Poor labor conditions have been a problem in the developed world for decades. In developing nations, instances of precarious labor practices and near-slavery conditions have been decreased or even abolished by human rights initiatives. However, the situation is not the same in developed nations, where factory workers often face inhumane treatment such as low pay, unsafe working conditions, and even violence of different kinds (Tsogas, 2015). Nike Company, the world’s leading sports apparel industry has been in the spotlight severally for abusing workers and not adhering to ethics required surrounding labor (Banjo, 2014). The Nike sweatshop scandal, for instance, exposed how Nike was involved in child labor, paying workers very minimum wages and even verbally, and physically abusing workers. The truth about these claims have cost Nike a lot as consumers in developed countries like U.S. began boycotting their products and engaging in protests (Kaufman, 2012). Some other experts have however argued that, the entire thing is just a public relations issue and that Nikes image is being destroyed.
According to Kaufman (2012), the media exposure of Nike sweatshop show that consumers perception of Nike has been validly damaged by the companys own doing because the company employees are still facing poverty, irregular dismissals, harassment and violent intimidation. These issues are still prevalent even after the company pledged that they would improve the conditions of workers. Additionally, Tsogas (2015) has revealed further that, Nike has not shown any good will to change and treat workers with dignity or even adhere to the demands of ethics. Most workers work for excessive hours under very high pressure working environment but still they cannot even meet the basic needs for their families.
Nike has also been discredited by the consumer groups because of their engagement in employee exploitation. Even so, the company still continues to have ethics issues surrounding its labor. In 1996 , for instance, the company was featured in a U.S. magazine when a photo of a young Pakistani boy was shown sewing Nike football (Tsogas, 2015). In the same year, another report released, showed that the company had its workers exposed to poisonous fumes in Vietnam factories. There are similar conditions today in Indonesia where workers are overworked and are paid far below the minimum wage and additionally, they are threatened so that they are too scared to expose any of the abuses (Kaufman, 2012). In Taiwan, for instance, workers are physically abused and are caught between a rock and a hard place because if they protest, they are likely to be fired, so they are left to opt for suffering under the tough conditions. Moreover, these workers earn very little, like a case in Taiwan where workers earn 50cents for every working hour. There are even cases where some workers have been fired for taking sick leave.
When put under pressure for the misconduct, the companys management has only given promises with little or no change at all. Banjo (2014) explains that the education program at the companys factories have been expanded, but the wages are too little that workers cannot stop working overtime in order to take courses for study. With all these facts in place, the media has exposed the unethical activities of the Nike Company but nothing has changed since then. Hence it is impossible to consider that the media exposure is responsible for consumers; change in perception of the worlds most popular sports apparel brands factory.
On their part, the company considers the sweatshop issue as a public relations inconvenience. The management has often claimed that there are no serious human rights issues but the media is bound to give a bad image of the mega factory. Further, some experts are of the view that Nike has done a lot since its initiation to make conditions better for workers. Kaufman, (2012) for instance claims that the Nike company was started under the directed conditions of the Japan when the factory was still young. The company built a shoe factory as directed and has always aimed at making work better for personnel. Besides, Reeves (2010) for his part concurs with this assertion by adding that the conditions at the time of its creation 26 years ago have changed exceptionally. It is considered unfortunate that, the media exposure of the conditions of work today does not compare it to the factory conditions at the time of the companys initiation, claims (Reeves, 2010). Roth and Briar-Lawson (2011) adds that the conditions of factories today are almost 100% better compared to what they were, 26 year ago when the yen dollar was cut from its exchange rates. While conditions were tough during the period after the end of World War II when many shoe making companies quit the business, Nike still offered better working conditions and wages in Japan.
