Ann Leonards in her book, the theory of stuff explores some of the reasons why the world is not becoming a better place to live in any soon. The conditions in places of work especially industries explain much of this relation. Nike shop is one such place where a lot of impunity is exercised every single day and with those involved ever going unpunished
The conditions in most sweat shops in the world are nothing likeable. Since time immemorial, people’s rights have been violated. I sought to research on the happenings within Nike Company in Vietnam to have a glimpse of what was actually happening. My findings caused me fear and anxiety about what the future holds for these people. They are simply a mistreated bunch of workers who do not have a voice. They also have little to show for their hard work. The conditions in Nike Factories exhibit a lot of inhumane conditions and suffering going on. The workers are however forced to remain within so that they can at least fend for themselves and their families. Majority of these people come from very poor families and thus have no choice. They have to tolerate the inhumane conditions long into their lives.
The Working Conditions at Nike
The conditions in Nike get worse by the day. They workers go to work every single day but still less comes their way in terms of appreciations and conditions of work. The workers are paid so lowly. Most of them earn as little as $1.6 per day. These people are therefore left suffering since this amount is not even enough for their food let alone taking care of their families. This is a terrible situation considering the employees also have families to take care of. Women are majorly affected by this especially those with kids to take care of.
The workers also suffer a lot from failure to agree on compensation. Most of these employees are usually desperate for money and when they visit the contracting firms for job opportunities, they are forced to start even before they agree on a certain minimum wage. This often leaves them at the mercies of contractors who go ahead to take advantage of them.
Poor housing conditions often result from this development. When workers are paid lowly, they are unable to afford good housing conditions. They live in abject poverty in shanties. These conditions further reflect a lot of inhumane treatment in the Nike contracting firms. The shanties pose health hazards to the employees and their families as well as compromising on their security.
Sometimes, contractors go to the extent of asking for money from workers so as they can continue working. This means that the workers are often at the mercies of their employers. They must at all times be willing to take commands as they come lest they risk losing their jobs. The workers also suffer because majority of them cannot afford this money required to keep them at the work place. The result of this is high labor turnover. ( Edward and William, 1911)
The workers are often subjected to deductions over petty mistakes. Such are if one comes late to work even when they have convincing reasons for the same. They find their salaries having been deducted while notice was not given. This is inhumane and traumatizing. They are left to borrow from their friends to take care of their basic needs and requirements. Some of them are forced to go without meals despite the hard labor conditions.
Nike contractors are exploitative. The Company i.e. Nike uses the foreign contractors to work on their behalf. The employees some of whom do very hard work in the farms are left suffering.
Young women are used on the farms. These women are also compensated lowly due to their low standards of education. Most of these people, by so doing are denied the chance to go to school to obtain education. They remain ignorant and not learned and as such cannot obtain better employment elsewhere.
Extreme hard work also happens in the farms. The conditions of working are inconsiderate completely. The laborers work for 12 hours usually in a day for six to seven days a week. These conditions leave most of the workers with no chance to take care of their private issues. Those with families are forced to spend very little time with their families. This leaves them unappreciative of what they earn in the farms since they do not even have time to spend this money.
The working environment is very noisy. The factories have machines that are so loud. The employees remain in the factory the whole day and as such suffer from noise pollution. The loud factories also disturb the employees mentally especially after work. This condition happens to be disturbing.
The hot working environment also happens to be very disturbing to the workers. Most of them sweat here the whole day with little time left for them to have a break. The hot environment also leaves them extremely exhausted at the end of the day. The hot environment also affects the employees breathing and thus respiration. (Karol, 2007)
The factories also happen to be very smelly. The wet paint and glue is extremely smelly to be precise. This is aggravated by the poor ventilation standards. This makes the employees to suffer from discomfort in the course of their work while some of them suffer from frequent headaches. The contactors give no room for resting and bathing. The workers are usually left feeling uncomfortable throughout the day. They are also allowed one chance a day to take water and as such suffer a lot from thirst. This development has led to a lot of people fainting in the course of duty.
