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Are Corporations Immoral for Using Overseas Labor?

  1. GA Anderson profile image86
    GA Andersonposted 2 years ago

    Or put another way - Would you rather see U.S. brands closed or bought-out by foreign brands that have no problem using overseas labor?

    Hopefully these are some common-ground facts all can accept:

    1. American, (and probably all), consumers will overwhelmingly buy the lowest priced item if all other factors, (quality, features, etc.), are equal. - Anybody remember the "Buy American" campaigns of the 1980s?

    2. U.S. manufacturing costs are substantially higher than overseas manufacturing costs - for almost everything except perhaps specialty niche' items.

    3. Large foreign brands are spending a lot of money to penetrate and dominate the U.S. consumer market.

    4. It would be impossible for a large American brand, (you know - the big corporations), to survive if they had to match product prices using American manufacturing costs vs. their competitor's overseas manufacturing costs. (Do you want to pay an extra $283 for that iPad? Or maybe that Samsung Galaxy tablet is looking better and better at $199)

    So do our corporations just abandon the market to their overseas competitors? Down-size thousands of jobs, or just get into another line of business - in order to be morally clean?

    GA

    1. Old Poolman profile image82
      Old Poolmanposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      GA - as usual, you opened a real can of worms with this question.

      Are they immoral?  No, I don't think they are immoral.  Perhaps greedy but not immoral.  All Corporations must satisfy their stock holders to stay in business.  Many had the choice of locking their doors or moving to another location.  Some did lock their doors and every employee lost their job.

      There is no way these companies could compete with companies who manufacture in China when they are paying US wages and Union benefit packages.

      Of course there are those who firmly believe that any corporation that makes a profit is evil and greedy.  For them I suggest they start their own manufacturing company and be willing to work for no profit.  Good luck getting people to invest in your non-profit company.

      1. GA Anderson profile image86
        GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Ah Gee Old Poolman - Looks like we are choir mates once again.

        GA

    2. rhamson profile image76
      rhamsonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      ....Would you rather see U.S. brands closed or bought-out by foreign brands that have no problem using overseas labor?

      The same thing would persist as the use of foreign labor to circumvent paying domestic labor is stiil there. The American is still without a job due to it and over time will no longer be able to afford the product because of the lower paying job they have had to fill the void. Is this a moral or economic issue as you say. It is the end of what has developed due to the intervention of the treaties to create it. The corporations have engineered it through political favor. That is probably where the moral issues begin. Is it moral to be able to influence a congress through campaign donation hegemony should be the question. We the American workers are pawns in this issue.


      ....1. American, (and probably all), consumers will overwhelmingly buy the lowest priced item if all other factors, (quality, features, etc.), are equal. - Anybody remember the "Buy American" campaigns of the 1980s?

      With inflation (oohh I said the "I" word) and shrinking paychecks one only can surmise this is the driving force for the consumer.

      ....2. U.S. manufacturing costs are substantially higher than overseas manufacturing costs - for almost everything except perhaps specialty niche' items.

      It has to be higher as we have one of the highest standards of living in the world. The consumer has to make more than the costs of the items so overseas labor is a bonanza for the corporations to profit while selling much lower cost items due to foreign labor. One has to ask though if as the jobs are lost how it will affect the consumer base as jobs are lost and lesser paying jobs spring up due to the competition at the top where less higher paying jobs are available.

      ....3. Large foreign brands are spending a lot of money to penetrate and dominate the U.S. consumer market.

      In spite of the current trends in China the US is still the largest consumer economy in the world so the effort can be well rewarded if it fits in the marketplace. This is exceptional for them as they are living in countries that range from slightly less to extremely lower standards of living. What is bad for the US is that they are effectively eroding away at the work for pay to purchase cycle.

