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Respect for Workers in Global Supply Chains: Advancing the Debate Over Sweatshops

  • Denis G. Arnold and Norman E. Bowie

Abstract:

In “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons” we argued on Kantian grounds that managers of multinational enterprises (MNEs) have the following duties: to adhere to local labor laws, to refrain from coercion, to meet minimum health and safety standards, and to pay workers a living wage. In their commentary on our paper Sollars and Englander challenge some of our conclusions. We argue here that several of their criticisms are based on an inaccurate reading of our paper, and that none of the remaining criticisms successfully challenge our main arguments. By highlighting the shortcomings of their arguments we hope to advance discussion of the ethical treatment of workers in global supply chains.

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Notes

1. For detailed case studies of the current practices of companies such as Nike, adidas-Salomon, Levi, Strauss, and others, see Rising Above Sweatshops: Innovative Management Approaches to Global Labor Challenges, ed. Laura, P. Hartman, Denis, G. Arnold, and Richard, Wokutch (Westport, Conn.: Praeger 2003).

2. Denis, G. Arnold and Norman, E. Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,Business Ethics Quarterly 13(2) (April 2003): 221–42;Denis, G. Arnold and Laura, P. Hartman, “Moral Imagination and the Future of Sweatshops,Business and Society Review 108: 4 (Winter 2003): 425–61; Hartman, Arnold, and Wokutch, Rising Above Sweatshops; Denis, G. Arnold and Laura, P. Hartman, “Beyond Sweatshops: Positive Deviancy and Global Labor Practices,Business Ethics: A European Review 14(3) (July 2005): 206–22; and Denis, G. Arnold and Laura, P. Hartman, “Worker Rights and Low Wage Industrialization: How to Avoid Sweatshops,Human Rights Quarterly 28(3) (August 2006): 676700.

3. Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons.”

4. Gordon, Sollars and Fred, Englander, “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences,Business Ethics Quarterly 17(1) (January 2007): 115133.

5. Sollars and Englander actually take our statement of agreement with Michael Santoro to be an argument unto itself, which they then criticize. This is odd, for we wrote that “We concur with Santoro's judgment and offer the following twofold justification for the view that MNEs have a duty to ensure that the dignity of workers is respected in the factories of subcontractors,” Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 226. We put aside this confusion and consider Sollars and Englander's objections to the two arguments that we provided in defense of our view. See Sollars and Englander, “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences,” 116.

6. Ibid. See also Michael, A. Santoro, Profits and Principles: Global Capitalism and Human Rights in China (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000), 161.

7. Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 223–24.

8. Sollars and Englander, “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences,” 117–21.

9. Immanuel, Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary, Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 192–93, 196–97, 230, 245, 255; and Norman, E. Bowie, Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1999), esp. chap. 2.

10. Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 225–27.

11. Sollars and Englander, “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences,” 119.

12. Ibid.

13. Here we refer to the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum Vietnam Business Links Initiative. For discussion, see Laura, P. Hartman, Richard, E. Wokutch, and Lawrence French, J., “adidas-Salomon: Child Labor and Health and Safety Initiatives in Vietnam and Brazil,” in Hartman,, Arnold, and Wokutch, Rising Above Sweatshops, 220–26.

14. Christine, M. Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 92.

15. Barbara, Herman, The Practice of Moral Judgment (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), chap. 7.

16. Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 233–39.

17. Sollars and Englander, “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences,” 121.

18. Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 234.

19. Ibid., 239.

20. Ibid., 227–28, 231–33.

21. Ibid., 231.

22. Ibid., 229.

23. Sollars and Englander, “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences,” 123.

24. Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 230.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid., 230–31.

27. Coercion is prima facie objectionable because it treats victims of coercion as objects to be controlled by the will of another and thus undermines individual freedom. However, because coercion is best understood as a psychological phenomenon, rather than as a moralized concept, its use may be either moral or immoral depending upon the context. See Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 228; and Denis, G. Arnold, “Coercion and Moral Responsibility,American Philosophical Quarterly 38(1) (January 2001): 5367, esp. 53–54.

28. Arnold and Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” 233–39.

29. Sollars and Englander, “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences,” 123–28.

30. Ibid., 128–29.

31. Ann, Harrison and Jason, Scorse, “Improving the Conditions of Workers: Minimum Wage Legislation and Anti-Sweatshop Activism,California Management Review 48(2) (2006): 144–60, esp. 158.

32. A recent study of this issue found that consumers are willing to pay increased prices for products made under good working conditions. See Robert, Pollin, Justine, Burns, and James, Heintz, “Global Apparel Production and Sweatshop Labour: Can Raising Retail Prices Finance Living Wages?Cambridge Journal of Economics 28(2) (March 2004): 153–71.

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Respect for Workers in Global Supply Chains: Advancing the Debate Over Sweatshops

  • Denis G. Arnold and Norman E. Bowie

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