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Interference in Sweatshops

Updated on November 10, 2017

Introduction

Millions of workers are crammed daily in single rooms where they work for most hours of the day, receive harsh treatment from the owners, and are not paid enough for their work. Sweatshops around the world make use of millions of people who are trying to survive and escape poverty who end up feeling forced to work under conditions of physical and emotional abuse, where violations to basic human rights and child labor are the norm and where workers are payed below the local minimum wage. Despite the effects of survival wages on sweatshop workers and the consent of the relationship, other aspects of current sweatshops such as their violations of human rights and their use of child labor reveals that it is ethically right for third parties that wish to intervene against the current nature of sweatshops to do so.

Violations Against Human Rights

Violations to human rights that currently take place in sweatshops in the form of physical and emotional abuse reveal the necessity of a third party’s interference. One example of treatment of workers within a specific sweatshop that reveals the nature of sweatshops in more general terms is embodied in Nike’s current sweatshops. Workers in Indonesia admit that they feel both physically and mentally abused, with the physical abuse mainly presented in the form of kicking and slapping, while the mental abuse is mainly being presented in the form of verbal abuse as well as the fact that the workers would get fired if they speak up, feeling forced to keep suffering (Reporter). Such conditions prevail in sweatshops all around the world, as worldwide companies make use of such workers in order to mass produce in developing countries (that seek to improve themselves economically and socially). This use is ethically wrong as it violates several basic human rights, such as Articles 3, 5, and 20 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights that had been written collectively by chosen “representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world” who aimed towards creating a standard that can outline “fundamental human rights to be universally protected.” Neither the right to life, liberty, and security (Article 3) nor the right of being free from subjugation to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5) are protected in such case, as indicated by the workers’ feelings that they are under conditions of mental and physical abuse. The right to peaceful assembly and association and the idea that no one may be compelled to belong to an association (Article 20) is reflected in the workers’ feeling that their only choice is to keep suffering, as speaking up would get them fired and as their financial statuses do not allow for them to leave one of their only options of making a living. Because sweatshop owners are satisfied with such conditions, while numerous workers wish to leave but feel that they should not, a third party should interfere in order to better the nature of the relationship and make it a more harmonious one.

Child Labor in Sweatshops

Child labor is another example of the conditions under which current sweatshops around the world operate and that should be abolished. Companies that force or even allow children to work under the harsh demanding conditions of sweatshops do not abide with the human rights of children outlined by the United Nations as they are not protecting these children “from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.” Physical and emotional hazards such as the ones mentioned in the previous paragraph are examples of the work that interferes not only with children’s education and development but also with the ideologies of a larger community. Firstly, the reoccurrence of child labor in sweatshops accompanied by the repeated reporting of such conditions can lead to the normalization of the violation of children’s human rights and their being forced to work under the harsh conditions of a sweatshop. Secondly, child labor in sweatshops can lead to the negative desensitization of both the children. The children are desensitized to violence when violence is a norm to both witness and experience within sweatshops, leading to their becoming less empathetic and generally more aggressive beings who are more terrified by everyday actions and occurrences than the average person is (Association). Both children experiencing violence due to labor in sweatshops as well as children witnessing this violence through forms of media are desensitized to violence, leading to an overall less empathetic community over time, eventually leading to greater numbers of conflict that differ in scale and significance and that arise both within and outside such communities. The results of child labor in sweatshops as well as its violating nature lead to the conclusion that it is right for a third party to interfere in order to reduce the physical and mental effects of child labor on the child and on members of the larger community.

Opposing Perspective

A different perspective sees that the consent present in the relationship between the workers and the sweatshop owners as well as the survival wages offered to workers are both justifications for why it is ethically wrong to interfere in certain ways. This perspective sees that the worker’s choice to work in a sweatshop is an exercise of their own autonomy, meaning that interfering would be a form of interference with other individuals’ autonomy and is therefore ethically wrong. This same perspective sees that since survival wages given to the workers are usually able to pull these workers out of poverty and help them in surviving, and that this is why interference that might get rid of sweatshops is ethically wrong, as this would stop the workers from benefitting financially. However, in the case of sweatshops, the majority of the workers who do make the decision to work there have extremely limited options when it comes to methods to pursue in order to survive and escape extreme poverty. If a sweatshop worker’s aim is to survive when they have options that are less harsh and that still help in surviving, then most sweatshop workers would not choose to work in sweatshops, where the harsh treatment and survival wages often lead to dangerously unhealthy mental states that eventually lead to wishing suicide (Cooper). Interference by giving workers more options (even if this means getting rid of the option of sweatshops) as well as paying the workers more (since this would be significant to sweatshops workers and not as significant to large companies that own sweatshops) can help in making workers’ experience more tolerable, while respecting their autonomy as well as helping them financially.

Third Parties Interfering

Multiple kinds of abuse towards workers as well as child labor both constitute (at least partially) the nature of the conditions under which the overwhelming majority of sweatshops currently operate around the world. Third parties that could interfere include the government, who has the power of legalizing or illegalizing the use of sweatshops or certain conditions and treatments in current sweatshops, as well as the ability not only to offer those in poverty with more survival options but also in helping the poor financially so that they do not physically and mentally suffer as much every day due to their financial statuses. Another type of a third party could be social education and awareness about sweatshops and their conditions through different forms of media, such as commercials on televisions, billboards, the radio, etc. Such commercials could incorporate pathos (by having workers tell their stories), ethos, and logos (by having professionals such as psychologists and human rights activists present the public with clear reasons as to why and how current sweatshop conditions should be changed). Through such methods, third parties can educate a larger community on the issues that both the workers as well as the community face, thus increasing the social significance of the issue and making more people willing to act against current sweatshops.

Sources/Bibliography

"Convention on the Rights of the Child." Convention on the Rights of the Child. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

Cooper, Rob. "Inside Apple's Chinese 'sweatshop' Factory Where Workers Are Paid Just £1.12 per Hour to Produce IPhones and IPads for the West." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.

Reporter, Daily Mail. "Nike Workers 'kicked, Slapped and Verbally Abused' at Factories Making Converse." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 13 July 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2016

Taylor, Ronald /B. Sweatshops in the Sun: Child Labor on the Farm. Boston: Beacon, 1975. Print.

"Television and Video Violence." Television and Video Violence. American Psychological Association, Nov. 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

"Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations." UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.

Zwolinski, Matt. “Sweatshops, Choice, and Exploitation.” Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 4, 2007, pp. 689–727. www.jstor.org/stable/27673206.

© 2017 Luai Alhasan

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