      ....4. It would be impossible for a large American brand, (you know - the big corporations), to survive if they had to match product prices using American manufacturing costs vs. their competitor's overseas manufacturing costs. (Do you want to pay an extra $283 for that iPad? Or maybe that Samsung Galaxy tablet is looking better and better at $199)

      The government is running a campaign to adjust that precisely. Instead of making the corporations adjust their prices to effectively produce the items they manufacture here in the US, the government wants to increase the minimum that the US worker is to be paid. It is making a poor presentation by calling it the "fair share" and other metaphor's but it is an effort to shore up the loses of jobs and incomes and redirecting some of the money back to the middle. That is a whole other moral quagmire.

      ....So do our corporations just abandon the market to their overseas competitors? Down-size thousands of jobs, or just get into another line of business - in order to be morally clean?

      Corporations don't give a hoot about the moral issues because it is not their purpose. Theirs is capitalism plain and simple and that is to capitalize on whatever the situation to gain a profit. Morally speaking they gave up the high road when they bought the politicians. They are now reaping the benefits of it.

      1. GA Anderson profile image86
        GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        You certainly threw a wide net on this one.

        To your first response, "...The same thing would persist as the use of foreign labor to circumvent paying domestic labor is stiil there. "

        I can agree with that. Those foreign corporations would still be using cheaper overseas labor to make their products - but you left out the fact that they would have eaten our U.S. brands, and the jobs and economic benefit they provided.

        You frequently mention our "treaties" as a cause for this problem. I see it as more economics than politics - so tell me what the "treaties" (NAFTA, TPP, etc.) did to allow this situation to develop?

        "With inflation (oohh I said the "I" word) and shrinking paychecks one only can surmise this is the driving force for the consumer."

        That sounds like you think corporate use of overseas manufacturing is a recent development? Although it is a vague piece of data to nail down - some experts on the topic peg 1079 -1980 as the start of the flood of jobs lost to overseas labor - which seems to say there was a demand for cheaper consumer products well before the worst shrinking of our paychecks.

        Your next point about our standard of living requiring higher U.S. labor costs..."...It has to be higher as we have one of the highest standards of living in the world." seems too obvious for me to understand what relevance you are attaching to the point. Rather than be a point against overseas labor use - it seems to bolster it.

        Then your point about government price fixing as a strategy seems to be from the other side of the curtain to me; "The government is running a campaign to adjust that precisely. Instead of making the corporations adjust their prices to effectively produce the items they manufacture here in the US,"

        Do you really think minimum wage increase justifications are tied to product price compensation as a government strategy?  I find it hard to imagine that would have any significant impact beyond goods similar to food and apparel categories. How can that be a solution to the higher-wage manufacturing jobs lost?

        You are probably right about many, (most?), U.S. corporations not giving a hoot about the morality of using overseas labor at the cost of U.S. jobs, but I think the bright spot, (us optimists always look for a bright spot), is that some, (maybe even quite a few), do try to mitigate the effects on their U.S. workforce.

        GA

        1. rhamson profile image76
          rhamsonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          ....To your first response, "...The same thing would persist as the use of foreign labor to circumvent paying domestic labor is stiil there. "
          I can agree with that. Those foreign corporations would still be using cheaper overseas labor to make their products - but you left out the fact that they would have eaten our U.S. brands, and the jobs and economic benefit they provided.

          Have you checked out the US trade deficit with perhaps China? There is a concern that China will never fully comply with Intellectual Property reform or the fluctuating Yen issues.
          http://loc.gov/rr/business/asia/chinatrade/deficit.html

          ....You frequently mention our "treaties" as a cause for this problem. I see it as more economics than politics - so tell me what the "treaties" (NAFTA, TPP, etc.) did to allow this situation to develop?

          It allowed lowering of tariff and trade quotas so that the corporations could get at the cheaper labor pools. It has proved costly for both the US and Mexico as the corporations drove the wages down and eliminated many jobs in both countries.
          http://useconomy.about.com/od/tradepoli … oblems.htm

          ....That sounds like you think corporate use of overseas manufacturing is a recent development? Although it is a vague piece of data to nail down - some experts on the topic peg 1079 -1980 as the start of the flood of jobs lost to overseas labor - which seems to say there was a demand for cheaper consumer products well before the worst shrinking of our paychecks.

