Behind the Label

Sweatshops have been a major controversial issue around the world. The question of whether or not these sweatshops are morally right is commonly in the spotlight. This group of essays is an attempt to explore the different perspectives of sweatshops.

Blood, Tears, and Sweat

By: Youna Chang

Sweatshops are defined as factories in which workers do their jobs for low pay and do so in harmful conditions. These sweatshops have existed for over one hundred years, but complaints of sweatshop labor began in the 1960’s during the Civil War when the wives of the soldiers were employed to make uniforms. But the problems of low wages and harmful conditions greatly increased during the twentieth century industrialization period, and the numbers of sweatshops in Latin America and Asia were off the charts. However, with the rise in sweatshop labor, public awareness grew as well.

Many of the factories that manufacturing companies purchased are located in other countries in an attempt to save money. These money saving tactics cause problems later in the worker’s life because of the poor conditions that they are constantly in can lead to death. This kind of practice was first introduced in North America during the industrial revolution as a basis of cheap labor. While big corporations gain huge profits, citizens continue to suffer working for a stingy five to ten dollars a week for an eighty to a hundred hour week. Sweatshops continue to hinder the progress of workers’ lives because of the economical and political challenges it presents to the nation in which it is located in. But one of the problems is that even if they get caught, these corporations never face bankruptcy. Fines have such little impact on companies that profit from billions of dollars every year. As citizens, we have the authority to sway this ever so increasing form of slavery.

Sweatshops still exist all over the world today for numerous reasons. Corporate greed is clearly a major culprit. Very often, some countries are actually forced to choose sweatshop labor as it is a necessity to increase their economy. Governments and international trade agencies, the World Trade Organization for example, are responsible for the creation of trade laws and lending policies that require developing countries to support first world nations’ economies. In order to accomplish this, these countries have no choice but to create export industries, and as a result, come to ignore the problem of social injustices.

Works Cited

(1) DoSomething.org. Background On Sweatshops. DoSomething.org. <http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/background-sweatshops>

(2) Scholastic. History of Child Labor. Scholastic. 1996-2010 <http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=5428>

(3) USAS. About Us. USAS. 1997 < http://usas.org/about-us/&gt;

Garment Industry: A Human Rights Violations

by: Sun Hee Han

Sweatshops are a hot topic in today’s modern, global economy. The word sweatshop, which is derived from a middleman or “sweater”, is defined as a working environment with unhealthy conditions and low wages. Because of the rise globalization in the 1980’s, multinational companies have a been using sweatshops to save money. But sweatshops can even be found in the U.S., where firms employ illegal immigrants. Some of the best-known U.S. brands in the world have used sweatshop labor.

Popular brands like Nike, Gap Polo and Levi’s use third world manufacturing in an attempt to keep up with the rest of the retail world in order to maximize profit. The manufacturing sources of these famous brands have terrible working conditions. According to an anonymous survey, workers must work while standing for 12 hour work shift without bathroom breaks. They breath in poisonous chemicals all day long causing  workers to develop skin conditions and lung problems because they have been exposed to harmful materials, hazardous situations, extreme temperatures, and also from being abused by their employers.

In conclusion, to get rid of sweatshops, consumers should know they have the right to refuse purchasing clothes that are produced in sweatshops. We can also ask for laws to be made that restrict the option and use of sweatshops. Abusing people on the other side of the world for the benefit of global companies cannot be justified. This is why we should be against sweatshops and try to prevent these terrible working environments and conditions in order to protect human rights.

The Price of Cheap Products

By: Mark Lin

Workers in Asia do not have amenities the way American workers are guaranteed. Conditions are worst to the point where there is no air conditioning service in the factory; they are limited to using the bathroom facilities; workers inside the factories don’t have privacy due to being under surveillance. Workers in the factory hardly get treated like human beings. They are seen as machines that are being bought with money to do work beyond what machines are able to do in reality. Workers are required to work 75 hours a week and they get paid about 45 cents an hour. Besides worse working conditions, low wages for workers, and sexual discrimination, the environment in these areas, where factories are located are usually quite bad. There is water pollution, air pollution, heavy metal pollution, dust pollution and soil pollution. No one is willing to take responsibility for causing the pollution.
Lots of famous companies like the western brands, including Levi’s Adidas and Nike makes a lot of money every single year because they get cheap labor. Richard Duncan, chief economist at Blackhorse Asset Management in Singapore, said, “If you sell a pair of tennis shoes for 101 dollars instead of 100 dollars, no consumer in Chicago will notice the difference, but it will totally transform villages in Vietnam.” It sounds pretty scary, but this will only help one village. What about the rest of the workers in other countries? We have to raise every single good that is made from those factories, including shirt, shoes, lamp, keyboard, slippers, umbrella, gloves, skirt, toothbrush etc, one percent higher than it used to be. Consumers will definitely notice and find out once they get to know the logic behind it.

