Disney does Bangledesh
June 20, 2002 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Disney does Bangledesh "For the last 8 years, young women at the Shah Makdhum factory in Bangladesh have been forced to work over 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, denied maternity benefits, beaten and paid just 15 cents for every $17.99 Disney shirts they sewed." "Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney, pays himself $133 million a year, or about $63,000 and hour. It would take a worker in Bangladesh sewing Disney garments for 12 cents an hour 210 years to earn what Eisner does in an hour."
posted by headlemur (55 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
If you think that's scary you should read NoLogo by Naomi... forgotten the last name, think it's klein.

Almost finished the last chapter and have to say it's the most interesting piece of journalism I've read in years - GLOBAL CORPORATIONS ARE EVIL KIDS - but what do you do?
posted by twistedonion at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2002


Forced? How, exactly, were they forced?

They should be thankful now - Disney isn't forcing them to work anymore. Of course, Disney isn't paying them anymore, either.

On preview, global corporations also put money into stagnant, third world economies. As long as the workers are able to choose whether or not to be employed by them, what's the problem?
posted by syzygy at 7:11 AM on June 20, 2002


As long as the workers are able to choose whether or not to be employed by them, what's the problem?

Here's the problem... you are a heavily pregnant woman, and have two choices - work (harder than you or I probably have in our whole lives) for pittance and probably harm your unborn child, or die.

Is that really a choice...

btw, I'm totally for Capitalism, but with a conscience - there's very little difference, imo, in the way Slaves were treated by landowners 100 years ago, and the way the 3rd world is treated by Corporations today
posted by twistedonion at 7:27 AM on June 20, 2002


Forced as in if you don't work these hours you cannot keep your job.

The problem is that if Disney gets away with this kind of employment practice so will everyone else. Read up on the history of labor and unions, maybe. I'd recomend Zinn's _The People's History of the United States of America_ for somethng that might put this in perspective. Start at about 1890 and read through 1915 for a start.

Paying the bare minimum in wages and pushing workers to work 105 hours a week is hardly investing in a 3rd world economy. "Investing in a 3rd world economy" _usually_ means paying wages and empowering workers with the goal of getting that economy to the point that the workers are consumers themselves within a decade or three. A better description of what Disney is doing is "exploitation." They are turning human labor into $$ in the most efficient way possible and then taking all the money back to the US.
posted by n9 at 7:28 AM on June 20, 2002


well, if there aren't any other jobs around and they want to survive, or are trying to support families, then you could say that in one way they are being forced to work there.

just because people aren't "forced" to work at your company is no excuse to treat them badly.
as to global corporations putting money into stagnant third world economies, they don't always do so in the best way. i'm sure there are many places that were better off before america came to town.
posted by witchstone at 7:29 AM on June 20, 2002


slaves were treated better, I would say, because they were (perversely) valued as an asset by their owners. These people are easily replaced at next to no cost. Again Zinn's book illustrates how poor blacks and whites fared worse than slaves under the industrialists and farm-owners post-emancipation.
posted by n9 at 7:31 AM on June 20, 2002


Please Note: This action has been discontinued.
posted by hob at 7:32 AM on June 20, 2002


Here's the problem... you are a heavily pregnant woman, and have two choices - work (harder than you or I probably have in our whole lives) for pittance and probably harm your unborn child, or die.

Is that really a choice...


So Disney pulls out, and none of these women have jobs. You see, Disney created the jobs in the first place. Before Disney, there were no Disney jobs. What did these women do before that? Die?

Why did they choose to work for Disney in the first place? Probably because they weighed the costs / benefits and decided that the jobs were the best options available to them. If they realized later that their claculations were off, and the costs of working for Disney outweighed the benefits of working for Disney, I'm sure they had the option of returning to their pre Disney employment.

Forced as in if you don't work these hours you cannot keep your job.

