This question is regarding the discussion of arguments
for and against sweatshops. Sweatshops are defined by International Labor
Rights Forum, as an organization that violates two or more labor laws
(2013).These laws could be those concerning wages, working hours, working
conditions, safety and disciplinary methods implemented. Workers in sweatshop
are claimed to be beaten, tortured, and even sexually harassed in occasion.
However, many argue in defense of sweatshops that even though they violate
these laws, they bring more benefit than harm over long term. While others are
resolute that’ sweatshops should be abolished due to their deplorable conditions.
First and foremost, the predominant argument against
sweatshop is that sweatshops exploit workers by paying them unconscionable wages.
Especially, the wages paid by Multinational corporations(MNEs) operating in
Third world countries are relatively low compared to wages paid for similar job
in their home countries.For instance, ILRF website (2013) indicates 3.5 million workers in Bangladeshemployed
in garment factories exporting to Europe and North America earn about US$10 a
week. It is argued that sweatshops workers are trapped in an awful cycle of
poverty due to exploitation and could barely afford daily expenses such as
shelter, healthcare and their nutritional need.
In accordance with Immanuel Kant’s ethics, opponents
of sweatshop dispute the arguments justifying unconscionable wages by asserting
that sweatshop sweatshops overlook human dignity and human rights (Kant1971,
p273). Immanuel Kant states that human beings should never be treated as means
to an end, in fact they must be treated as ends itself (Kant 1971,p273).Kant’s Reformulation
of Second Categorical Imperative emphasizes on humans beings as the most
important aspect and stresses that MNEs should not make use of inexpensive
labor available in developing nations.
However, this is justified by organizations, using the
argument that corporations are attempting to minimize the cost of production as
low as possible, by using cheap labor available due to the abundance of supply
and exchange rate variant factors. Moreover, by setting up sweatshops,
companies has distinct advantages such as specialization, rapid expansion
capacity, reduction in production cost, increase in product cycle time and
manufacturing flexibilities (Arnold & Bowie 2003, p223). This is supported
by the Shareholders Theory that enunciates that the key characteristics of
sustainability of any organization are through profit maximization, consequently
maximizing shareholder wealth. As a firm is set up by those who have monetary
share in it, the firm’s only resolution should be to serve the need and
interest of these owners as the shareholders are reliant on their investment to
procure return. As such, a firm has an obligation to ensure production at the
least cost by any means available for maximum return.
In addition, Matt Zwolenski argued in Learn Liberty
Website (2012) that sweatshops help the poor to escape poverty. The workers in
developing nations find sweatshop the best income option available. This is due
to the fact that sweatshops in countries such as Bangladesh and African nations
tend to pay three to seven times higher than any other employments available in
their economy. Zwolenski claims that’ sweatshops are a form of mutually
advantageous exploitation between the workers and the employees. The wages
enable the workers to sustain a better living condition than what would have
been provided by other local industries. He also defend sweatshop on the
grounds that relatively poorly paid jobs are better than no jobs at all.