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Business - International Sweatshops.docx

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Department
Philosophy
Course
Philosophy 2074F/G
Professor
Michael Herbert
Semester
Winter

Description
THE GREAT NON-DEBATE OVER INTERNATIONAL SWEATSHOPS  In recent years, there has been a dramatic growth in the contracting out of production by companies in the industrialized countries to suppliers in developing countries  The contracting arrangements have drawn intense fire from critics – usually labor and human rights activists  Instead of making a fight of it, the companies have sued for peace in order to protect their principal asset – their image  Codes are the result of a blend of humanitarian and pragmatic impulses  This paper takes up the issue of what the appropriate wages and labor standards in international sweatshops  Home country standards: it might be argued (and in rare cases has been) that international corporations have an ethical duty to pay the same wages and provide the same labor standards regardless of where they operate. However rejected by most business ethicists  Living wage standard: it has been proposed that an international corporation should, at a minimum, pay a living wage should allow the worker to live in dignity as a human being  Codes are the result of a blend of humanitarian and pragmatic impulses  OBJECTIVE  As we have seen, the companies have treated the charges about sweatshops as a public relations problem to be managed so as to minimize harm to their public images  Living Wage Standard: it has been proposed that an international corporation should, at a minimum, pay a living wage. Should allow the worker to live in dignity as a human being. The living wage standard has become a rallying cry of the critics of international sweatshops  Classical Liberal Standard: according to this standard a practice (wage or labor practice) is ethically acceptable if it is freely chosen by informed workers – thus for Donaldson full or near full employment is a prerequisite if workers are to make sound choices regarding workplace safety  Market forced in developing countries drive the unemployed to the jobs they are lucky enough to land, regardless of the safety  CASE AGAINST SWEATSHOPS  Fundamental shift in bargaining power in favor of large international corporations  Governments are now locked in a bidding war with one another to attract and retain the business of large multinational companies  They are far from clear about what wage level they consider to be appropriate. But they generally demand that companies pay a living wage  A related charge is that international sweatshops are contributing to the increasing gap between rich and poor  They have stifled political dissnt both to retain their hold on political power and to avoid any instability that might scare off foreign investors  The critics charge are undoubtedly accurate on a number of points 1. There is no doubt that international companies are chasing cheap labor 2. The wages paid by the international sweatshops are – by American standards – shockingly low 3. Some developing country governments have tightly controlled or repressed organized labor in order to prevent it from disturbing the flow of foreign investment 4. It is not unusual in developing countries for minimum wage levels to be lower than the official poverty level 5. Developing country governments have winked at violations of minimum wage laws and labour rules 6
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