Just like I'm forced to work 40 hours per week, or I lose my job. Oh, the humanity!
posted by syzygy at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2002


Most of the people expressing outrage at the "exploitation" of these women couldn't give a fig about their welfare. These people are just shills for the unions which are afraid of lower prices and competition.
posted by mikegre at 7:40 AM on June 20, 2002


Just like I'm forced to work 40 hours per week, or I lose my job. Oh, the humanity!

The arrogance of some people really pisses me off and I really hope that people like yourself someday experience the type of hardship these people go through every day - elitist f**kwit
posted by twistedonion at 7:43 AM on June 20, 2002


[mikegre]

Most of the people expressing outrage at the "exploitation" of these women couldn't give a fig about their welfare. These people are just shills for the unions which are afraid of lower prices and competition.


Whoa! Charming *and* clairvoyant!
posted by bifter at 7:45 AM on June 20, 2002


A quick Googling has shown that many of the top retailers have some sort of suit against them for exploitation of third-world workers. Are there any exceptional good-guy retailers out there?
posted by MJoachim at 7:52 AM on June 20, 2002


> So Disney pulls out, and none of these women
> have jobs.

That's a false dichotomy.

Disney could stay in Bangadesh, make plenty of money, and not be evil. You don't have to work women "over 15 hours a day, 7 days a week," to turn an easy profit even when you pay people great wages by Bangadesh standards.

So there are at least three options: Disney can choose to stay and make lots of money morally while helping the local community, stay and exploit poor, or pull out of Bangledesh, perhaps to exploit the poor where no one has caught on to them yet.

It is a moral choice that Disney management must make as human beings.
posted by pracowity at 8:02 AM on June 20, 2002


Just like I'm forced to work 40 hours per week, or I lose my job.

Really? Wow, that sucks. You have my sympathy. :(
posted by rushmc at 8:02 AM on June 20, 2002


That's a false dichotomy.

It's not a false dichotomy, it's a fact. Disney HAS pulled out and these women don't have jobs any longer.

And if Disney isn't paying what amounts to a decent wage by Bangladeshi standards, how in the hell were they able to hire anyone in the first place?
posted by syzygy at 8:11 AM on June 20, 2002


Please Note: This action has been discontinued.

Jeez, MeFi has become like just another bad email acount.
posted by HTuttle at 8:12 AM on June 20, 2002


Just like I'm forced to work 40 hours per week, or I lose my job.

Poor Boo-bie... you must be one of those dotcom weaned, entitled kiddies.
posted by HTuttle at 8:16 AM on June 20, 2002


Here's the problem... you are a heavily pregnant woman, and have two choices - work (harder than you or I probably have in our whole lives) for pittance and probably harm your unborn child, or die.

What the hell are they having children for then? If it is that bad, they shouldn't perpetuate the misery.

Don't confuse our standard of living with theirs.
posted by a3matrix at 8:16 AM on June 20, 2002


What the hell are they having children for then? If it is that bad, they shouldn't perpetuate the misery.

Probably because the more children they have, the better their chances of being looked after when they are no longer employable - it's not as if they have a pension scheme. If you look at any impoverished society, the family size is much bigger than 2.5 children or whatever it is in the 'educated' countries.
posted by twistedonion at 8:23 AM on June 20, 2002


Don't confuse our standard of living with theirs.

Why not? Are we better? Or worth more? what's so special about us, other than being born in the right place, right time?
posted by twistedonion at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2002


Why not? Are we better? Or worth more? what's so special about us, other than being born in the right place, right time?

Moral equivalency has become the new Goodwin's law.
posted by HTuttle at 8:42 AM on June 20, 2002


Are there any exceptional good-guy retailers out there?

I doubt it. If you're paying less than $100 for any item of clothing other than a basic white undershirt, you're probably underwriting this form of slavery. It's no different than the cheap produce you get off the slave wages paid to immigrant crop-pickers, or the cheap chicken mcnuggets you get off the slave wages paid to immigrant slaughterhouse workers, or the cheap CPUs and disk drives you got off the slave wages paid to malaysian factory workers, or ... I could go on all day. The point: Being "Western" is about living off the backs of those willing (for whatever reason) to work for slave wages. If you don't like it, work to change it! You can start by throwing out your computers, TVs, cars, PDAs, fast food, cheap cloths, Nikes, and really just about everything you own, including the shirt off your back!
posted by plaino at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2002


If you're paying less than $100 for any item of clothing other than a basic white undershirt, you're probably underwriting this form of slavery.

