Purchase Solution


Not what you're looking for?

Ask Custom Question

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, labor conditions in the United States were certainly less than ideal. The average workweek was 60 hours, but it was not unusual for workers to spend 80 hours on the job every week. Children toiled in unsafe conditions sometimes 10 hours a day, six days a week; wages were low and fears of unemployment high; and job benefits such as sick leave and medical care were nonexistent. Labor unions, religious groups, and social reformers were active, attempting to ignite efforts to reform the workplace and end the existence of "sweatshops," where workers often spent their entire lives in atrocious working conditions. Efforts by reformers, plus the publication of the novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, heightened public awareness of the abuses existing in the workplace. Sinclair portrayed the dark side of Chicago's meat packing industry, whose inhuman conditions often destroyed the lives and spirit of workers.
A real life tragedy at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company on March 25, 1911 also intensified the efforts aimed at eliminating sweatshops in the United States. Triangle employed young women in the garment industry. A fire at the company's factory led to the death of 126 young women, who could not exit the building due to locked doors and the lack of a fire escape. News reports faulted the company and brought to light the harsh conditions in which these women worked. The fallout from Sinclair's book and the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire generated an impassioned public outcry and eventually led to strong federal legislation that improved working conditions throughout the United States.
The issue of sweatshops again is a hot topic in the media. However, today's issue does not deal directly with U.S. workers. The issue also is championed not just by unions and other such organizations but also by college students. At college campuses across the country, students are demanding assurances that clothing bearing their universities' names and logos are produced under humane conditions in global markets. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) represents students at some 100 colleges across the nation. The organization demands that universities employ a vigorous monitoring campaign that forces companies to publicly disclose the location of foreign factories so human rights groups can independently monitor their actions. They also demand that employers pay a so called living wage that meets the basic needs of workers in various global markets.
Apparel industry leaders Nike, Reebok, and Liz Claiborne, responded by agreeing to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a sweatshop monitoring group established by a presidential task force of apparel makers and human rights groups. Students, however, argue that this group is nothing more than a publicity stunt, with a weak code of conduct and very little accountability. They also contend the FLA and others in the industry have resisted the efforts of the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP) to establish fair standards for wages in global markets. The USAS and UNITE (the largest garment-workers union in the United States) founded the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) in 1999 as an alternative to the Fair Labor Association.
Apparel companies contend that their businesses involve thousands of factories operating in very diverse economies. They claim the idea of establishing a formal living wage structure is impossible and could in fact place significant burdens on the industry and workers in the global economies they seek to help. Edward Graham, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics agrees. He says that multinational companies offer the best paying jobs around in developing countries. If they did not, workers would refuse to take them. Political leaders in many developing nations fear that if wage standards are imposed on companies like Nike, Levi Strauss and others, it could price them out of global markets. Since these countries depend on foreign investment money, the loss of such investment could shatter their nation's economies. Economists fear that the concept of a living wage will cost many workers their jobs. They also agree that it is difficult to define a living wage down to the penny and say that the term living wage is an emotional term rather than a definable economic term. Still, Juan O. Somavia, director-general of the International Labor Organization predicts in five years labor rules around the globe will establish standards. This emotional debate will certainly rage on.

Discussion questions

1. What role, if any, should the U.S. government take in this issue of setting fair wages in developing countries? What is your definition of a "fair" (living) wage? Would it vary by country?

2. Would you buy an apparel item with your college name or logo on it if you knew
it was produced in a country where workers toiled in sweatshops? Why or why not?

Purchase this Solution

Solution Summary

This posting gives you an in-depth insight into COOLING OFF THE SWEATSHOPS

Solution Preview

1. What role, if any, should the U.S. government take in this issue of setting fair wages in developing countries? What is your definition of a "fair" (living) wage? Would it vary by country?
In my opinion the US government should insist that US companies should pay the minimum wages applicable in the USA in any developing country it sets up business. My definition of a fair wage from the perspective of a US company is to pay the minimum wages the ...

Purchase this Solution

Free BrainMass Quizzes
Marketing Research and Forecasting

The following quiz will assess your ability to identify steps in the marketing research process. Understanding this information will provide fundamental knowledge related to marketing research.

Change and Resistance within Organizations

This quiz intended to help students understand change and resistance in organizations

Employee Orientation

Test your knowledge of employee orientation with this fun and informative quiz. This quiz is meant for beginner and advanced students as well as professionals already working in the HR field.

Organizational Behavior (OB)

The organizational behavior (OB) quiz will help you better understand organizational behavior through the lens of managers including workforce diversity.

Cost Concepts: Analyzing Costs in Managerial Accounting

This quiz gives students the opportunity to assess their knowledge of cost concepts used in managerial accounting such as opportunity costs, marginal costs, relevant costs and the benefits and relationships that derive from them.