          I take it you meant 1979 and not 1079. I have FFS also (fat finger syndrome). The trade deficit began in earnest especially around then. The Japanese were flooding the markets with electronics and cars at below market rates to gain a foothold in the US. However at the same time many US items including produce were prohibited in what was described as protectionist policies. We still cannot export some fruits to Japan.

          ....Your next point about our standard of living requiring higher U.S. labor costs..."...It has to be higher as we have one of the highest standards of living in the world." seems too obvious for me to understand what relevance you are attaching to the point. Rather than be a point against overseas labor use - it seems to bolster it.

          How can you bolster it when the elimination of millions of jobs has taken place and part time or lower wage jobs are offered in their place. Just talk to the over fifty crowd who have lost their jobs and cannot get a comparable job to take its place. The standard of living is most certainly affected as disposable income is dissolved in paying for the necessities has squeezed that out.

          ....Then your point about government price fixing as a strategy seems to be from the other side of the curtain to me; "The government is running a campaign to adjust that precisely. Instead of making the corporations adjust their prices to effectively produce the items they manufacture here in the US,"

          I did not mean it was a strategy as one must wonder if there are any strategies the government employs with all their blunders. What I meant is that something has to be done in the wake of the shrinking middle class. They are the mainstay of our consumer based economy. I don't mean to suggest that the minimum wage can in any way qualify anybody as middle class there is a need to spark the economy in lieu of bringing the jobs back up to where they were.

          ....Do you really think minimum wage increase justifications are tied to product price compensation as a government strategy?  I find it hard to imagine that would have any significant impact beyond goods similar to food and apparel categories. How can that be a solution to the higher-wage manufacturing jobs lost?

          Not in those terms as they are mutually exclusive. It is a glossing over solution as the laws regarding trade will never go back nor can they. The government in twenty years changed the whole dynamic of our society from a gainful manufacturing and technology workforce to a service based one. We are now left competing for cheaper and better service providing instead of creating anything tangible. That is except the weapons industry as that is always plowing ahead.

          ....You are probably right about many, (most?), U.S. corporations not giving a hoot about the morality of using overseas labor at the cost of U.S. jobs, but I think the bright spot, (us optimists always look for a bright spot), is that some, (maybe even quite a few), do try to mitigate the effects on their U.S. workforce.

          I hope the mitigation can have an effective influence on a gainful way to secure a good job and provide for our families.

  2. PrettyPanther profile image84
    PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago

    Corporations are not people so they cannot be immoral.  The people who own and run them do engage in immoral actions when they do business with companies that abuse their employees in order to make a profit.  The argument that they will lose business or go under because others do it does not absolve them of their immoral actions.

    1. GA Anderson profile image86
      GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      I can see where you are coming from on the immoral point - although I do not totally agree, but do you also see that they will not survive if they can't match overseas labor production costs?

      Do you think taking the high road, (in general, I know there are exemplary examples of companies that did it), is a fair trade for shutting down completely, with all the associated losses that would entail?

      Do you think that if U.S. companies did make honest good faith efforts to deal with scrupulous overseas vendors and factories they would be doing the most that could be expected of them? I do.

      GA

      1. PrettyPanther profile image84
        PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        "I can see where you are coming from on the immoral point - although I do not totally agree, but do you also see that they will not survive if they can't match overseas labor production costs?"  Is making money a good enough reason to engage in immoral actions?

        "Do you think taking the high road, (in general, I know there are exemplary examples of companies that did it), is a fair trade for shutting down completely, with all the associated losses that would entail?"  Do you think that if everyone chose to take the high road the problem would be mitigated? 

        "Do you think that if U.S. companies did make honest good faith efforts to deal with scrupulous overseas vendors and factories they would be doing the most that could be expected of them? I do."  No

        1. GA Anderson profile image86
          GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          Oh the BOLD, I had to shield my eyes...

          So you have determined that the corporations are immoral for using overseas manufacturers? I am sure there are immoral examples with really sleazy corps, But I don't hold the same opinion for any use of overseas labor.