Not if you buy that item from SweatX.

Their motto is "Clothes with a Conscience:"
Designed and manufactured entirely within Los Angeles, SweatX clothing is made by teamX inc., an employee owned, and unionized garment factory.
posted by charlesv at 9:02 AM on June 20, 2002


If you don't like it, work to change it! You can start by throwing out your computers, TVs, cars, PDAs, fast food, cheap cloths, Nikes, and really just about everything you own, including the shirt off your back!

Or you could only buy from good, wholesome corporations who do not exploit the poor. Oh, I forgot, there aren't any, 'cos deep down we don't really care.

I know I don't. Do you?
posted by fullerine at 9:04 AM on June 20, 2002


->>That's a false dichotomy.

It's not a false dichotomy, it's a fact. Disney HAS pulled out and these women don't have jobs any longer.

And if Disney isn't paying what amounts to a decent wage by Bangladeshi standards, how in the hell were they able to hire anyone in the first place?<--

No, it IS a false dichotomy...or was. There was still a third option, outlined above. Just because disney took the "pull out" option doesn't mean there were no other choices.

I just cannot see where it becomes morally acceptable to fuck people over because you CAN. "A fact of life?" perhaps. But just because you have some bullshit justification worked up that lets you fool yourself into sleeping peacefully every night, doesn't mean that exploiting other people is justifiable, or right. It just means your greed exceeds your humanity.

upon preview:
"If you don't like it, work to change it! You can start by throwing out your computers, TVs, cars, PDAs, fast food, cheap cloths, Nikes, and really just about everything you own, including the shirt off your back!
"
well, you are half right. work toward change. but the idea that you have to throw everything you have away and live like a caveman is bullshit, and its sole purpose is to make the questioning of these business practices seem somehow like the ramblings of misanthropic ludites.
posted by das_2099 at 9:07 AM on June 20, 2002


From the Sweat-X website:

We currently sell our full line of apparel only in wholesale quantities.

There were a few shirts available on a promotional basis for $20/shirt which means they aren't making a profit at this price. To buy the same T-shirt at a retailer would cost an additional 50% factory markup (the manufacturer's profit) plus 100% markup at the retail chain. For this scheme to work, that $20 (already more than I would pay) promotional T-shirt would have to sell for 2*($20 + 0.5($20))=$60 !!
posted by plaino at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2002


Suitcase nuke.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:20 AM on June 20, 2002


I really hope that people like yourself someday experience the type of hardship these people go through every day - elitist f**kwit

And just think, I had you pegged as a caring, humanitarian philanthropist.

If the Disney jobs are such a hardship, why does anyone continue to work for Disney in Bangladesh? Perhaps because Disney jobs offer the best economic opportunity around. (And remember, "economic opportunity" doesn't just refer to income.)

I met a 22 year old tour guide / hotel employee in Yangshuo, southern China 2 weeks ago. Liang told me she makes 10 RMB ($1.20) per day. If she works 8 hours a day, she's making $.15 per hour.

Perhaps the hotel she's working for should be closed down immediately. I mean, how can they do that to such a poor, sweet young girl? It's inhumane! I'll find the name of the hotel, and we can start a campaign to have these crooks shut down.

I'm sure Liang will be much better off back in her small village, cultivating rice by hand, day in and day out. I only wonder why she doesn't realize how horribly she has it right now, and quit on her own.
posted by syzygy at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2002


but the idea that you have to throw everything you have away and live like a caveman is bullshit

I find it compelling that you equate [ living without things made using slave labor ] and [ living like a caveman ].

