Sweating in Sweaters Made by Workers in Sweatshops
by CashMeOusside on February 10, 2017 - 5:28pm
How would you feel if you knew one of your younger siblings was being forced into hard labour instead of having a normal childhood? How about not being able to see your parents often enough because they are subjected to intense workload in their factory in order to be able to feed you? It may not be a first world problem but it is obvious that these scenarios are terrible because we all know we would not want to experience such things. So why should workers suffer in factories to produce the goods we buy? When the headlines read, that Nike used child labour back in 2001 it sent shockwaves across the media and people were quite upset to find out that children were forced into harsh labour conditions in order to create the goods they’ve been purchasing. Some people have even tried to boycott Nike; however, they ended up forgetting about it because of Nike’s successful efforts in rebranding their sweatshop image or simply ignored it, because Nike is a popular brand from which they have already purchased a product from and feel uncomfortable discussing the unethical treatment of the workers. Nike claimed that they had nothing to do with the terrible working environment and it was the responsibility of the person who is the head of the factory. According to virtue ethics, sweatshops are wrong because they include the vices of hostility, corruption and oppression.
Some will argue that sweatshops are actually defensible because they provide work for people who would otherwise have none or work for other factories that, according to Bowman, would provide less salary than the salaries in sweatshops. Without these jobs, they would not have a stable source of income and therefore suffer in poverty. Furthermore, sweatshops have led to an increase demand for workers therefore, has led to an increase in economic activity which is also highly correlated to an increase in the standard of living. It is even possible to argue that because of sweatshops the importance of labour unions rose because sweatshops provide a good reason to start discussion of ethical treatment of people. This all falls under the ethical notion of utilitarianism because the main purpose for this framework is “to bring the greatest happiness (or pleasure) to the greatest number” (Merrill).
According to virtue ethics, it is the “habitual practice of actions that foster harmonious relations among people” (Merrill). Therefore, sweatshops are wrong because the working environment infringes on the worker’s human rights because they are subjected to working longer hours than a person should be working and to add insult to injury, they do not get paid for overtime. Some face physical and mental abuse if work is not properly executed according to the company’s standards. Even though the wage is a bit better than the average wage it is still not enough to sustain a huge family in third world countries. It intrudes with valuable virtues such as kindness, fairness, citizenship.
The reason why sweatshops are wrong is because it ultimately disregarding the well being of the workers. Virtue ethics teaches us that certain actions define a person. The importance is put on the individual rather than the whole group. Bringing the greater good to a huge number of people will not eliminate the unethical treatment of the workers, the target should not be the outcome but the individual. If the employer is able to acquire many virtues then this person can lead a healthy work environment, the salary may be horrible but the working conditions does not have to be, people should acquire many virtues in order to work harmoniously.
Bowman, Sam. "Sweatshops Make Poor People Better off." Adam Smith Institute. 29 July 2015. https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/international/sweatshops-make-poor-people-better-off. Accessed 06 Feb. 2017.
Merrill, John C. “Overview: Theoretical Foundations for Media Ethics.” Controversies in Media Ethics, A. David Gordon, John M Kittross, John C Merrill, William Babcock, and Michael Dorsher 3rd Edition. Routledge, 2011, pp. 3-32.