"We gather in faith..."

Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis J. Christian

Reflections

A 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?