Besides, it's not "bullshit" unless your position is that you are only willing to fight for the exploited-poor after you've gotten what you want outta them.
posted by plaino at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2002


If you're paying less than $100 for any item of clothing other than a basic white undershirt, you're probably underwriting this form of slavery.
Actually, it's not as difficult as you think to find affordable, domestically produced clothing. Just make the effort and avoid the slick marketing. I recently found a quality pair of unbranded, unmarketed dress pants for $45 CDN, tailored for another $8 at a major department store. The only label in them was the washing instructions. The employees of the store and the clothing manufacture may earn minimum wage, but they also enjoy health care, employment insurance, paid vacations, their children have access to education and they funnel their money back in to the economy. Generally, if you're a slave to the brand names, yes, you are more often than not supporting and perpetuating exploitative relationships. But to suggest that it is all or nothing -- live in a mudhut or victimize the third world -- is obscenely narrowminded and reductive.
Little decisions you make every day have great effects. Think of California's power supply problem and how much of an improvement was realized through education and basic water conservation strategies. Composting and recycling drastically reduce the amount of waste diverted to landfills.
posted by ludicdruid at 9:45 AM on June 20, 2002


i'm not so worried about the wages being paid, because i don't know if it's a decent wage for that economy or not. i do, though, wonder about the 105 hours a week for that wage, and the claim of beatings.

how many people here would work 105 hours weekly for your wages? if these wages are decent, meaning they cover the costs of your boarding and food and necessities such as clothing, would any of us be willing to work that many hours just to get by? it's easy to dismiss third world people's employment woes out-of-hand when you live in a country with labor laws.

how about a little compassion for your fellow human?

or, if you just don't give a fuck what happens to those people as long as you get your consumer products cheaply and are able to maintain your lifestyle, then have the balls to admit it instead of hiding behind "But the company is doing them the favor!" just say it: i don't give a fuck.
posted by tolkhan at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2002


Plaino:

no, i equate giving up "really just about everything you own, including the shirt off your back!" as living like a caveman. I consider clothing to pretty damned important. mainly because it gets pretty cold around here. I am partial to "really just about everything i own" as adopting hermit status at least. Please don't take the term caveman too literally.

And sorry, it IS bullshit. so is your argument that "you are only willing to fight for the exploited-poor after you've gotten what you want outta them." That assumes we are starting right now with nothing, and purchasing everything from here out. you know, like a cosmic "do over". Your argument is pretty much " well, you are already fucking over the poor in 3 countries, what is the difference if you are helping enslave another?" 3 is one less than 4. Simple enough, right?

What I am suggesting is that there are some things you can STOP doing, if you are doing them now, and AVOID doing in the future.

example: i have been Vegan for about 5 years. SInce i made that decision, I have purchased no leather goods. I still have and wear a leather belt, and a leather pair of shoes that I have had for about 7 years. This bunches up the panties of a number of other vegans i know. They go on about the symbolism of it, and how that doesn't help support the vegan manufacturers, and etc. But that is asking me to throw away existing, perfectly functional (and very expensive, i might add) items when there is no reason to do so. What I choose to do instead, is buy a "animal friendly" (ugh) product wen the time comes.
See? I am no longer supporting the industry that i have a problem with (they already have my money), I still support another industry in my next purchase, and I keep the belt.

No where in there was a decision to get the belt and THEN complain about the industry that created it, or as you may see it, championing the cause after exploiting the workers.

Why is it that in order to change the future you are insisting that it is necessary to change the past?

The issue of course now is, well, you may WANT something that company X manufactures, but you have found out that they are BAD (tm). ignorance is bliss eh? Hey, if you are comfortable fucking over other people to get a nike shirt, or some hideous thing with a pooh or tigger sewn on, fine. But don't try to play that " everyone else is doing it" bullshit with me.

ds

on rpreview:
tolkhan.

i think you said wayyy better than i did
posted by das_2099 at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2002


i don't know if it's a decent wage for that economy or not.

you can check the purchasing power parity here (what it costs for a big mac :)

i'm kind of torn between evil capitalist pigs and potential bootstrap progress. like industrialization in the US caused severe dislocations that really weren't rectified until the organization of labor. but all in all i think it worked out pretty well.