Claims that the company is making profits due to opting to overlook ethics and human rights have also been dismissed. The company has claimed that most of their successes have been due to effective business management (Tsogas, 2015). They sight for instance, the success during the recession where the company had workers from European countries like England. Then at the end of the recession, the company lost workers. Such conditions the prompted the company to move over to put up factories in regions outside the U.S. this opposes the claims that the company has targeted the developing world for their factories since in these regions considerations on human rights are not seriously monitored (Roth & Briar-Lawson, 2011). The company has further claimed that moving their factories back to U.S (Reeves, 2010). would mean that the retail cost would increase. The management has therefore claimed that the company has made major changes in ensuring that the working conditions for personnel are better. They have even sighted that the conditions of work in most factories have improved above a hundred percent today that they were in the 70s and the 80s.
Experts of contrary opinion also add that Nike company should be credited for being the first company to ever develop a code of conduct and make it mandatory. Moreover, the company has an international audit account firm that monitors their factory conditions (Tsogas, 2015). These business experts conclude that the company is a victim of public relations damage by the media as opposed to real ethical issues surrounding working conditions. In fact, the truth on the ground is that in all the cases where Nike has established their factories and stated operations, the wages have increased and the poverty levels have declined remarkably.
The truth is that, Nike has a lot to do in order to ensure that they redeem their image and should not blame the media (Huffington Post, 2011). While some experts are in support of sweetshops and are claiming that they are good for economic growth and improvement of living standards, the case is in fact the opposite. Sweatshops are going against human rights and denying the people the opportunity to grow with money earned from labor. Roth and Briar-Lawson (2011) explain that sweat shops are bringing economies and people down, they are harmful to global economy and they create a situation where countries and companies will be competing to lower wages. In the end the human working conditions and wages will be compromised (Huffington Post, 2011).
Companies like Nike are supposed to consider sweatshop exposure not as a media intention to ruin the companys image and to adjust their working conditions. As observed, these companies target developing countries where workers wages are little and the government does nothing to ensure that the conditions of work are lifted to the international levels and that the conditions meet the needs of workers (Banjo, 2014). In as much as companies like Nike intend to maximize profit, they should be aware that reduced wages only destroys the economy. Workers may be forced to lower their standards in order not to lose their jobs. Better working conditions and better wages ensure that workers are more productive as they are satisfied with their jobs and the earning motivates them to perform better.
Roth and Briar-Lawson (2011) supports this opinion by explaining that companies that employ people for small wages are not aware that such conditions are not going to help the country to move out of poverty. Sweatshop companies like Nike should work towards ensuring that workers earn wages that are satisfying and are able to use their income to support their lives (Roth & Briar-Lawson, 2011). Nike should aim at ensuring that their presence in the developing country is targeted towards benefiting the country and its people respect towards human rights and the ability to ensure that workers are not abused are ingredients that strengthen a companys name and brand (Banjo, 2014). The company has faced about seven years of consumer boycott of their products and this is because consumers have become aware of their labor conditions. Such protest may even destroy a companys bottom-line. In other words, the company should look into building its image through improving the working conditions.
Banjo, S., (2014). Inside Nike’s Struggle to Balance Cost and Worker Safety in Bangladesh. Wall Street Journal. Executives Were Divided Amid Debate Over Controlling Costs, Maintaining Safe Working Conditions. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from from:https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303873604579493502231397942
Huffington Post (2011). Nike Faces New Worker Abuse Claims In Indonesia. The Huffington post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/13/nike-faces-new-worker-abuse-indonesia_n_896816.html..
Kaufman, C., C., (2012). Getting past capitalism: history, vision, hope. Lanham, Md. : Lexington Books. Print
Reeves, J. E., (2010)The Parents Of CSR: Nike And Kathie Lee Gifford. Forbes. Retrieved from : https://www.forbes.com/sites/csr/2010/06/08/the-parents-of-csr-nike-and-kathie-lee-gifford/#7bd75ae6f416
Roth, W., & Briar-Lawson, K., (2011). Globalization, social justice, and the helping professions Albany: State University of New York Press. Print
Tsogas, G., (2015). Labor Regulation in a Global Economy. Routledge Tailor & Francis Group, USA New York. Print.