          As for every one of them taking the high road... no I do not think it would mitigate the problem, I think it would eliminate their ability to compete. So long Apple, Hello Samsung.

          And then not even a good faith effort and monitoring by the corps would mitigate their immorality by your standards? Hmm...

          GA

          1. PrettyPanther profile image84
            PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            So you have determined that the corporations are immoral for using overseas manufacturers? I am sure there are immoral examples with really sleazy corps, But I don't hold the same opinion for any use of overseas labor.  I did not say all use of overseas labor is immoral.

            As for every one of them taking the high road... no I do not think it would mitigate the problem, I think it would eliminate their ability to compete. So long Apple, Hello Samsung.  When I said every one, I meant all corporations, everywhere.  That would mean Samsung as well as Apple.  Yes, it's idealistic, but why not shoot for what is right?

            And then not even a good faith effort and monitoring by the corps would mitigate their immorality by your standards? Self monitoring by large corporations, as we have repeatedly seen, does not work.

            Sorry to blind you with bold again.  Sensitive eyes you have.  ;-)

            1. GA Anderson profile image86
              GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              I don't disagree with the idealism of your thoughts. Unfortunately as important as it is that we always strive to reach the high road - we have to frame our thoughts and opinions with the details of the real world we live in today.

              And I am glad to see that you don't automatically think all users of overseas manufacturing labor are immoral - that was the purpose of my original post.

              Of course there are bad guys and goods guys in this issue - but it has been my experience that criticism of the practice is usually a blanket thrown across all corporations.

              ps. Might I suggest using italics (brackets i ) or color (brackets color= ) instead of bold? Just a thought.

              GA

  3. John Holden profile image60
    John Holdenposted 2 years ago

    There are a few "FairTrade" companies in the UK that although they buy foreign produced goods, pay over the cost of production, ensure good working conditions for workers, pay upfront for crops to help growers avoid debt and do not charge excessively for their products.

  4. CHRIS57 profile image60
    CHRIS57posted 2 years ago

    Isn´t this discussion triggered by massive imports of clothes, T-shirts, cheap plastic toys, convenience food? Certainly much of that is coming from low cost countries.
    But then - how much of economic output is associated to this crap?
    I think this question is so much in focus, because the larger part of the economy is also failing, and that has nothing to do with low cost, but with low quality.
    If we talk about moral issues, then we should discuss consumer culture. Apparently buying a washing machine every 5 years is judged better (because you can brag you buy something new) than keeping a washing machine 20 years because of high quality.
    If this attitude doesn´t change, any discussion on morals, fair trade, low cost, quality ... is void.

    1. PrettyPanther profile image84
      PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Agree.  We've been brainwashed to think we need all this cheap crap.

    2. GA Anderson profile image86
      GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Hello Chris57,

      This question was "triggered" for me buy another discussion about U.S. brands shipping their manufacturing needs overseas and using so-called "slave" labor. Further, although "cheap stuff" imports still abound, I think your perception that it is all cheap and low-quality is a bit outdated - like back when plastics were first developed and truly cheap Japanese transistor radios flooded our market.

      But I think you are right that the condition of our economy makes this a more visible target for criticism of "Big Corporations."

      To your washing machine example, you make it seem like upgrading to a new and better product is a dumb choice. I suppose the developments in computer and cell phone, (among many), improvements and upgrades must seem really sinful to you. If the old five pound "brick" cell phones worked - why do we need those new-fangled five ounce smartphones?

      Thanks for jumping in, exchanges such as this are always helpful in focusing a discussion on its important points.

      GA

      1. John Holden profile image60
        John Holdenposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        I have an old cell phone, it's much smaller and lighter than my friends smart phone, and it does virtually everything that her smart phone does.

        1. PrettyPanther profile image84
          PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          My husband and I bought a new refrigerator with ice maker and separate programmable temperature controls for the freezer and refrigerator.  Nothing fancy, typical for today's refrigerators.  It stopped keeping our food cold after about a month.  The store replaced it for us.  That one lasted about six months.  Now, we have a 20-year-old refrigerator purchased off of Craig's List that works great.  My parents have two refrigerators that are still working after almost 30 years.  No, they don't have ice makers, but they keep the food cold.