the difference is that it's foreign corporations calling the shots in the third world so there's less incentive for industry operating there to do the right thing and less leverage from labor to make them do it.

what i think is sorta encouraging though are recent trends in socially responsible investing and wholesale capital outflows from the US to 'emerging markets'. like as a gauge the US dollar is weakening while overseas currencies are doing relatively better. this imho is a good thing!
posted by kliuless at 12:07 PM on June 20, 2002


word. Maybe it ought to be standard that the people who only care about themselves's names show up a different color. Something like "I don't give a fuck fuscha" or "Pro-Oppression Orange" so that we know where they stand. Color me depressed at these attitudes.

And just for the record, *I* can make a pair of pants for about $8 worth of fabric and less than an hour of time with a sewing machine. It is impossible to sell a shirt for $18 and ot make a massive profit... if ifit was made in the first world.
posted by n9 at 12:14 PM on June 20, 2002


Why not? Are we better? Or worth more?

Well, technically we are worth more because those who came before us created a society, an economy and a government which led to a dramatic expansion of wealth, and we both reap the benefits of that system and continue to play a role in it to help sustain it.
posted by rushmc at 1:04 PM on June 20, 2002


Something like "I don't give a fuck fuscha" or "Pro-Oppression Orange"

indifference is not oppression, nor does indifference to the plight of third-world population mean that someone is selfish.

Color me depressed at these attitudes

why? why should we expect everyone to care about everyone else? should we care about everyone equally? do you care the same for you neighbor as you do for someone in some cave in central Asia? what have you done for the guy living in the alley down the street from where you work? have you done enough? really, do you need that computer and internet connection, or would it be better spent helping to prevent diabetes in Native Americans? or does your compassion only go so far? if it does only go so far, if it allows you the luxuries you have, then you shouldn't be condemning or demonize others for their lesser or nonexistent compassion.

it's all about degrees, and if you aren't spending one hundred percent of your time, effort and money helping others, you're just as responsible for the poor Bangladeshi women in sweatshops as anyone who says they just don't give a fuck.
posted by tolkhan at 1:53 PM on June 20, 2002


Tolkhan -- were you asking me why I was depressed at some point in that post? You're a real piece of work. And a fool.
posted by n9 at 2:21 PM on June 20, 2002


I just read this entire thread to date in one go, and I can't remember the last time I was this depressed. Somehow the "couldn't give a damn" mentality comes across much stronger than the "give a damn" one, even though the arguments of the latter are by far the better reasoned.

For reference, there are any number of organisations that can help people who don't want to purchase products created by means of exploitative practices. Fairtrade.net has information on Fair Trade initiatives in various countries, while here in the UK, The Fairtrade Foundation and GetEthical have details on specific products. More broadly, The Ethical Trading Initiative is a group of companies, unions and NGOs, attempting to engender decent standards in employment and production. Its Base Code has nine provisions:

1) Employment is freely chosen. 2) Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining is respected. 3) Working conditions are safe and hygienic. 4) Child labour shall not be used. 5) Living wages are paid. 6) Working hours are not excessive. 7) No discrimination is practised. 8) Regular employment is provided. 9) No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed.

Is it just me, or should none of this seem at all unreasonable?

Speaking for myself, I don't buy the products of companies who disregard these standards. That clearly depends on me being aware of who they are, and since I can't guarantee that I am, I've probably bought things from companies that ideally I shouldn't have. But unlike I suspect quite a few people here would, I make a specific and determined effort to keep that awareness up. It's a compromise, and so I'm not particularly proud of it, but I think it's important at least to make the effort.

