Critical Thinking Exercise 4: Globalization
Modern capitalism has always been global in its orientation but now global production networks reach across the world and violate basic human rights at work. News of these violations are not new. In the 1990s the Nike CEO was forced to declare that Nike had ‘become synonymous with slave wages, forced over-time and arbitrary abuse’ (Cushman, 1998). The garment industry has become worried about the risk of ‘sweatshop stigma’ (Bartley and Child, 2007). Nokia were found to be including Congolese and Rwandan warlords using slave labour in their supply chain (Smith and Mantz, 2006). In 2010 the managers of H&M were dismayed to learn of a deadly fire that had engulfed a supplier’s factory in Bangladesh and that workers had been locked inside (Vallas, 2012). One of Apple’s and Sony’s contractors (Foxconn) was found to have working conditions so poor that 18 workers threw themselves from the tops of the company's buildings, resulting in 14 deaths (Moore, 2012). Even more recently Primark and other major retailers have admitted to sourcing clothing from a factory that collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1129 people (Butler, 2013). This organizational behaviour shocks us.
What is your response to these facts? Do you want to find out more for yourself about how companies treat their workers? Does this organizational behaviour influence your buying behaviour? Do you want to make a change in management for the future? If yes, how would you do this? For example, would you boycott a company’s goods?
Bartley, T. and Child, C. (2007) Shaming the corporation: reputation, globalization and the dynamics of anti-corporate movements, Bloomington, IN: Department of Sociology, Indiana University.
Butler, S (2013) Bangladeshi factory deaths spark action among high-street clothing chains, The Observer, 23rd June.
Cushman, J.H. (1998) Nike pledges to end child labor and increase safety, New York Times, May 13th. Found at http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/13/business/international-business-nike-pledges-to-end-child-labor-and-apply-us-rules-abroad.html
Moore, M. (2012) 'Mass suicide' protest at Apple manufacturer Foxconn factory, The Telegraph, 11th January. Found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9006988/Mass-suicide-protest-at-Apple-manufacturer-Foxconn-factory.html
Smith, J.H. and Mantz, J. (2006) Do cellular phones dream of civil war? The mystification of production and the consequences of technology fetishism in the Eastern Congo in Max Kirsch (ed.) Inclusion and exclusion in the global arena, New York: Routledge, pp. 71-94.
Vallas, S.P. (2012) Work: a critique, Cambridge: Polity Press.