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.



Works Cited

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.


Hey :) Great article! I like how you presented both sides of how people view sweatshops. I agree that sweatshops allow people who need to provide for their family to acquire jobs which is a positive outcome, although I also believe the working conditions and wages are unethical and need to be improved. These big companies (Nike, H&M, Walmart, etc.) who employ sweatshops should provide a sustainable salary and better working conditions for its workers. After all, without them, they wouldn't have enough products to sell and these multinational companies have the resources to provide better working conditions while still profiting. To further the unethical analysis of sweatshops, this article could have included the unequal proportions of female and male workers. According an article about sweatshops in Cambodia and India, 85% of the workforce in the garment industry in sweatshops are women. Women have less job opportunities than men and have no other choice than to turn to sweatshops for work. Women are less valued in countries where these sweatshops are located and it is a common practice to pay women a lower salary than men. This is known as the wage gap. Another unethical practice is that pregnant women are routinely fired in order to avoid maternity leave. These pregnant women are put onto the mommy track and are penalized for having a family while fathers do not. Overall this was an interesting article and keep up the good work.
Link to the article: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/women-making-hm-clothes-factory-f...

This is a very insightful article about the inequality that workers face in sweatshops! You did an amazing job capturing the reality of these workers’ lives. However, you failed to comment on the segregation of women and men in these industries. In order to further your analysis on this important issue, adding a gendered lens offers a more profound understanding of this problem. Women are disproportionally represented in sweatshops. 85% of sweatshop workers are young women aged 15 to 25 years old. These women are forced to take birth control pills in order to prevent pregnancies which in turn prevents maternity leave. The owners disrespect female workers’ basic human rights just so they can earn a bit more profit. If a woman does become pregnant, she will immediately get fired and be replaced by another person. There is also a gender wage gap in these industries, which is the difference between the median male wage and the median female wage. According to Labor is not a Commodity, “employers favor female workers because they believe they women are more dexterous, docile, and willing to work longer hours for less pay”. More women are placed in the lower paying stages of production, so they earn less than their male counterparts. In addition to all of this injustice, women constantly face sexual harassment. It is important to realize that the ubiquitous sexism in these workplaces bring women to a disadvantage.

Interesting link: http://www.feminist.org/other/sweatshops/sweatfaq.html

Works Cited:



Great CashMeOusside, I really enjoyed reading this article. You brought very good points about sweatshops in foreign countries and how boycotting this company like Nike won’t do anything. I truly believe that in today's society everything is based on profit, not the well-being of others. This subject is ignored all the time because we really don’t know what’s happening in other countries and it so hard to grasp the concept that people are working for cents in these countries.

I believe that intersectionality and disproportion of women have a lot to do with this. Women in Asia mainly China probably have the hardest lifestyle. They are forced to work at a young age why their brothers go to school and get educated. These women earn 10 cents to 20 cents an hour. While you might think this is a little harsh, most of the women don’t even keep the money because they need to pay off debts. These women are between the age of 15-25 working 19 hours a day in terrible conditions. While the men usually pursue other ventures, these women are faced with this injustice. This is proven because 85% of sweatshop workers are women. It just shows the intersectionality these women face for living in a developing country, being a women and living between the ages of 15-25.

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