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World Cup Labor


That Qatar World Cup is really setting a new standard for labor rights:

Thousands of migrant labourers from North Korea are toiling for years on construction sites in Qatar for virtually no pay – including on the vast new metropolis that is the centrepiece of the World Cup – in what may amount to “state-sponsored slavery”.

According to testimonies from workers and defectors, labourers from the reclusive state said they receive almost no salaries in person while in the Gulf emirate during the three years they typically spend there.

They work in the expectation they will collect their earnings when they return to North Korea, but according to a series of testimonies from defectors and experts, workers receive as little as 10% of their salaries when they go home, and some may receive nothing. One North Korean worker at a construction site in central Doha told the Guardian: “We are here to earn foreign currency for our nation.”

Shouldn’t there be some sort of international boycott of the event if it relies on slave labor. Obviously, FIFA doesn’t care, nor Qatar, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t raise a stink.

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  • searcher

    Will anyone notice a US-based boycott of the World Cup?

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      I hear the NCAA is interested in getting some Norks playing in the USA.

      Something about “fitting their business model”.

    • drkrick

      If it involves the US-based sponsors they will. That’s the only real point of leverage.

      How much has the sales of shrimp dropped since we found out a lot of that involves slave labor?

    • giovanni da procida

      I suspect so, considering that americans bought the second most tickets for the 2014 World Cup, trailing only the Brazilians.

  • Warren Terra

    Shouldn’t there be some sort of international boycott of the event if it relies on slave labor.

    I think we have long since been able to retire that “if”.

    Note this applies not just to the World Cup, but to the Gulf Emirates as a whole. Sensible people should make every effort to disdain and to boycott Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, etcetera. See for example Molly Crabapple’s report. This also applies to the people who’ve sold out to them – we expect evil of FIFA, we deserve better from the officers of New York University and the Guggenheim.

    • DrDick

      This really is the ultimate fusion of craptacular despotism. Qatar already has a horrific reputation for its treatment of foreign workers (the whole damned country is built on slave- or nearly so labor).

  • LeeEsq

    This like the plot of a really bad movie in real life. A pseudo-Marxist fascist monarchy sends its own subjects abroad to earn foreign currency is like a plot of a James Bond movie. In real life, we don’t get any James Bonds to shut down the evil scheme. In real life, many people just shrug and say thats the way it is.

    People in football loving nations must be informed of this repeatedly and we can only hope the decency outweighs the spectacle of the sport and leads to proper action.

    • Manju

      A pseudo-Marxist fascist monarchy

      Wow…this hodgepodge of seemingly divergent ideologies is actually a pretty accurate description of the regime.

      • Murc

        “Pseudo-MArxist fascist monarchy” is the political stance of all the villain countries/people in the works of David Weber.

        The good guys, of course, are ultra-capitalist fascist monarchies.

        • Manju

          Well, at least Sussudio Richard Marx Lenonism is in the dustbin.

          • Manju

            although I do not favor a neo-McCartneyite Principality

    • shah8

      This is the sort of James Bondian stuff that goes on with the North Koreans…


      To be sure, the wiki doesn’t have any of the conspiracy scoop that surrounds that incident.

      • Lee Rudolph

        If the incident did involve a train collision, it has been suggested that the cause of the accident may have been a miscommunication related to the changes in train timetables due to Kim Jong-il’s itinerary.[9]

        Other observers have suggested that the poor state of North Korea’s railway system may have contributed to the disaster. It accounts for about 90% of freight transportation; a lack of fuel forces most vehicles off roads.[citation needed] The railway, built by the Japanese during their occupation of the country, is reported to be in poor repair, with elderly rolling stock running no faster than 65 kilometres per hour (40 mph) (in part due to the poor state of North Korea’s electrical supply).

        I quote Wikipedia at such length only to put the lie to that line about “pseudo-Marxist fascist monarchy”. I mean, it’s pretty clear that Kim Jong-Il couldn’t even make the trains run on time.

        • Manju

          and its unclear if his face was human.

  • dp

    I thought FIFA was pulling the plug on Qatar?

    • Warren Terra

      I hadn’t heard anything of the sort, not that I follow international crime FIFA. Do you have a cite?

