Nike, Nestle, and Shell, what do they all have in common?
Besides the fact that they are all transnational corporations, they all have some sort of labour law. This labour law ensures that all workers will be able to be paid minimum wage, have a maximum amount of working hours, and enforce proper working conditions, to name a few. Although companies comply by these labour laws the majority of the time, it does not always happen. All three companies have had reports surface that they were not enforcing the labour laws, and there were accounts of exploiting their workers. When confronted with these accusations, the corporations admitted to having lax labour laws, though each of varying degrees, and taking the next step to change it. Though awareness has been brought to this issue, there are still accounts of abuse in such work environments.
In 2011, an article came out stating that Nike workers are still being “physically and mentally abused” (Nike workers ‘kicked, sapped, and verbally abused’ at factories making Converse, 2011). When Nestle was found to have most of their cocoa from Ivory Coast, it was discovered that children were working in unsafe environments to get cocoa which would be shipped across the sea to make chocolate and coffee (Nestlé Vows Action on Cocoa Child Labour in Ivory Coast, 2012). Shell has had a report come out in 2013, after an incident which led workers to be taken to the hospital. The workers were not told they would come in contact with such a gas, and were not given the proper protective gear, but only beeping monitors, were this event to happen (Bowen, 2015).
A possible theoretic interpretation would be Marx’s idea of capitalism. The owners of Nike and those who are overseeing the factories are the bourgeoisie, while the workers take on the role of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie want to keep the power they have, and so exploit the proletariat to do so. In such working conditions, they have a hand over the proletariat, who know they can be fired and/or punished at any time if they do not follow what they were told to do, even if it is unreasonable. There is an abuse of power happening in such corporations. The rich want to stay rich, by pushing the poor to become even poorer, and lower the standards. Some corporations have taken action to reduce this, but in some parts of the world, it is still occurring, and more severe actions need to be taken.
Do they have a responsibility to enforce certain labour practices at their factories in all parts of the world?
How is having positive labour practices globally important?
women are finishing their shift at an Indonesian factory, but are afraid to speak out
worker wanting better labour laws; less abusive conditions
workers striking to have their voices heard
How does this affect Canadians?
How do lax labour laws affect the quality of life of all humans?
“Work is part of everyone's daily life and is crucial to a person's dignity, well-being and development as a human being” (The benefits of International Labour Standards, 2015). Labour laws help protect human rights and ensure that they are treated fairly, to get paid and to work in an environment that is not detrimental to them. Lax labour laws, however, give such corporations the power to abuse their power, and to treat others in such a way as slaves would be treated. They can be forced to work longer hours without pay, firing without a good reason, and in one case, “being forbidden to go to the bathroom” (Nike workers ‘kicked, slapped, and verbally abused’ at factories making Converse, 2011). This leads to having negative energy among the workers and those they work for. It puts extra stress on them, which can be pushed over in their family lives. This can cause arguments and uneasiness among each other.
Weber believes that status and power are two of the most important characteristics that help to define social inequality. In this case, the supervisors of factories at Nike hold too much power, as those who work for them feel unable to speak out, or they will be treated harshly, punished for whatever they do. The children who work for Nestle do not feel the power to speak up, the Nestle workers are fired after trying to strike, (Nestlé workers struggle for their rights as shareholders prepare for annual celebration, 2011). The workers at Shell are striking to get their voices heard (Stangler, 2015).
What can WE do?
Although this seems like something happening far away, it could most definitely happen to you, a family member, or a friend. Labour laws affect everyone, and here are a few things we can do to help improve the lives of many:
Support efforts to eliminate child labour through purchases of clothing, toys, food, etc. containing labels such as those of fair trade,
Provide awareness in school by creating clubs that cater towards promoting healthy work environments,
Post through social media to tell your friends and followers about it,
Urge the government to have random checks on the corporations so they will be kept accountable for what they do,
Ask news agencies to write stories about this to make the issue more well-known to the public,
Start an organization! We can make the change we strive to make.