Many of my relatives used to work in the factories, that manufacture NIKE shoes and clothes. They got paid very low and had to adapt to bad working condition. But they never complained, because the shoes labeled, “Made in Taiwan”, are sold around the world and are worn by Michael Jordan in his every single game. People in Asian countries don’t feel the need for Americans or other manufacturers to sympathize with them. Perhaps they never feel like they were treated unfairly. For all they know they were very proud of being one of the NIKE shoes workers.

Clothes Cover Up

By: Rudy German

In the society we live in everything is about appearance. It is not possible to walk down the street anymore and not be judged by others, due to the clothes on your back. Society is focus so much on clothing, 97% of the clothes in the closet are not made in the US. China, abuses a lot of its citizens by taking no action against the companies that use sweat shops in china.

Many of the workers are female in China. The conditions in China are even worst; they beat up the workers literally, for talking to the person next to them. They’re not allowed to take the necessary time to use the bathroom when it is not their break. Or else they will get fined a dollar. In a world of labor were getting paid 10 to 15 cents an hour, a dollar is more than a day’s work. Most of the time the workers work 15 hours day with only an hour, every day for seven days, in order to survive. If one of the workers happen to get pregnant during the job, the employers will ask, if not force her to get an abortion. What is there to do in this situation? Should the woman keep her baby, but lose her job, without a job, how would she support the baby, without any income coming in?

Many corporations, have been exposed to this kind of bad publicity, have suffer millions of dollars of loses. All the companies say is whatever the public wants to hear, that will put the public to rest.  When the companies say they are going to “improve working conditions,” “pay minimum wage,” give the workers some type of “medical benefit.” The companies do the talk but rarely do the walk. Companies that have their manufacturing in china should actually fix the situation instead of hiding the truth to the world.

Are Sweatshops Solely Evil?

By: Karen Ong

The idea of sweatshops brings about negative imagery. People immediately assume that this is an immoral concept that not only undermines the basic concept of human rights and blatantly abuses the capacity of human beings, shutting the sweatshops down isn’t the solution to this problem.

Sweatshop owners are notorious for treating their workers unfairly since they know that the workers are desperate for their jobs. Corporations and even company management teams are abusing certain rights of the workers to obtain more profit. These worker’s wages are below a dollar and are working several more hours in comparison to hours worked elsewhere. More notably, working overtime all the time is detrimental to the worker’s health. Working vigorously for hours on end not only puts a strain on a worker’s body but also causes mental strain from ceaseless working.

However, shutting down the sweatshops to “save” the people working in them is not and should not be the solution for helping these workers. People blindly think that solely what is morally right and react without further thought of implications. Shutting down the sweatshops so hastily will cause even more unemployment for the country’s inhabitants. With no jobs how would people manage to get the income they need to survive? Eventually, this will just lead to more poverty which makes the situation worst. Poverty, of course, will lead to the desperation of people to try and live at whatever cost, which eventually forces people to commit crime and violence. In essence, the people who are trying to help the workers by shutting down the sweatshops are harming the workers more by doing so.

Sweatshops, on the surface, have immediate moral problems and human beings are being subjected to harsh working conditions to make sub-par wages. Regardless of this perspective, the working conditions are the issues that need to be corrected, not the solution of shutting sweatshops down.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. This is fantastic guys! Way to be the first group to publish! Awesome work…and great choice of images. Don’t forget to follow the blog on facebook and invite your friends to read your ideas. Great thoughts are greater when shared!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Parker Arnold on June 1, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I really liked the way all of your papers flowed and how much information you were able to fit into them. the short clips and pictures also helped with a little bit of understanding as well. good topic choice!

    Reply

  3. Bahareh-Bidram:I liked Sun Hee Han idea,it is close to my idea about garment.It has a good introduction and thesis.I likes the way that you fit information in one page.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Rudy German on June 2, 2010 at 5:22 am

    i like how Karen explored one other side to sweat shops. Rahter than pointing out the basic truth she went in depth and explaining how a closing down a sweat shop will only create more chaos in the poor countries in which the sweat shops are located! its a new side to a topic that mostly only has one argue!
    good job karen!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Chelsea Wee on June 7, 2010 at 1:49 am

    How about the improvements that sweatshops bring to the local economy? From the point of view of a developed nation, the working conditions, salaries and so on may seem cruel. However, this may actually be a leap forward from the conditions of the country before the emergence of sweatshops. Sweatshops may actually be an improvement from unemployment or other forms of employment such as prostitution.

    Reply

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