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Business - Sweatshops and Bribery.docx

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

Description
SWEATSHOPS AND RESPECT FOR PERSONS  Partly due to the fact that many of the labor practices in question are legal outside North America and Europe or are tolerated by corrupt or repressive political regimes  One test of a robust ethical theory is its ability to shed light on ethical problems  We argue that Kant’s conception of human dignity provides a clear basis for grounding the obligations of employers to employees. In particular, we argue that respecting the dignity of workers requires that MNEs and their contractors adhere to local labor laws, refrain from coercion, meet minimum safety standards, and provide a living wage for employees  Morality requires that we respect people. One significant feature of the idea of respect for persons is that its derivation and application can be assessed independently of other elements of Kantian moral philosophy  This is because Kant’s defense of respect for persons is grounded in the uncontroversial claim that humans are capable of rational self governing activity  For Kant, an object that has dignity is beyond price. Employees have a dignity that machines and capital do not have. They have dignity because they are capable of moral activity. As free beings capable of self-governance they are responsible beings, since freedom and self-governance are the conditions for responsibility  Anyone who recognizes that he or she is free should recognize that he or she is responsible  Freedom in its fullest realization is the ability to guide one’s actions from laws that are of ones own making. Freedom is not simply a spontaneous event  Reason requires that any moral principle that is freely derived must be rational in the sense that it is universal  Respecting people requires honoring their humanity; which is to say it requires treating them as ends in themselves  Hill argues that treating persons as ends in themselves requires supporting and developing certain human capacities, including the capacity to act on reason; the capacity to act on the basis of prudence or efficiency; the capacity to set goals; the capacity to accept categorical imperatives; and the capacity to understand the world and reason abstractly  Indifference is a denial of respect. He also argues that we have an obligation to be concerned with the physical welfare of people and their moral well being  Thus, treating people as ends in themselves means ensuring their physical well being and supporting and developing their rational and moral capacities  MNEs have a moral obligation to respect basic human rights  Encouraged by international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF, developing nations established free trade zones to encourage foreign investment via tax incentives and a minimal regulatory environment  Outsourcing production has many distinct advantages from the perspectives of MNEs...outsourcing has been especially popular in consumer products industries, and in particular in the apparel industry  MNEs have a moral duty to ensure that their business partners respect employees by ensuring that human rights are not violated in the workplace  The classic example of this is the responsibility of employers for the acts of their employees  MNEs have a duty to ensure that the dignity of workers is respected in the factories of subcontractors  The resulting oversupply of export factories allows US companies to move from one supplier to another in search of the lowest prices, quickest turnaround, highest quality and best delivery terms, weighted according to the priorities of the company  This imbalance in power means that they have the ability to either hinder or enhance the ability of contract factory managers to respect employees  Companies genuinely interested in ensuring that workers in their supply chains are treated with dignity at work can collaborate with one another in order to ensure that uniforms standards are adapted and implemented  Due diligence on the part of the company will involve investigating the suppliers labor practices before contracts are signed  Lawlessness contributes to poverty and is deeply interconnected with human and labor rights violations  Furthermore, in many nations in which MNEs operate those responsible for administering justice are violators of the law. Factory workers frequently have no legal recourse when their legal rights are violated  Coercion violates a person’s negative freedom. Coercion is a prima facie wrong because it treats the subjects of coercion as mere tools, as objects lacking the rational capacity to choose for themselves how they shall act  Physical coercion occurs when one’s bodily movements are physically forced  In typical cases, people work in sweatshops because they believe they can earn more money working there than they can in alternative employment or they work in sweatshops because it is better than being unemployed  We do not claim that production quotas are inherently coercive  Other workers have died because they were not allowed to leave the factory to receive medical attention. In cases where workers suffer miscarriages or death rather than risk termination, we believe that it is reasonable to conclude that the workers are coerced into remaining at work  Respecting workers requires that they be free to decline overtime work without fear of being fired  Using coercion means a means of compelling employees to work overtime, to meet production quotas despite injury or to remain at work while in need of medical attention is incompatible with respect for persons because the coercers treat their victims as mere tools  Workers are also exposed to dangerous toxic chemicals and airborne pollutants  If our analysis is correct, then those MNEs that tolerate such health and safety risks have a duty to improve those conditions. Lax health and safety standards violate the moral requirement that employers be concerned with the physical safety of their employees  One of the most controversial issues concerning sweatshops is the demand that employers raise the wages of employees in order to provide a living wage  While a living wage is difficult to define with precision, one useful approach is to use a method similar to that used by the US government to define poverty  It is difficult to specify with precision the minimum number of hours per week that employees should work in order to receive a living wage  T
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