Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sweat Shops are SO wonderful: Why would anyone object?

Someone of the Libertarian persuasion made a comment I noted on the Critiques of Libertarianism blog that Sweat Shops were a great boon to humankind. Well, I won't repeat the exact sorry-assed comment in it's exact sense, but you may click on the previous link and view yourself if you so desire.

I got a problem with assholes who recommend others work in environments they themselves wouldn't want to be in. Call me crazy, but that seems like a Double Standard.

By the way, the
Critiques of Libertarianism Website and the Critiques of Libertarianism Blog are both decent resources for understanding and debunking the Libertarian mindset. Mike Huben has been running it and vexing the Sons & Daughters of Austria for over a decade and a half! And if Libertarians piss you off, it's also a good place to have your frustrations vented. ;-)

Meantime, here's a brief compendium of websites about Sweat Shops I've put together:
Inside China's sweatshops
Visiting a local factory, we were ushered into the director's office and served drinks. Then the man with goofy teeth opposite me began explaining something in impenetrable English. When I failed to understand, he flapped his arms impatiently, knocking over his water. The glass shattered on the tiled floor. Any minute now things might turn nasty. It had taken ages to find this toy factory. There was no sign over the entrance. It's a dirty pink building in Songang, an industrial suburb of China's miracle boomtown Shenzhen.
We had come to follow up a story about a young woman called Li Chun Mei. Apparently the 19-year-old had collapsed and died last November at the end of a 16-hour shift. Like many of the staff, she often had to work past midnight, especially in the run-up to Christmas. The girls who shared her dormitory found her lying on the bathroom floor with blood pouring from her nose and mouth.

Millions of Chinese people have left the countryside for the cities
The bosses, who were Korean, did not deny that Li had died on their premises. They blamed the death not on overwork but on earlier injuries Li suffered when she was hit by a motorcycle. In any case, at the end of last year she was working for a subcontractor. That, they told us, absolved them of any responsibility. They produced a document - the contract of Li's employer - signed with inky red thumbprints.
They even gave us a phone number for the supervisor, one Mrs Wu, but when we tried it later, the line had been disconnected.
Under Chinese law, employees cannot be forced to work more than eight hours a
day and overtime must not exceed 40 hours a month. There's a local minimum monthly wage too of $66. But every single worker we spoke to from many different factories around Shenzhen had at some point either been overworked or underpaid. Usually both.
Feminists Against Sweatshops
The U.S. General Accounting Office defines a sweatshop as an employer that violates more than one federal or state labor law governing minimum wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, worker’s compensation or industry regulation. Sweatshops exist both internationally and domestically and the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over 50% of sewing shops in the US are sweatshops as defined by the above definition. Buying “Made in the USA” clothing often does not mean “sweatshop free”.
Workers in sweatshops are usually young women and immigrant workers that are desperately poor and work long, long hours, sometimes up to 20 hours a day and their wages still do not total a workable wage to feed and clothe their families. The workers are often denied bathroom breaks and forced to undergo pregnancy tests and take birth control so the companies do not have to pay maternity leave costs. The workers often suffer verbal and physical abuse and struggle to complete high quotas each day.
Feminist Against Sweatshops FAQ Header Image

Secrets, Lies, And Sweatshops
For more than a decade, major American retailers and name brands have answered accusations that they exploit "sweatshop" labor with elaborate codes of conduct and on-site monitoring. But in China many factories have just gotten better at concealing abuses. Internal industry documents reviewed by BusinessWeek reveal that numerous Chinese factories keep double sets of books to fool auditors and distribute scripts for employees to recite if they are questioned. And a new breed of Chinese consultant has sprung up to assist companies like Beifa in evading audits. "Tutoring and helping factories deal with audits has become an industry in China," says Tang, 34, who recently left Beifa of his own volition to start a Web site for workers.

A lawyer for Beifa, Zhou Jie, confirms that the company employed the Shanghai consulting firm but denies any dishonesty related to wages, hours, or outside monitoring. Past audits had "disclosed some problems, and we took necessary measures correspondingly," he explains in a letter responding to questions. The lawyer adds that Beifa has "become the target of accusations" by former employees "whose unreasonable demands have not been satisfied." Reached by cell phone, a man identifying himself as Lai says that the Shanghai consulting firm helps suppliers pass audits, but he declines to comment on his work for Beifa.

Inside a Chinese Sweatshop:"A Life of Fines and Beating"
Liu's Dickensian tale stands in stark contrast to the reassurances that Wal-Mart, Payless, and other U.S. companies give American consumers that their goods aren't produced under sweatshop conditions. Since 1992, Wal-Mart has required its suppliers to sign a code of basic labor standards. After exposes in the mid-1990s of abuses in factories making Kathie Lee products, which the chain carries, Wal-Mart and Kathie Lee both began hiring outside auditing firms to inspect supplier factories to ensure their compliance with the code. Many other companies that produce or sell goods made in low-wage countries do similar self-policing, from Toys 'R' Us to Nike and Gap. While no company suggests that its auditing systems are perfect, most say they catch major abuses and either force suppliers to fix them or yank What happened at Chun Si suggests that these auditing systems can miss serious problems--and that self-policing allows companies to avoid painful public revelations about them.
Organizations in opposition to Sweat Shop abuses:

Sweat Free Communities

NMASS (National Mobilization Against Sweatshops)

Rebuttal to Pro-Sweatshop Arguments:

A Consensus Statement on Sweatshop Abuse and MIT’s Prospective Actions in Pursuit of International Labor Justice

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