On preview: tolkhan, I, for one, certainly don't expect everyone to care about everyone else - my opinion of human nature fell well below that level a long time ago.
posted by jonpollard at 2:22 PM on June 20, 2002


and, btw, there is a big difference between my wanting to be able to do more to help people who are suffering and your admonishing me for being sad that other people don't care. And as for indifference not being a component of oppression, read a history book for God's sake... it's only the Most Important Lesson you didn't seem to learn from the 20th century. For crying out loud. /me goes back under the rock.
posted by n9 at 2:29 PM on June 20, 2002


i am indifferent toward you (calling me a piece of work and a fool, notwithstanding). that does not mean i'm oppressing you.

i did not say that one of the components of oppression wasn't indifference, only that indifference wasn't necessarily a component of oppression.

is there any need to imply that i'm un/under/ill-educated? is there a need to cast me down before you can present and refute an argument?

asking about why someone is depressed about it was a general question, not aimed at you specifically. i'm curious. why be depressed that other people don't care more? does it change in any way what you feel about the downtrodden or what you do for them? i see it as 'Do what you have to do without worrying whether others don't want to help you.'

also, i asked the questions for the sake of discussion. i haven't indicated whether i'm in the All For Helping or Don't Give a Fuck camps.
posted by tolkhan at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2002


And just in case it wasn't clear, I wasn't putting you in either.
posted by jonpollard at 2:48 PM on June 20, 2002



If you're paying less than $100 for any item of clothing other than a basic white undershirt, you're probably underwriting this form of slavery.


That's ridiculous! According to the article, they were paying $0.15 for an $18 shirt. If they payed $1.50 per shirt, which would raise wages by a factor of ten it would still cost less than $20 for a shirt.
posted by electro at 4:02 PM on June 20, 2002


A lot of goods that are manufactured in third world economies by multinational corporations are done by fair means. I can only speak for India where companies like Unilever, Proctor and Gamble have largely been fair and ethical and where the labour in many instances are unionized (well,the unions are largely corrupt, but that's a different issue). There are countries like Singapore where the government actively used the assembly line productions outsourced to their country to move up the value chain (Ira Magaziner wrote an excellent article on the subject). Not all multinationals exploited infrastructural/societal constraints badly. But many obviously do. Enron's ouster of villagers in Maharastra with the active assistance of the state government is something that everyone in that state now feels free to talk about. I cite that example to show that people who would exploit the disadvantaged would probably do so anywhere, it is just the strength of legal and societal infrastructures that stops them from doing so everywhere.

In places where no legal safeguards exist, there would always be people/corporations who would try to exploit the system. One also hopes that there would always be people/organizations who would try to intervene. It took a war to eliminate slavery in USA, sanctions and a variety of other means to bring the racist regime in South Africa to its knees and a war to take out Milosevik.

In countries like China where a totalitarian regime turns a blind eye to the exploitation of its people or in Bangladesh where the toothless regime can't or don't care, outside interventions can sometimes (but not always) bring about positive changes. I can quite understand people not caring for other people who live very far away. But I somehow don't get the hostility that I sometimes feel in the air whenever this subject comes up.
posted by justlooking at 4:07 PM on June 20, 2002


it's all about degrees, and if you aren't spending one hundred percent of your time, effort and money helping others, you're just as responsible for the poor Bangladeshi women in sweatshops as anyone who says they just don't give a fuck.

Ah, I thought I smelled something cooking in here. Crock ala tu quoque, a not uncommon dish on MetaFilter.

Ok, so I took a 10 minute break the other day from my usual well-known 100% effort. I oppressed the women of Bangladesh. Eisner...Nike...Gap...fold_and_mutilate. Sweatshops R Us. I admit it!

~sob~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:37 PM on June 20, 2002


> I can quite understand people not caring for other
> people who live very far away. But I somehow don't
> get the hostility that I sometimes feel in the air
> whenever this subject comes up.

Some people hate anything that suggests unregulated businessmen will do wrong. They hate even thinking about the idea that there is a right and wrong, a good and bad, in business other than the "right" of making more money and the "wrong" of making less. They reject the moral burden. They therefore feel threatened, in this case, by the suggestion that Disney should not simply pay the lowest possible wages and charge the highest possible prices it can get away with.
posted by pracowity at 1:27 AM on June 21, 2002


I love much of the (non) logic I see in this thread. Let's stop buying from sweatshops and put them out of business because we know better than the sweatshop employees how raw of a deal they (the employees) are getting.

