Take a sunny day stroll on the Third Avenue Bridge and you’d be forgiven for not looking down.
But look down next time.
And notice the cast iron sewer grates.
Flipped, it appears made in New Jersey by General Foundries, a cast-iron concern with a wide range of grates and manhole covers.
I even found the spec sheet for this particular grate
on the bridge.
Except there’s a dirty little secret.
This wasn’t actually made in New Jersey at all.
A New York state law requires the city to buy the cheapest products it can find that fit the specs sent out for bid.
Last December we ran a story about Bangladeshi garment workers, sewing clothing for the GAP.
These sewer grates are actually made in India, in West Bengal, right across the border from Bangladesh.
American foundry workers once earned $25 an hour or more.
Their Bengalese counterparts with no safety standards
make about $2 a day.
Working with molten metal at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, they wear no shoes or clothing because the sparks and heat would just set their clothing on fire.
We may as well give up this discussion about enforcing minimum wage when even basic manufacturing is in a global race to the bottom.
And especially when our purchasing laws require it.