Sometimes, workers are told to stand in the sun a whole afternoon. This happens especially when the sun is scorching. They usually are told to do this because of some mistake committed. The process of standing in the sun for long is extremely inhuman. It does not only cause discomfort but also causes headaches and general ill health. The employees are sometime forced to write down mistakes that they commit. Records of these mistakes are kept by the contractor for future reference. A mistake repeated is awarded a higher degree of impunity as disciplinary action. Writing down mistakes against one’s intentions is also an inhuman treatment to the employees. Certain employees when interviewed describe the treatment to which they are put as those befitting recruits. It is unfair.
Women are sent to run around instead of being honored. This has severally happened on the International women’s day which is supposed to be an honor to women in Vietnam and the world altogether. Women who were interviewed described this as interference with their human rights to be happy and celebrate like other women do on this day. They felt they were being mistreated.
Corporal punishment is also common in the work places. Employees are beaten and subjected to physical torture. This inflicts pain on the body physically and leaves them feeling unwell. This is inhuman considering the fact that these are not slaves but mere employees who are also inadequately compensated. Some of them go to the extent of being admitted in hospitals due to the seriousness of the matter. In the course of duty, some of them are taken to the emergency rooms. This is because of abuse. Sexual harassment is common in the factories and farms. Contractors take advantage of the plight of the poor women working for them. The abuse them sexually then order them to pack and leave. This has occasionally resulted into unwanted pregnancies, HIV, and AIDS. The sexual harassment happens in silence sometimes for fear of losing job. Most women tend to remain silent so that they take care of their positions in the work place.
Daily indignities happen in the work place also. These include verbal abuse where the employees are insulted by their employers and supervisors. The employers give flimsy excuses for wanting to insult the emplloyees. Some people are forcefully told to sweep floors. This takes a significant portion of time for working and sometimes, deductions are taken on their earnings. The sweeping of sometimes big floors is a very physically intensive activity that results into them getting really tired.
Inadequate health care is yet another form of inhuman treatment for the employees. Majority of them are left very sick due to lack of access to the same. The emergency rooms are ill equipped meaning proper attention is not given to the patients. Majority of these employees thus suffer injustices resulting from illnesses. Some may even die in the process. Forced and excessive overtime is also common. Employees are not given a chance to apply for overtime conditions. It is forcefully given to them and has often resulted to resentment among the workers. The excessive overtime also denies the employees a chance to spend time with their families. They are also left with little time for leisure. This is inhuman considering they should be given a chance to have fun and enjoy.
Results of the Inhumane Treatment
3. The harsh condition in the factories resulted into a lot of environmental pollution. This was one of the factors that Anne Leonards underscored in her Book the Theory of Stuff. There is a lot of release of fumes to the environment as well as excessive heating. This is majorly responsible for global warming in the environment.
Human rights are also interfered with in the process. The results of this are tremendous. These include sicknesses. This is where many employees fall ill due to the poor conditions of health in the working environment. Some people also suffer this because of corporal punishment such as being told to kneel down and told to stand in the sun for long hours. Sexual harassment has often resulted into unwanted pregnancies within the working environment as well as HIV and AIDS. This affects mostly women than men. Sexual harassment also causes a feeling of self denial and low self esteem among those affected.
Actions against this
Some of the things the authorities tried to do include laying down guidelines on payment. Minimum wages have been set though this has not been followed to the latter. The result of this is continued exploitation to present. Further, Nike has tried to talk to its contractors so that they comply with policies affecting labor laws. The company has been on the watch out to ensure its contractors do not contravene this. It has also tried to ensure that remuneration has improved.
The authorities are also trying to improve conditions of health in the work environment. This has been done through the establishment of a health center around the farms.
Possible responses to these issues include the fact that the government of Vietnam should actually intervene in the activities of the farms. The Government must ensure that this happens so that the workers are not taken advantage of. (Govoni, 2004)
The government of Vietnam should come out strong against the malpractices. It must ensure that all individuals’ rights are respected and upheld. As such, legislations need to be passed regarding employers and employees as well as minimum wages set for all.
Unions must ensure they champion improved conditions of life in the farms and Nike shops. This will ensure that workers are treated better.
Improved medical schemes must be set for the workers. This will ensure they get adequate treatment so that they can also deliver better.
Nike Company should itself be very strict on contractors who harass employees and fail to observe labor laws. In addition to being denied the contracts, the contactors should be sued for neglecting workers and committing impunity against.