full retail item, which should be perfect. They could do this in Jordan with little difficulty, even removing the brand name completely.
    I thought the “Made in” made little sense as well. But it appears to work this way. And you are right about how it was to benefit Egypt and Jordan but for whatever reason, Israel is an integral partner in the whole process, tying their fates together. It’s really an interesting arrangement. Here’s a little snippet from the AMIR program, funded by USAID.

    Under the QIZ at least 35% of the value of goods must comprise raw materials or processing costs from Jordan, the US, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. A least 11.7% of raw materials and processing must be Jordanian and at least 8% must be Israeli. Under the FTA all the 35% local content can be sourced from Jordan, although US raw materials and processing costs may comprise up to 15% of the value of the goods leaving 20% Jordanian local content.

  34. AMIR program? I like it.
    I understand the purpose of the program. It is to say, if you want US economic goodies, you have to try to work with your neighbors, under the theory that the more people know about each other and interact with each other, the less likely they are to go to war. Personally, I think that theory is bunk.
    As for selling the clothing – maybe it is just as simple as they get more for it in the States. But, maybe you have discovered a market opportunity – perhaps you should open a factory to develop local market goods.

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