Ethics and Morales in the Supply Chain of Making a T-Shirt Jeremiah S. Bencker
In This paper I will cover how ethics morals and laws impact the people in the supply chain of making clothing. I will cover how the introduction of labor unions has impacted the working conditions and the lives of the workers in the garment making industry. I will also go over what you as a consumer can do to ensure that the products you buy are not adding to the problem. Ethics and Morales in the Supply Chain of Making a T-Shirt
The apparel industry has historically relied on a contracting system that has allowed brand-name companies to eschew legal liability for the working conditions of those who actually sew their garments. A race to the bottom ensued with brand-name companies using these divisions and their own unrestricted mobility to play workers (and countries) against each other. (Esbenshade, 2004) Thirty years ago in Bangladesh there were less than 400 garment factories employing about 120,000 workers. Today there are more than 4000 factories with more than four million workers and these jobs have lifted many people out of the destitute poverty that village life might otherwise offer them. Garment workers routinely toil in factories for long hours for low wages but the jobs can often offer a glimpse of a better life than the one they left behind. While wages for workers in Bangladesh have risen in the last year they are still the lowest paid garment workers in the world and no one can pretend a family can live on a single salary. (Nolan, 2014) On April 24th 2013 an eight story garment factory in Rana Plaza collapsed killing more than 1100 workers and crippling thousands more. The fact that this building, which had been illegally expanded to house five factories over eight floors, was in no fit state was common knowledge - bankers and shop workers had evacuated days before, but the garment workers were threatened with losing their jobs if they didn't return to work overtime in the groaning building. (Jones, 2014) One way that the workers have tried to better there working conditions are to form labor unions. Many of the individuals that take on that task have faced threats from the managers of the shops. In Human Rights Watch interviews conducted in Dhaka from October 2013 onwards, many of the interviewees described abusive practices. One female worker said that when the workers in her factory presented their union registration form to the company owner, he threw it in the dustbin – then threatened the workers, saying he would never allow the union to start. Workers complained that in one factory a supervisor said that any woman joining the union would be stripped of her clothes and thrown into the street. Elsewhere a manager said that a female union organizer was “polluting” his factory and should go and work in a brothel. A union organizer in a different factory said he received a phone call telling him not to come to work again and threatening to kill him if he did so. Others said that factory managers refused to meet them. Labor activists also complained that some of the unions in factories are not genuinely independent, but are so-called “yellow unions” that have been established by the factory owners themselves to control workers and prevent them from establishing or joining the union of their choice. (Human Rights Watch, 2014) The prevalence of substandard garment factories that lack basic protections for workers' safety is not an issue isolated to the manufacturing industry in Bangladesh but it is particularly prevalent in Bangladesh because of the country's meteoric rise in cornering a portion of the world's garment manufacturing in the last few decades. Bangladesh has become one of the world's leading suppliers of apparel and today, garments represent more than 80 per cent of the country's export economy. Rather, it's a global problem fuelled by our desire for "fast fashion" whereby clothing...
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Esbenshade, J. (2004). Codes of Conduct: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers ' Rights. Social Justice, 40-59.
Givhan, R. (2014, November 25). Can cheap clothing generate fair wages? H&M believes it can. Retrieved from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2014/11/25/can-cheap-clothing-generate-fair-wages-hm-believes-it-can/
Human Rights Watch. (2014, February 6). Bangladesh: Protect Garment Workers’ Rights. Retrieved from Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/02/06/bangladesh-protect-garment-workers-rights
Jones, D. (2014, April 01). How The World Has Changed Since Rana Plaza. Retrieved from Vogue: http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2014/04/01/bangladesh-rana-plaza-anniversary-fashion-revolution-day
Nolan, J. (2014, april 23). Business as usual is no longer an option. Retrieved from The Drum: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-23/nolan-business-as-usual-is-not-an-option/5405338
O 'Donnell, J., & Mitchell, B. (2013, May 23). Do shoppers feel guilty about Bangladesh? Retrieved from USA TODAY: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2013/05/18/cheap-fashion-unsafe-factories/2166339/
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