Abusive Working Conditions in Sweatshops

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Many individuals, including those in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia, commonly work in sweatshops as a way of life.

A sweatshop, which is often called by this name and is notorious for its harsh working conditions, refers to a factory where workstations are poorly lit and cramped. It is frequently rumored to have extended working hours and predominantly hires women and children as employees. For numerous individuals, working in sweatshops is not optional but crucial to provide for their families, even if it entails working up to sixty-five hours per week.

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Nike, like other major corporations, employs sweatshop labor to meet their production needs.

In Asia alone, Nike has sixteen plants in Indonesia where over 500,000 workers are employed. These Indonesian workers receive a daily wage of approximately $2.20.

In Levy’s research (1), it is noted that approximately 90% of workers are women, who often find themselves compelled to work overtime in order to provide for their families. In his article titled “A Living Wage to End Sweatshops,” Kernaghan asserts that Disney pays its Chinese workers a wage of only thirteen cents per hour, which he considers insufficient for a decent standard of living.

Is there any end in sight to the 1.3 billion people in the world that live in starvation? The Haitian workers, who only speak Creole, cannot understand the labels on the clothes they sew. They do not know who will receive these garments or have any information about the companies that employ them, their sales, or profits. In fact, fewer than half of the workers know about the company’s code of conduct which forbids forced or child labor, requires minimum wage payment and regulates hours, overtime, health, safety, and environmental issues.

One instance of this harsh treatment is illustrated by the workers in Haiti, who are only paid six cents for every $19.9 Disney 101Dalmations outfit they sew. Consequently, their wages only constitute three-tenths of one percent of the sales. To put it concisely, these workers lack the knowledge or means to protect themselves in the global economy (Kernaghan 1-3). Another aspect to ponder is whether mistreatment occurs in these sweatshops. Verena Dobnik, an Associated Press writer, reported earlier this year that a Nike plant manager in Vietnam was found guilty of assaulting workers with a shoe.

According to a report by Dobnik, a Nike subcontractor in Vietnam subjected fifty-six female employees to punishment by making them run laps for wearing shoes that did not meet regulations. As a result, twelve of the employees became exhausted and had to be hospitalized (Dobnik 1). However, Andrew Young’s report titled “Shoe and Tell” contradicts this information by claiming that he found no proof of widespread or systematic mistreatment of workers.

According to Young, Nike workers are offered medical benefits and free meals, and the factories do not resemble sweatshops. In fact, they are clean, organized, adequately ventilated, and well lit. Photographs of modern, clean, and pleasant workplaces can be seen on Nike’s website.

According to another article titled “Nike Accused of Exploiting Women in Vietnam”, Vietnamese women were allegedly earning as little as twenty cents per hour while producing approximately one million Nike shoes every month. These women reportedly experienced physical punishment and sexual harassment, enduring degrading acts such as kneeling or standing under the hot sun, similar to military recruits in boot camp, at the hands of their supervisors. The severity of worker abuse was such that one factory in Ho Chi Minh City had to be temporarily closed down. Furthermore, reports suggested that employees were only granted one bathroom break and allowed a mere two drinks of water during an eight-hour shift.

Is sweatshop labor at Dobnik 1 the contemporary equivalent of slavery in our “advanced” society? Who holds the power to establish this classification? If it is indeed a form of slavery, how can those affected bring about change in unfavorable working conditions? This query carries immense significance. Speaking out risks termination for workers. Outside the factory, there are roughly one thousand destitute individuals eager to assume any available position. Despite their awareness of the deplorable conditions within, many believe that having an underpaid job is preferable to unemployment (Kernaghan 2).

Supporting individuals in need is an essential factor to consider. Thanks to the dedication of human rights activists, companies such as Nike and Reebok have pledged to abide by a set of regulations. This action has the potential to eradicate labor exploitation in various nations. It is noteworthy that Nike, Reebok, Liz Claiborne, Patagonia, and LL.Bean are actively participating in this initiative known as the “code of conduct.”

In order to prevent the code from being seen as a mere public relations tactic, it is crucial for manufacturers to permit factory inspections conducted by truly independent organizations rather than auditors hired by the companies themselves. Furthermore, any violations uncovered should be promptly and publicly disclosed. This would have two positive effects: consumers would feel assured that the inspections are authentic, and companies would be compelled to address any deficiencies right away. However, there are critics who contend that the code would merely lead to “kinder, gentler sweatshops.”

The new code of conduct includes various universal provisions. These provisions prohibit child labor, ensure workers receive at least the minimum wage in the country where goods are produced, limit the work week to a maximum of sixty hours, eliminate exploitative working conditions, and protect workers’ right to form unions. The specific details regarding inspections and penalties, crucial for ensuring the effectiveness of the code, are still being finalized. Companies that comply with these regulations will be allowed to display a “No Sweat” label on their products. This label assures consumers that no sweatshop labor was used in the manufacturing process (Editor 1-2).

The article titled “No sweat’ necessitates sweat equity” written by an Examiner editorial writer contends that the new code is incapable of resolving all worldwide problems and should not be held responsible for doing so. It is impractical to anticipate Nike or Reebok to provide workers with substantially higher wages compared to prevailing rates in their own countries, regardless of whether critics in the United States view it as fair. The primary focus should be on preventing and addressing reported abuses within those specific countries.

According to one editor, any negative attention regarding worker abuse is detrimental to corporations striving to maintain an “all-American” reputation. These large companies actively seek out the most affordable locations to conduct their operations. They justify this by stating that the lowest wages can be found in areas with high unemployment and suffering, such as Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

After an eight-hour workday, a worker will only take home forty-three cents, as deductions for transportation, plant meals, and other work-related expenses are made. These workers reside in one-room shacks without running water, which they have to purchase in buckets for eight cents each. On average, a family needs six buckets per day, amounting to six cents more than what they earn at work. To provide a basic meal consisting of beans, rice, and bread for their family costs $2.

89 – once again exceeding your daily wage. The rent for the one room is $5 per week. A can of powdered milk, which would last an infant for a week, costs $3.08.

The tuition fee for grammar school is $7 per month. The cost of a child’s shoes is $2. If companies like Disney were to redirect the $181 million in stock options given to CEO Michael Eisner in 1996 – the largest ever corporate grant – it could increase the wages of all 19,000 assembly workers in Haiti for the next fourteen years. In summary, the money exists, and this situation demonstrates greed (Kernaghan 3).

“The degradation of our race’s dignity must stop here, as it is greed that will ultimately lead to the demise of human rights.”

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Abusive Working Conditions in Sweatshops. (2018, May 06). Retrieved from


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