  • fledermaus

    FIFA is going to have to pull the Qutar. Slave labor, bribery issues aside, it will be a huge heath hazzard for the fans. 120 degree temperatures and beer don’t tend to mix well. It’s got debacle written all over it

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      You can get beer in Qatar?

      • Murc

        My understanding is that Qatar will be waiving a lot of their theocracy for the duration of the event, at least for foreigners. You’ll be able to buy beer, pork products, women will be allowed to walk uncovered, that sort of thing.

        • deptfordx

          Same thing happened in Brazil as covered by John Oliver.


          TL:DW. Brazil bans alcohol from games due to trouble it caused in the past. A enforcer from FIFA flew in and told them Fuck your laws, that they had to sell Beer at the games. Brazil caved instantly

      • Alan Tomlinson

        When Budweiser(the pointless US crap, not the Czech) is a sponsor, you bet your ass there will be beer served.


        Alan Tomlinson

        • skate

          Anyone remember the beer laws in Utah before they got the Winter Olympics?

      • DWD

        Qatar has long had a more relaxed policy on alcohol than, say, the Saudis or Kuwaitis. Hotels have been allowed to serve it for some time now (the fancier ones tend to have “out of the way” bar areas where Qataris themselves can have a drink in some privacy), and I think when they hosted the Asian Games they decided to allow restaurants outside the hotels to serve as well. There’s one liquor store in the country, where you can buy anything (within a limited range of products) so long as your employer/sponsor verifies that you’re not a Muslim (Glenmorangie 15 and I became good friends in the year and a half I was living there). The beer selection wasn’t good, but maybe they’ve started importing better stuff since I left.

    • mikeSchilling

      I had assumed that the games would be played in air-conditioned indoor stadiums. But only because anything else would be crazy.

      • drkrick

        Indoor stadiums are forbidden for WC game – apparently a rule they feel like they have to care about. For a while Qatar was claiming they were going to air condition outdoor stadiums, but once the graft checks cleared that failed the laugh test.

        • wjts

          Do you have a cite for that? The Silverdome hosted a few games in the ’94 World Cup, and the Georgia Dome was one of the proposed venues in the US bid for the 2022 World Cup.

          • jmauro

            The ban on indoor stadiums is a little more nuanced since it’s a ban on artificial surfaces, i.e. the soccer game must be played on real grass.

            The Sliverdome had a tray based natural grass surface installed for the World Cup in 1994. And the Sapporo Dome has a sliding surface that allow the grass to be grown outside then moved indoors for the game. So they qualified as proper pitches in FIFAs eyes even though they have roofs. Though supposedly the games in the Silverdome were pretty bad since they humidity was almost unbearable.

            This however is likely to end soon since the Women’s World Cup in Canada will be played entirely on turf next year. My guess is that in FIFA’s will extend the rule to the men’s game shortly after that. You know to be fair.

            • skate

              And the women were very unhappy about it.

              If the men complain about it for their World Cup, FIFA are more likely to listen

    • IM

      You underestimate FIFA. The show will go on.

    • wjts

      There have been rumblings about playing the 2022 Cup in the winter rather than the summer. I’m sure that various top-flight club managers would be thrilled to lose their best players for a month and change in the middle of the season.

  • DWD

    But EvenTheLiberal New Republic says that Qatar’s labor system is actually good: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120179/how-reduce-global-income-inequality-open-immigration-policies

    • Warren Terra

      Ah, yes, The Lesser Posner.

    • calling all toasters

      Oh goody, the University of Chicago has found a new idol. Pinochet being dead and all.

    • Is it mean of me to hope that the authors of that piece get the opportunity to use their skill at writing Qatari propaganda on the same terms that Qatar hires its other foreign workers?

  • D. C. Sessions

    Gaze upon the future of labor in the 21st century.

  • efgoldman

    I care not one bit about soccer, the world cup, of FIFA. But something about which the world cares very much, and that every country participates in, ought not to be condoning this.

  • Socrets

    I’m sure our New Gilded Age overlords are taking notes and cursing that pesky 13th Amendment.

    • BubbaDave

      The Roberts Court has already decided the 15th is no longer applicable. The 13th is just a matter of time now…

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