I have issues with the sweatshop thing…
I am not condoning ill treatment to employees… but I have found that in many countries, there aren’t that many jobs that pay anything and aren’t manual HARD labor. I have been to 3rd world nations where people have told me that the nike style jobs are actually sought after because they pay better. This is of course in comparison to other jobs in the country. When compared to working in a rice patty for 18 hours a day, sitting making shoes for 12 hours is a great job, especially when it pays an extra 25%/month.
Remember you can’t compare our economy to theirs, it just won’t work. When I was in cuba in college, we hung out with a bunch of college students… in cuba, schooling is paid for. While we view cuba as an enemy for some arcane reason, they actually have a decent tourism industry and an up and coming pharmaceutical industry. So we are in cuba. Our cuban college friends take us to what roughly translated as ‘ice cream park’, a big park that sells ice cream in the middle. Now there are 2 places to get ice cream there: one for tourists, one for residents. Since we have a hook up, we get to go to the residents place. It took a bit of arguing, and we were barred from taking pictures, but none the less, we got in. So there are roughly, if I recall correctly, 11 of us in our party. We got seated and were told what the 3 flavors were. We ordered a huge amount of ice cream. Banana splits, sundaes, and just plain ice cream. It was hot out, so we over ordered, but we ate it all. It was great. When it was time to pay, the residents payed, as we weren’t supposed to be there. It was under 15 cents for it all. 15 CENTS. We asked about the tourist place… they had more flavors (10) but it was also more expensive. Sure enough, it was nearly US prices… $2 for a banana split, etc. Later that day, the students asked us what college costs in the united states. We grossly erred on the cheap site and said $6,000/year. They were floored. Couldn’t understand how one could afford that. They thought we were all rich, and while we were all doing ok for the most part, we had to tell them that ice cream sundaes in america are $6. They were floored by that as well, but it was some perspective.
So while I agree that Nike and countless other multinational corporations are raping many developing nations. They are taking and not giving back. They are screwing over entire countries, and the amount of money they have dwarfs everything locally. I agree that the working conditions need to be improved. Shifts need to be put in check (although I am sure if you limited shifts to 8 hour days, people would find a way to work longer shifts for more money). And I agree that the markup is absurd and that money SHOULD be spent to improve the factories, as well as an increase the wages. People need money to survive. Many people will work 18 hours to get it because they really don’t have a choice.
I would prefer to see some way for the market in that country to be self sufficient. While China is mastering the art of exporting and we the art of importing, a self sufficient economy would be better for everyone involved really. I could go on and on… but you know where I am going with it.
I guess I am just saying that I feel it is a much more complex situation than it would seem on the top level.