Many companies have internal audit teams that are truly dedicated to making human and labor rights a reality in their global supply chains, often by working with local civil society groups. So why are there still so many factories that do not pay the hourly minimum wage and work 60, 70 or more hours per week? The first reason is that they operate in jurisdictions where there is no culture of compliance. None of their competitors is paying the hourly minimum wage or sticking to the legal limits on working hours, so why should they?
Worth Reading — The New York Times reported on this recent study by Human Rights Watch concerning Walmart’s efforts to keep unions out of its stores. The human rights group, which the newspaper noted typically focuses on rights violations in Burundi, North Korea or other foreign countries, said that when Wal-Mart stores faced unionization drives, the company often broke the law by, for example, eavesdropping on workers, training surveillance cameras on them and firing those who favored unions.
Having just returned from my recent university tour, I am more encouraged than ever by the passion and drive I saw in students to resolve labor and human rights issues worldwide. As they always have, students and universities play a crucial role in campaigning against any form of social injustice… as we did in fighting the apartheid movement in South Africa to fighting sweatshop labor conditions today.
Rain greeted us on the next morning as we made a dash to Penn Station to catch our train to Wilmington, Delaware and the University of Delaware. At U of D, I had lunch and a stimulating discussion with a group of students eager to learn more about global supply chains and labor rights issues. Students (in behavior consistent with my travels to other schools) showed a refreshing openness to discussing the complexity of labor issues and their interaction with the market-economy and global supply chains.