      2. PrettyPanther profile image84
        PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        The point is we've been conditioned to think we need all these materials items and at a very low price.  What if, instead of owning 10 t-shirts that cost $200, we owned 5 American-made shirts that cost $40 each.  Do we really need 10 t-shirts? 

        What horrible fate would befall us if a smartphone cost $1,000 instead of $200?  Or, suppose we could afford only one TV instead of one in each room?  Would that be so awful?

        1. GA Anderson profile image86
          GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          Five t-shirts vs.Ten, $1000 vs. $200, one TV vs. more... who determines our needs for us by your standards? Is it one size fits all? What if an elderly parent roomed in your home - no TV for them unless they watched yours? Why five t-shirts, why not just three? After all with the abundance of home washers now, laundry every three days shouldn't be a problem.

          I know my criticism of your above examples is shallow, my real criticism is your presumption to define other's needs. I think I have heard that logic somewhere before... something to do with something about "you don't need that much money." or one of those "fair share" concepts.

          GA

          1. PrettyPanther profile image84
            PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            You asked if it is immoral for corporations to use overseas labor from companies that engage in abusive labor practices.  I say it is.  One argument you use is that American corporations cannot compete with other corporations if they don't buy into using companies in foreign countries with unethical labor practices.  So, you are essentially saying that money and profit trumps doing what is right.

            I'm not saying you only need 5 shirts or 3 shirts or whatever.  I'm saying, would it be so bad to pay more for a product and own fewer of them in exchange for choosing not to support unethical labor practices?  That is all.  No one is trying to dictate anything.  I'm suggesting that we could choose what is "right" over what is "profitable" and the consequences might not be so bad.

            My comments have nothing at all to do with defining others needs, and are certainly not related to any sort of fair share concept.  I'm merely pointing out that we have choices in how we want to spend our money and we can choose according to our value system.  If you value cheap products more than ethical treatment of workers, then that is your choice.

            1. GA Anderson profile image86
              GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              First, I did not say anything about ..."... is immoral for corporations to use overseas labor from companies that engage in abusive labor practices."

              My question was about overseas manufacturing labor, period. No qualifiers. If it was thought to be a safe assumption that all overseas manufacturing labor forces are abusive - then your extension of my question would be fair, but I think that assumption would be way to broad to be comfortable with.

              Secondly, your explanation of your original response is much more understandable to me. As you asked about paying more to own less to weaken the motivation for a crummy practice - I can see the logic and sense of that solution...

              But of the billions of global consumers, how many do you think there are that think as you propose? Would that segment be large enough to support corporate markets profitably? Or would it more likely lead to a scenario where 9 out of 10 U.S. brands fall to the market dominance of other global brands that don't give a hoot about the labor practices where their products are made?

              I am not trying to defend the use of the worst offenders of the oversea manufacturers, or the sleaziest corporations that don't care. I am trying to make the point that if using overseas labor is the only way to stay competitive, and a company makes an honest effort to ensure the production facilities they use maintain some kind of standards, (at least above the "deplorable" level, even if they can't reach an ideal) - then such corporations are not just immoral profit seekers.

              You and Chris57 make a very valid point in that it is the consumer that drives this choice as much if not more than any other factor. So why isn't everyone raving against price-point consumerism instead of the corporations that have to cater to them to stay in business?

              GA

          2. Old Poolman profile image82
            Old Poolmanposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            GA - I think perhaps you may have fallen behind the current thinking trend.

            One is now supposed to hate anyone who has more t-shirts then they do.  They expect the government to either take some t-shirts away from the t-shirt rich person, or give them enough t-shirts so both of them have the same amount.

            I realize it will take awhile to process this sort of thinking as it is completely foreign to the way you were taught and lived.

            But this is a growing trend and with the help of our own government they are winning.

            1. PrettyPanther profile image84
              PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              Ah, a complete misinterpretation of my point.  I get it.  It is much easier to argue against a more extreme position than a nuanced one.  Hence, your need to completely twist what I said to make it easier on yourself.

