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Thread: Sweat shops in foreign lands

  1. #1
    Custom Title heyang's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    New Jersey

    Sweat shops in foreign lands

    The other evening, one of the news shows (Dateline, 20/20) did a segment on sweat shops - good or bad.

    As a concept, I think that we're all opposed to sweat shops, but the segment is interesting because it presented the other side. A lot of experts and people who relied on working at sweat shops say that it helps their country.

    Many people in these 3rd World countries rely on these jobs to put food on their tables and care for their children. Otherwise, the families would starve and many [especially the young girls] would turn to prostitution to help their families.

    The experts say that the post sweat shop generations are given more opportunities because they were able to eat and perhaps go to school. The next generations usually move onto better jobs because of better education, etc.

    The segment also interviewed a group of college kids who protest against 3rd world sweat shops. When presented with the attitudes of the people they were trying to help, they could still only view it from their standpoint. They said they wanted these people to earn at least the same minimum wage salaries as the US. They failed to realize that this would be an absolute fortune in these countries and that most of them can't even earn a basic living without a job in a sweat shop.

    Definitely gives some room for thought. Is there a problem with sweat shops if they are safe and clean and pay a fair wage for that area? Are those of us in developed nations too protected in our ivory towers to realize that we can't judge based upon our standards, but should compare to the other parties' actual standards?

    Keep in mind, I'm still opposed to shops that are unsafe and overwork people.

  2. #2
    On Edge Piel's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    Bayfield, WI

    A friend of mine went to Honduras this summer with her church to build a house for a family there. When she came back she told me that the church was now raising money to send for a treadle sewing machine (the old fashioned non-electric, foot pedaled kind) for the girl in the family to sew on so that she could help to support her family. My first reaction was..."Do you mean a sweat shop?" In this particular village the children are schooled until age 10 or 11 and then must help support their families. If the girl has a sewing machine she can sew from home, a safe and "respectable" job and avoid having to resort to "other options". In this situation the girls sew for a reasonable amount of hours as allowed by their parents and are still allowed time to play and to "be a kid".

    If a child has to work a situation like this seems to be the lesser of two evils as far as a child having to work at all. My concern in this case is that the parents would force the child to work too much . Whether working under the supervision of a parent or a boss at a factory....there is probably room for abuses either way.


  3. #3
    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003

    Sweat shops in foreign lands


    Walmart is infamous for selling these products. I have also heard of Walmarts shabby treatment of its employees on top of the use of "sweat shops." I always feel guitly when I do shop there.

    It's terrible.

  4. #4
    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    Boston, MA
    I think there are too many things we lump together as "sweat shops". I absolutely do not insist that companies pay US minimum wage in 3d World countries. Rather, the salaries should be proportional to the cost of living. Also, it is not just the salaries -- it's also the conditions. Too often, the "sweatshops" do not support the minimum standard of safety, resulting in too many injuries.

    I think our governement can do a lot more to discourage sweatshops. Particulary, there are many forms of tax breaks many companies receive. Those, I believe, should be conditional on fair work conditions. By "fair" I mean a wage that is compatible with a decent standard of living in the country, AND cetain safety standards (those many or may not correspond to safety standards in the US).

  5. #5
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    Jul 2003
    I saw this episode of 60 minutes and the college kids they spoke to were unable to even let another perspective sink in - it went over their heads and proved how very narrow minded their thinking is. I guess they feel like they are good people for what they are doing and that justifies their actions to themselves - Meanwhile, as the reporter stated, many of these "sweatshops" close down because of their protests and then the young girls who were working there have no jobs and often turn to prostitution because their families need money.

    As many of the people who live in those countries stated - the American companies often pay much more than other jobs in the community (although it seems very low compared to our minimum wage). the cost of living in those countries is much lower than in this country where getting one stinkin' sandwich at lunchtime can cost you $8 or more (in New York).

    If the college kids want to protest something - maybe they should try to protest the treatment of immigrant workers in this country who are not getting minimum wage and are being taken advantage of.

  6. #6
    Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    It is incredibly difficult to appreciate things when you are standing on the 'privaleged' side ofthe fence as anyone with a shred of decency would want everyone to be as well of as they are themselves.

    in principle I really don't believe in sweat shops and I certainly don't believe that these people should be made to work in the conditions they are nor should children as young as five be allowed to work in them and those are opinions I will never change. However I accept that boycotting products from these sweat shops does nothing to help the people who work in them. They depend on the income from their job to be able to support the family and lack of education means they have no choice but to work in these places as they are not qualified to do anything else.

    It really is a vicious circle and the only way to break it is to use aid money, grants etc to educate these people. Up until a few years ago Ireland was condsidered a third world country one of the reasons for this was the cheap labour provided by the high number of uneducated people in the workforce who could do nothing else. Now that the standard of education and the number of people has improved you cannot get 'cheap labour' in Ireland because people know what they are entitled to and know their own worth. It would be a long and arduous process but I do feel it is one way to go with countries like these rather than simply boycotting the products they make.

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