M4 – Carter

The article, In Defense of “Sweatshops’, by Benjamin Powell, argues that as Americans, we would not want to work hard for low pay. Working in a sweatshop is not acceptable for us; however, it is okay to do this in other countries, with the focus being on third world countries. The cost of living is very low, and he believes that the wages made from American companies is adequate to live on comfortably. He describes the 15-year-old girl coming on a television show interview to talk about working conditions in 1996 when Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing company was accused of using child labor to manufacture her merchandise. Gifford cried and apologized which lead to higher wages for her worker’s. The article states that the people in Honduras typically made $1.00 to $2.00 per day, and Gifford’s workers made over $3.00, so that made it okay in his mind. The author says that an alternative to sweatshops is that people, including children, go into prostitution; his argument says that sweatshops are preferable. He says that if the companies paid too much, it would not be cost effective for their company and people would lose their jobs. Powell states toward the end of the article that it takes time to raise living standards in a third world country, so in the meantime, he justifies sweatshops as being the best path.

I would argue that if the parents of these children that are forced into prostitution made enough money, then the kids wouldn’t have to do that. If the parents made enough money on their jobs to live comfortably, not sweatshop wages, then the children would not have to work at all, they could attend school and possibly do something else with their lives. There is no hope for a future other than being a factory worker. I think that when we are of the mindset that sweatshops are okay in other countries, then when sweatshops are found on US soil, people are not appalled enough to demand change. Powell’s arguments do not work for American sweatshops, because those wages here cannot support an individual or family. When sweatshops are found and broken up here, human trafficking is always behind it. People are commonly brought to the US from other countries with the promise of work, only to become enslaved to either work in a hidden factory or as prostitutes.

In an article entitled Sweatshops, they argue that working conditions are typically unsafe, there are not enough rest periods for workers, they work long hours such as sixteen-hour days, and can suffer the abuse of bosses including sexual abuse. Anti-sweatshop activism came to the forefront in the 1990’s when people discovered that the merchandise they wear was most likely made from child labor. They created enough press which forced large American companies to monitor their overseas factories. Even when terms for workers were agreed upon, China broke the rules to cover up worker abuse. Considering that, how effective are the standards that are put into place by companies such as Walmart? If workers in sweatshops are paid more money, then that would drive up retail prices for things we want to buy. It boils down to what do most Americans want more, inexpensive merchandise or humane treatment for other human beings? Although some progress has been made by a few large corporations, the way we consume, it looks like the ability to acquire inexpensive merchandise is winning, for now anyway.

Sources:

Benjamin Powell. “In Defense of “Sweatshops’.’ June 2, 2008. Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved February 14, 2018 from the World Wide Web: https://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2008/Powellsweatshops.html

“Sweatshops.’ Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2014. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/PC3021900163/OVIC?u=p1841&xid=f48457d3. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.

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