Price Of A Cheap Suit In our current Globalized economy, large US retailers have the access to exploit offshore cheap labor in order to get apparel to the racks of their stores. ‘The Price of A Cheap Suit’ is an article about the sweatshop conditions in third world companies such as Bangladesh where basic worker right conditions are not respected. Large apparel companies do not want to be associated with offshore suppliers that violate basic human rights due to immense pressure from consumers and Non profit Organizations.
An example given in the article states that “Shares of Inc tumbled through the late 1990s as a stream of reports emerged about poor working conditions at Nike Supplier factories in China and Vietnam”. This resulted in college students to boycott Nike goods. In the fast paced world of fashion, retailers cannot afford to tarnish their reputation with increasing competitions; therefore large companies spend millions of dollars to address sweatshop issues.
This article explores the difficulties standing in their way of effective monitoring and the implementation of the codes of conduct placed under sweatshop conditions. Poor conditions, long shifts, dreadful sanitary conditions, forced pregnancy tests (to avoid maternity pay), child labor are some of the unethical issues pertaining to the sweatshop problems. Nike and The Gap have been associated with such problems and have therefore been candid about addressing the situation but due to immense pressure from the consumers they have now become more involved in their corporate social responsibility.
Since the expose of Nike and the Gap, efforts have been made to monitor offshore suppliers to make sure they comply with codes of conduct such as working conditions, inhumane behavior, child labor laws, health and safety regulations etc to pave the way for a much needed change. Unfortunately, it is not simple as making amends as factory owners have ‘stepped up their deceptions’. Living conditions in third world countries are terrible and factory workers have no choice but to work relentlessly in order to make a living. 2 might not seem like a lot of money for people living in Capitalized countries but makes a substantial difference for someone living in the third world. That is therefore the main problem in the article as change is not possible without everyone being on the same wavelength. As the article effectively reveals, factory workers work under a climate of fear, are physically abused, and are forced to work overtime to comply with the deadlines placed by large US retailers.
Falsified paperwork, front operations and keeping more sets of books are some of the violations factory workers adhere to in order to stay off the radar from auditing operations. Factory workers have no choice but to work under such stringent conditions as they work under a climate of fear and are physically beaten up, sexually harassed and women are forced to take contraception to avoid pregnancy. Cheating can be hard to detect but retail companies such as Levi Strauss initiated an effective monitoring system hiring employees to assess the various problematic situations. Joint Initiatives of Corporate Accountability and Worker’s Right’, is a program where large US retailers such as Nike, Levis, Patagonia, to name are few are collaborating with worker right groups such as Fair Labor Association to attain more knowledge and to develop standardized methods of monitoring labor rights to make the process more cost effective. If the initiative succeeds, standardized global labor laws would be commonly accepted. One of the solutions for improving worker rights is by educational reforms.
Instead of spending millions of dollars to monitor conditions and worker rights, educational reforms which workers have access to should be placed. A lot of the people that work in factories are not forced to work there but chose to work under those conditions. Sweatshops might seem overwhelming to people in a Capitalized country but the fact is that sweatshops are a cure of poverty for people working there and it takes them away from prostitution, begging and crime.
The factory workers are illliterate and have no choice but to work, therefore it is important to educate them about their rights and give them a chance to unify against their factory owners if situations get too harsh. Not everyone has the luxury to work 40 hours a week with a descent paycheck. Educational reforms will save money on the hundreds of audits placed every year because workers will then know what rights they are entitled to.
Large retailers need to realize that it is because of them that factory workers work relentlessly to stick to their deadlines. Retailers must work on their internal communication and reorganize their organizational strategies in order to change their process and procurements of goods. US retailers have to protect the rights of factory workers and therefore eliminate unrealistic purchasing of goods on their delivery schedules and give the workers more time and better compensation to improve their way of living.
Companies place a lot unannounced audits but unannounced audits do not help if factory owners set up front operations to fool the inspectors. Retailers and their stakeholders must make initiatives to engage with local grassroots organizations in the city of the factories to create and identify an effective communicating channel with factory workers to bring their problems out to the surface where they can be helped by non-profit organizations such as Fair Labor Associations that are designed to help them.
Organizations such as the Fair Labor Association should have direct access to activists group that believe in causes such as Ethical Consumerism. If companies are not doing enough to help factory workers out and assess the situation more thoroughly, activists groups should work together to empower real sanctions to increase consumer awareness of inhumane conditions and other human rights violations that they face.
Organizations should make the public more aware and involved by demanding transparency in large retailer corporate responsibility and should therefore mobilize people against sweatshops and demand justice for workers in countries such as Bangladesh by higher pay. Another solution that will defeat the purpose of moving production offshore is to bring manufacturing facilities closer to retail customer. This would eliminate auditing, delivery costs and other additional costs.
However, it would cost thousands of people in third world countries their jobs and cost of their living. Moving manufacturing closer to the country where its sold would be cost prohibitive In conclusion, globalization has become the metaphor for globalizations endeavors and has led us to question our motifs. Organizations such as the World Trade Organization need to take charge and amend trade regulations that will favor the rights of third world country workers and their way of life.