Sweatshop Injustice

Social Justice


Dr. Pierre Atlas stated, "how do you define justice and who gets to define it? One person’s justice can be another person’s injustice." How does one decide? As a Sisters of St. Francis, our faith tradition is one of human justice transformed by divine justice. St. Francis taught that justice was a precondition for peace. The challenge, then, is to create a systemic change that fosters a society that doesn’t breed violence and conflict (Magnet, 2003).

I have chosen Sweatshop injustice because it literally affects millions of people living in horrendous conditions where there are no justices and the "dignity of the individual" does not exist within several societies. After working in Corporate America for thirty years I’ve been at the forefront of witnessing how corporations work. The goal of a Corporation is to increase its shareholder’s wealth and increasing the profit of the corporation does this. If this is not done, a Corporation will take whatever minimal gain/loss and pull up its roots and seek out another alternative source until they can obtain a sizable profit (larger corporations can afford to do this). In corporations involved in manufacturing, reducing the cost of production is essential for its growth and overall livelihood. Labor is the number one cost factor in any corporation which eats into the profit. Corporations want to pay as little as possible and still maintain productivity in order to provide goods to its customers.

Jobs have been cut in America because of the high cost of wages and the corporations have moved elsewhere (usually third world countries). They have rebuilt their corporations, usually not having to worry about EPA rules and regulations, without having to pay benefits and can get by with paying a lower wage because third world countries will take whatever wage will be given to them. Mexico is the perfect example. I can’t tell you how many shipments per day we took into Mexico via El Paso or Laredo borders. Mostly automotive parts to be assembled and then shipped back into the U.S. People working 12‑15 hours per day, no benefits, water systems are contaminated. The wages are simply atrocious and well below substandard living. So we have to ask why do people from third world countries put up with the domination of these corporations? When a person lives in a state of poverty he or she does not have the means it takes to seek the representation of the injustices being imposed upon them by their government and the corporations as well. Their voice is silent.

To the Welfare liberal, they see all people as equal. Everybody has the right to work and to own property. Therefore, equality of opportunity is essential, and, toward that end, discriminatory practices must be eliminated. In the Catholic Social Teaching the dignity of the individual comes first by having their basic needs met. This includes the right to a decent job with a livable salary. Sweatshops are not only a world‑ wide problem but they are also a problem faced by the United States. Many American corporations’ employee people all over the world to do their work for them. Quantity vs. quality is the game. Getting the material out in as little a time as possible, all in the name of "profit." Their labor has been accompanied by widespread debate over what is a fair wage, reasonable working conditions, and society’s responsibility for meeting those standards. Popular large corporations like Nike and Walmart is taking away the basic benefits of their workers and are utilizing the services of employment agencies to hire temporaries to avoid paying out the benefits.

Here in the U.S.the Los Angeles Garment District employs more than 100,000 garment workers owed more than $80 million in back and overtime wages. Workers endure labor rights violations, minimum wage violations, sexual harassment, intimidation, threats of deportation, little safety precautions or protection from dangerous working environments, physical, verbal, or emotional abuse (often, all three), few or no holidays or time off, few or no benefits, no maternity or paternity leave, and unpaid back wages when a contractor relocates. While these and other violations are indeed illegal, many factories violate labor standards to cut costs and increase production (Rueter, 2002).

"According to U.S. government reports and information