              1. Old Poolman profile image82
                Old Poolmanposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                Sorry, you were typing your response at the same time but you posted first.

                I remember the Buy American movement when the plan was to do exactly what you suggested.  Pay more for a higher quality product to stop the cheap imports.

                I agreed with this plan but a funny thing happened.  Many adopted the thinking that because the imported products were so cheap, they were expendable throw away items.  They could buy 3 or 4 t-shirts for the price of one American made t-shirt and they liked this.

                Foreign manufacturers flooded our market with TV's they sometimes sold below what it cost them to manufacture.  The end result was they drove every American TV manufacturer out of business.  Most of today's imported TV's are high quality products at a fairly low price.  The price is low because their labor costs are low.

                For some of the products we used to manufacture here, the raw materials are now only available from foreign countries.  I doubt they treat or pay their workers fairly in all cases to produce these raw materials that would allow us to manufacture again.

                There is no easy answer to this issue.  Many of the products we use in our everyday lives are just not Made in America any longer.  It is too bad there is not a published report card of how well each of these foreign companies pays and treats their employees.  If there were we could pick and choose what we buy.

                1. John Holden profile image60
                  John Holdenposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  What raw materials are only available from foreign countries?

                  1. Old Poolman profile image82
                    Old Poolmanposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                    John I should have said affordable and plentiful raw materials.

                2. PrettyPanther profile image84
                  PrettyPantherposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  I agree, there is no easy answer.  However, we all contribute to the problem with our rampant consumerism and expectations of owning, using, and disposing of a bunch of low-priced stuff that we really don't need.  Frankly, I have grown weary of the excuse that we have to compromise our values to save a buck or we'll go under.  Aren't we smarter than that?

                  1. Old Poolman profile image82
                    Old Poolmanposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                    I would hope so but am starting to wonder.

            2. GA Anderson profile image86
              GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              Now, Now old buddy. That is a rant for another day. Maybe I will start another thread on Political Correctness, and this "anti-materialism" trend you point to...

              Regarding PrettyPanther's comment, which started this five shirts-ten shirts conversation - to her credit she did come back with a clarifying response that explained that her intended point was not as it appeared to be. (Which I read to mean the same thing you did) After which, her point wasn't so outrageously "trendy" or socialistic as it first appeared.

              Just sayin'

              GA

      3. CHRIS57 profile image60
        CHRIS57posted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Every product has its own lifespan. For computers, smartphones it may be 2 to 3 years. Is it the same for washing machines, refridgerators, houses, cars, or my favourite lawn mower? Certainly not.
        What i want to express is that product lifespan is associated mainly to technical progress (smartphnes) and to quality. Heard of the expression "cash cow"? http://www.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http … amp;dur=58
        If there are too many uncertainties and too many "dogs" in product lifespan, then the dial to tune is cost and that obviously leads to outsourcing to low cost countries.
        And due to consumer culture, if quality is ruled out to be a driving factor for products and their lifecycles, you get the mess we are discussing right now.

        1. GA Anderson profile image86
          GA Andersonposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          I am not quite sure if I follow your thoughts here. I tried your link - it was a fair explanation of marketing and development concepts, but I missed the "cash cow" reference???

          I think you are right that technological progress has a lot to do with a products lifetime, (or consumer perceived useful lifetime), and yes, quality is definitely a debatable issue - and with a lot more than overseas manufactured products.

          Regarding the uncertainties and "dogs" leading to overseas manufacturing decisions - wouldn't market segment saturation and competitiveness also be a very strong driver to this option?

          You also right about problems with our consumer culture that for the most part puts price determination above all else.

          Thanks for your thoughts

          GA

  5. John Holden profile image60
    John Holdenposted 2 years ago

    Just to throw a thought into this, many of the Chinese factories building your cheap luxuries use a lot of immigrant labour!

  6. maxoxam41 profile image78
    maxoxam41posted 2 years ago

    Instead of immoral you should have used amoral.

 
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