And someone called ME an elitist f**kwit! I, who think that these Bangladeshi women who choose to work for Disney shops probably know better than you or I what is good for them (at least in a day to day economic sense). You're taking away the job that they choose to do. You're reducing the number of economic choices they have. Sure, shut down their sweatshops and send them back to the fields. Youk know what's best for them, after all...

Thinking you know what's better for the unwashed masses than the unwashed masses do is real elitism.

And as for not caring, I've travelled. I've met these people. I don't do package tours in an air conditioned bus - I steer clear of the tourists and the areas maintained for them and try to meet as many natives as I can. I'm seriously considering a move to mainland China right now. I've learned, in my travels, that people can find happiness even when they're living in some rural backwater, making an obscenely low salary (by your or my standards), living in conditions that most of you would abhor (there are more than 1 million Mongolian nomads who spend their lives in Gers and thousands of Gers are set up in Ulaan Bator, Mongolia's largest city. Many Chinese live with no running water or bathing facilities. I've seen them from a kayak bathing and washing their clothes in the Li Jiang.)

I care, and I would like to see these people working in better conditions. But I also know that these people choose to work in these conditions of their own free will. No one marches them to the factories at gunpoint (if and when that happened, I would be really upset).
posted by syzygy at 2:52 AM on June 21, 2002


> And as for not caring, I've travelled.

And I have been to the hospital, but I'm not a doctor. Your being a tourist or traveling salesman or whatever does not make you caring or right. You don't live in a Ger or wash in the Li Jiang. You have watched other people do so, perhaps on your way to the next hotel. You certainly don't sew in a factory for 12 cents an hour or you wouldn't call it a free choice, as if it were like you choosing between Mercedes or Rover.

> Thinking you know what's better for the unwashed
> masses than the unwashed masses do is real elitism.

You can employ people in Bangladesh for 12 cents an hour and they will take it as being better than nothing, as being less painful to them and their children than not having any income. If you consider that a real choice, that's your business. (If you work for Disney, maybe it really is your business.) But when corporate managers can painlessly do more -- perhaps, for the sake of argument, pay just 50 cents an hour, and still make an enormous profit, so that the extra 38 cents an hour means nothing to the overall cost of production or the profit margin -- to not pay the extra money would be willful cruelty to the workers and their children.

And considering the wasted good PR opportunities and the potential and actual bad PR opportunities (like this one) for their companies, business managers who drastically underpay foreign workers are just stupid.
posted by pracowity at 5:08 AM on June 21, 2002


$0.15 a shirt doesn't seem too terrible to me. Does anybody know what the standard wage is in Bangladesh?

Growing up, my mom worked in near sweatshop conditions in Portland textile shops (admittedly not nearly so bad as working in third-world sweatshops) and was also paid by the piece.

On something as simple as t-shirts, she'd have quotas as high as 40-50 pieces an hour. If these Bangladeshi women were making 15 cents/shirt but only 12 cents/hour then they weren't very good with a sewing machine.


Does Disney have an obligation to provide living wages, even if that isn't the local standard? It isn't a completely black and white issue for me, but I'm pretty much on the "yes" side of that question. But before I completely condemn Disney, I would like more information on where Disney's pay and hours were in relation to the local standards?
posted by obfusciatrist at 6:27 AM on June 21, 2002


if the abused person in an abusive relationship is able to find some sort of happiness while in the abusive relationship does that make the abuser's actions right? not to me.

i'm not trying to assign happiness or unhappiness to the people who work in sweatshops, i am saying that i don't agree with abusive and greedy practices by businesses.
posted by witchstone at 6:32 AM on June 21, 2002


slightly modified:
You can employ people in Austria for €50k per year and they will take it as being better than nothing, as being less painful to them and their children than not having any income. If you consider that a real choice, that's your business. (If you work for Disney, maybe it really is your business.) But when corporate managers can painlessly do more -- perhaps, for the sake of argument, pay just €60k per year, and still make an enormous profit, so that the extra €10k per year means nothing to the overall cost of production or the profit margin -- to not pay the extra money would be willful cruelty to the workers and their children.

