Why we should boycott sweatshop labour
Sweatshop labour is a cruel way to earn a living. It is demeaning, alienating, illegal, and is virtually slavery. Products created using sweatshop labour must be boycotted if we are to ever stop this practise.
Companies operate along a profit motive. They always seek to make a buck. There are two ways to increase profits; either raise the price of the product, and risk driving customers away; or decrease the cost of manufacture, and the easiest way to do that is to pay staff peanuts. Risk assessment will tell bosses to do the second, as they need sales.
So multi-national corporations (MNCs) set up a sweatshop factory in a third world country. They pay the workers next to nothing in wages, they set the factory up with no ventilation, they do not provide for breaks during the 12 hour shift, they hire young children. And if a worker complains, or seeks something to be improved? Fired. If all the workers begin to unionise? They find another third world country. In other words, this is a ‘take it or leave it’ situation for these people. And that is unacceptable. The countries they set up in have been torn apart by civil war, taken over by MNCs, or are only beginning to develop. The people are removed from their traditional ways of living, and given no hope. They need to work to feed their family, but there is little available, so they take anything they can.
Is it right that you can improve your lifestyle by ripping someone off and treating them like dirt? Is it fair that you can wear nice clothing while the person who made it cannot feed their children? If you answered ‘no’ (like all smart people would have), then protest against it. Don’t buy from the MNCs that rely upon sweatshops to make their goods.
By boycotting the products, people can show that they care about these people. You can stand up and say that this is unacceptable. You can say “I do not exploit others, just so that I can be better off”. Boycotting is making a statement that you do not value yourself as being superior to others, that workers are also people and deserve to be treated as such.
Boycotting the products of sweatshop labour is not the sole action to be taken though. If the MNC does not know why people are avoiding their products, then this will not change anything, they will assume it because trends or fashion has changed. Protesting, marching, civil disobedience must be used as well to inform MNCs as to why they are having a drop in sales.
Once a MNC begins to realise that they can make it a selling point of their product that they do not use sweatshop labour, they will be able to make money out of it. That is the profit-motive at work again. It benefits the MNC as well if they learn to avoid using sweatshop labour, and we, the consumers, reward them for that. MNCs must learn that it is wrong, and we can teach them.
Sweatshop labour breaks a number of laws. The UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), articles seven, eight and ten (point three) are all broken by sweatshop labour. So boycotting sweatshop labour also means standing up for the rule of the law, and for the rule of international human rights.
So MNCs break the law to bring you cheaper products. Isn’t that itself illegal then? You have effectively signalled your approval of breaking human rights law by purchasing a sweatshop produced good. You have destroyed these people’s humanity. Does that make you feel good?
But surely this would then deny these people of their livelihood? No, it doesn’t. The MNCs will begin to realise that unless they raise wages, they will not make sales. But the factory and materials are still in the country, and so to are workers. The MNC then begins to pay those staff better, as it is still cheaper than building a new factory in New York. So the boycott will benefit the workers within the sweatshop factory.
So if enough people rally around and stop a MNC from selling any sweatshop product, they will change as they seek to make money. And at the same time, many millions of people will be moved out of poverty. There is nothing wrong with helping out millions of people.
Sweatshop labour is wrong, and it must be stopped. Multi-national corporations must learn to be socially responsible, they cannot treat humans as though they are animals, they must treat people as such. And the consumer can force them to do so, thus people should boycott products made with sweatshop labour. A list can be found at http://www.accd.edu/pac/philosop/phil1301/boycott.htm , or you can do all your shopping at Trade Aid (on Cuba Mall).