HAPPY LABOR DAY!
Local jobs support not only the employees, but the local economy as well. Everyone benefits. A number of human rights organizations have demonstrated that, where sweat shops, 'Big Box', National chains, and multinational corps are concerned, increased profits to the business do not translate into better wages, benefits, or working conditions for the workers.
Conversely, theres a wealth of evidence to show that when local farms and business get community support, wages, jobs and community prosperity improve. The film "The Future of Food" documented how, with increased community support, local farms and CSAs are able to provide jobs for employees who have previously worked for large, momoculture farms. Jobs are not lost in the equation, but working conditions and wages improve. Similarly, when business profits stay in the community, rather than going to corporate headquarters, schools and other tax-base dependent community services benefit. Which means we all benefit. When profits --and even jobs-- are exported, we all loose.
I have heard it argued that there is a highly efficient system transporting food and other “consumer products” around the country and around the world. Fossil fuel, like any fuel, can be measured in calories, and on average, 10 calories are burned for every calorie of food shipped. That is not efficient. Shipping goods and products also requires excess packaging, something that can be minimized or eliminated by buying local.
As I explore these issues, and discus them with friends, new issues and questions come up (which is half the fun, after all) Just recently I have encountered several people who reject the use of computers and related technology, on the basis that a)there creation and subsequent disposal has a huge environmental impact, and b)their purchase supports multinational corporations. This gives me a wonderful opportunity to sing the praises of one of my very favorite local, worker-owned organizations!
We have three computers in the house (yes, the computers actually out number the people here) and not one of them was purchased from a multinational corporation. Each one came from Free Geek , meaning it was salvaged from the waste stream while supporting the local economy, living wages, and community empowerment. Some of you will remember that Free Geek was the group who sponsored the fair where I had the Bike Smoothy Booth.
Free Geek is a community based technology center that recycles computers and provides them at low or no-cost to individuals, and not-for-profit and social change organizations in the community and throughout the world (they recently supplied a bunch of working computers, as well as technical assistance, to an NGO in Uganda!).
Free Geek recycles over 1,500 computers each month, keeping some 15 tons of electronic (s)crap out of the waste stream. Volunteers disassemble the donated equipment and test the components, which are either recycled as electronic scrap or recycled into refurbished systems. These refurbished computers are then loaded with GNU/Linux, Open Office, and other Free Software and made available to individuals and organizations in the community. The volunteers are rewarded with computers of their own, as well as valuable training in building and fixing computers. Free tech support is provided for the fist year folks have their computer.
They also offer a computer room that is open to the community: anyone can come in and use a computer, access email and the Internet, do research for school projects or job hunts, print out resumes, create blogs, etc. So you don't even have to own a computer to have access to one.
Free Geek is part of a growing number of democratically-run organization who's policy decisions are made by a collective of staff and volunteers, rather than bosses. Proof that local, ethically operated business are sustainable and replicable, as well as benifical to the community.
Perhaps the best news of all: Free Geek is going “intergalactic”, with new centers popping up everywhere. Currently, there are Free Geek collectives in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and effort afoot for one in Indiana. Each one locally, democratically opperated. Soon, everyone may have access to this amazing community resource! Check thier website for more information and resources