"We gather in faith..."
Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis J. Christian
ReflectionsA couple of years ago the National Labor Committee, a private
watchdog group, charged Reebok with manufacturing jerseys
bearing the names of NBA and NFL players in a Honduran
sweatshop where the workers were allegedly paid 19 cents for
sewing a shirt that retails for $75. The workers are paid a base
wage of 65 cents an hour, are forced to work up to 64 hours
weekly, and are discriminated against if they become pregnant
it is alleged. Reebok International Ltd. disputed the accuracy of
the 100-page report and is hiring an independent agency to
assess workplace factory conditions. The company said, "The
report contains serious allegations, and we take them seriously".
I certainly do not know the truth of this situation. I sincerely
hope that Reebok is not exploiting the plight of the poor in the
third world who are forced to work for what amounts to slave
wages because no other work is available to them. Reebok
stated that "compensation at the factory is consistent with
requirements under local law". I have no doubt that this is true.
But it seems to me that is simply begs the question. If the
wages given simply maintain the impoverished condition of the
people, they may indeed be legal under the law but are they
moral in the eyes of God? There is no question that Reebok
and other companies have gone to third world countries because
cheap labor is prevalent. They argue that they are providing
jobs to people who otherwise would be without work. This is
also true. But these companies are realizing a much greater
profit on their product than they would if they were
manufactured in this country or some other developed country.
Given this fact would they not have a moral, if not a legal,
responsibility to do more to help these people out of their
poverty? They would do this by paying more that the law of
the country required and they would still make great profit.
Everything cannot be about the bottom line, especially for
followers of the Lord.
Some years ago now an engineer who had worked in several
third world countries setting up plants for multinational
corporations told me that low salaries were sometimes not the
main reason for locating there. He said that the environmental
regulations and safety regulations in those countries were less
stringent and allowed the saving of millions of dollars. Is it not
sad to think that executives who would not want their daughters
to breathe polluted air don't worry about the children of the
poor elsewhere as long as profits are increased. What's wrong
with this picture?