Exploitation of Overseas Labor / by kevin murray

America didn't become this great bastion of democratic virtue overnight, especially in regards to how labor, corporations, and government agencies conducted business with each other.  Even today, within our borders, there are illegal "sweatshops" in NYC, in LA, along with our imported and exploited migrant farm workers.  However, with a free press, publicity, legal teams, and a general concern for social justice, exploitation of labor workers within the USA is a constant battle to which labor at least has a voice and a chance for change, justice, and fairness.  Today, for much of America there are specific labor laws that are applicable which protect and enhance the working experience so that employees are compensated at an agreed upon wage, with working conditions that are civil and fair.


Fast forward to our modern-day world and the biggest corporations in the world are often multi-national conglomerates with branches and employees all over the globe.  Often these corporations have a choice as to where to conduct certain aspects of their business, whether here or overseas, to which the cost to create product, the availability and knowhow of labor, the cost of infrastructure, and tax considerations are all significant factors in the ultimate decision that is made.  It doesn't take a genius to understand that if the overall costs are significantly lower in a foreign land, that these firms will take their business and workload to those countries.  After all, they are greatly concerned with their profits, their gross margin, and often they have competitive considerations to attend to.


The fundamental question that must be asked, though, is does our duty to our fellow man, end at our borders or should our principles and our obligations be attached to our American-based corporation, so that consequently they are morally bound to uphold our standards throughout the world as representatives of this great nation.  It would seem that this question has already been answered, as the labor conditions in factories located in countries such as China are often shown to be appalling with excessive labor hours, the usage of dangerous chemicals and inhalation of chemical fumes, oppressive living conditions, under-age workers, and always an overriding demand to make things better, quicker, faster, smarter, and cheaper in order to fulfill not only the contract to the master contractor but to turn a profit for the Chinese factory and/or maintain or earn bonuses for the management and the ownership of said factory.


While big American conglomerates are quick to point out how much they have done to assure that their overseas factory conditions are fair and in compliance with their supplier responsibility programs, they often see only what they want to see, and ignore what they want or need to ignore.  After all, the bottom line for these massive multi-national companies is money, gross margin, profitability, quality, timeliness, and performance, consequently they will allow themselves to be "fooled" or hoodwinked by these factories, because it is perceived to be in their best interests to do so.


The exploitation of overseas labor will continue as long as it is the corporations themselves that police their own actions and their compliance.  Only with a truly independent, international, and/or government body or bodies interfacing with these multi-national companies will meaningful change commence as these corporations hold the upper hand by virtue of the fact that they dangle the allure of the carrot while their overseas factories wield the stick.