You really don't have a point here, do you?
posted by syzygy at 8:19 AM on June 21, 2002


Ah, but in Austria they can't typically raise wages so significantly without losing their profits, not unless they're selling the products in some mythical land where people make much, much more than they do in Austria. The margins usually aren't wide enough for the 10K increase you suggest.

But in Bangladesh, if they're paying 12 cents an hour for products they sell for quite a bit of money overseas in rich countries, they might be able to make a dramatic increase -- perhaps even quintuple their wages -- and not make a significant difference to the final product cost.

And in Bangladesh, which has the worst rate of malnutrition in the world, the worker's choice is very often either to keep one very bad job or to not eat at all.

In Austria (which, by the way, was host of the 11th European Congress on Obesity in 2001), there's a much, much better job market with plenty of opportunity to find something better, and, for people who cannot find a job or are too old or sick to work, there are plenty of comfortable options provided by the government. You won't go hungry in Austria unless you run from help.

You're lucky. They're not. It would be petty to begrudge them an increase you won't feel.
posted by pracowity at 10:39 AM on June 21, 2002


But in Bangladesh, if they're paying 12 cents an hour for products they sell for quite a bit of money overseas in rich countries, they might be able to make a dramatic increase -- perhaps even quintuple their wages -- and not make a significant difference to the final product cost.

How do you think that companies should determine how much to pay someone?

Or rather, if Disney decides that they're going to pay someone 50 cents an hour to make shirts, why should they pay that to someone in Bangladesh instead of to someone in (say) Guatemala who is probably better educated, healthier, much closer to the final markets, and therefore more productive?
posted by jaek at 11:37 AM on June 21, 2002


> How do you think that companies should determine
> how much to pay someone?

That's as complicated as (and not separate from) asking how companies should choose in the first place which countries to move into for the use of low-wage labor. Business plans are not simple. Countries are not simple. Each plan would have to be unique. But if a company is moving into a country with a business plan to take advantage of the disparity between that country's average income and that of the target markets, it should balance the desire and need for making a profit (which all companies should have) with the desire and need for doing good (which all people should have). A company (of people, not a blameless machine) can make great amounts of money and do great amounts of good at the same time. It (and they -- the people we ultimately must praise or blame for the company's actions) should in any case consider the good it could do for its foreign workers when it draws up business plans. Reducing the business plan to the absolute amount of cash to be had in the main office in country X to the possible detriment of the people in countries Y and Z is to reduce the managers to money-grabbing machines who may as well rob foreign banks or swindle old ladies if such actions are equally possible to them.

If they start with good intent, there is a fair chance that they will do good.
posted by pracowity at 2:27 PM on June 21, 2002


It is unfortunate a company that takes my money I've earned from an ethical source, unless I work hard making sure they don't. Obvious no ethics here. Nor have I heard you have to have ethics to be a business owner. Why, back in the day, you would be out of buisness. It just makes me wonder why I had to take an ethics class with my engineering courses. Maybe the finger should be pointed at the government that allows it, yes there is more to that story on both sides and government. I think Mickey could care less and face it, they have Gooffey for Ethics. That's why I worked at Knott's Berry Farm. Remember, Disney is union, so is that a union label on those T-shirts?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2002


A side note from working at KBF. I sold authentic pro Baseball hats. Most people from the Orient would point out that they can buy the same "NY Yankee" cap at home. Where do I get the one that says, Made In the U.S.A. they would ask. And they would go as far as wanting a refund for a refund(?)and then berate me and call me names. Then one day I realized, they thought we had a stash saved for US citizens. So it will have some percussion, unless all those Made in the USA commercials are just hype, for them. Now what name would you like on the sailor hat.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:58 PM on June 21, 2002


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