The sweat shop debate
The case study for this paper is about the ‘sweat shops’ which have been established across the world for manufacture of various goods (Hill, C. 2009). Nike is a global producer of sports apparels and has had many establishments which are run by subcontracted companies in various parts of the world. The concept of sweat shop emerged from claims that such companies exploit their workers through long working hours and low wages.
There have even been cases of child labor in some of these sweat shops which have attracted the attention of many human rights groups. There have even been lawsuits which have been presented urging Nike to take responsibility of such cases and ensure that their products are manufactured in environments which uphold human rights. Much as Nike has claimed that it has no control over the working conditions of individual establishments, many options have been floated including boycott of its products.
There are legal, cultural and ethical challenges which have been presented by the Nike sweat shop debate. Outsourcing the manufacturing unit was the source of contention since much of these foreign countries subjected their workers to very inhuman conditions. Even though the initial intentions were to cut production costs, it ended up in many legal tussles, some of which continue up to date.
Besides the legal issues, there were also the ethical concerns that Nike ad taken advantage of poor countries to put up factories and mistreat the workers (Hill, C. 2009). Nike was at the time making billions of dollars from sales of products produced in such conditions. The problem in such countries was that Nike had allocated them quotas to be produced within given time frames some of which meant that the people really had to be overworked to attain them (Hill, C. 2009).
The fact that Nike was providing employment opportunities to people who would otherwise be jobless did not make matters any less. A case in point was for Vietnam factory workers who were being paid $1.60 a day; way below the average daily expenditure of about $3. There was another ethical issue of workers being subjected to hazardous working conditions. According to Hill, “a report that found workers with skin or breathing problems had not been transferred to departments free of chemicals and that more than half the workers who dealt with dangerous chemicals did not wear protective masks or gloves” (Hill, C. 2009).
When the company was subjecting the workers to all this, it was making super normal profits due to cheap cost of production. There were also cultural issues whereby child labor was being practiced at very low wages, and very long working hours. There was a case of a Korean factory whereby “workers as young as 13 earning as little at 10 cents an hour toiled up to 17 hours daily in enforced silence” (Hill, C. 2009).
Many governments hardly intervened in these cases due to the fact they are operating in a liberalized work environment and employment was offered on a willing employee/employers contract. It also emerged that not many government agencies were aware of these atrocities were it not for human rights bodies which came out in the open and petitioned the company. Much of the countries whereby this exploitation was going on needed the employment for the majority unemployed populations and that is the reason they have done quite little about it.
Global managers have been faced with this challenge in trying to justify their operations and at times absolving themselves from blame. Nike has tried to redeem its tainted image from such accusations and the working environments of its overseas factories have considerably improved.