Boston Review recently published its Citizen Consumer forum, featuring responses by labor experts, advocates and academics to an article by Dara O’Rourke on ethical consumption. O’Rourke, co-founder of Good Guide and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, weighs the impact of ethical consumerism on the marketplace and discusses some of the tools available to help consumers make smart decisions.
This is a guest post from Korhan Tinaztepe, Assessment Manager for the Fair Labor Association based in Istanbul.
This is a guest post from FLA Participating Company, Patagonia. It was written by Vincent Stanley, co-author with Yvon Chouinard of The Responsible Company, to be published August 2012.
Bill McKibben made an interesting point a few years back when he compared the yields of factory farming and organic or low-input farming. Factory farming (with subsidies) yields more dollars per acre but an organic field yields more food.
On Wednesday, the FLA joined other labor and human rights groups, American trade unions, investors, brands and retailers in appealing to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the eve of her trip to Central Asia. With as many as 1.5 million children being removed from school and forced to work in the cotton harvest, the group called on Secretary Clinton to raise with Uzbek President Islam Karimov the need to permit the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to enter Uzbekistan to inspect conditions in the cotton fields.
Across the globe, millions of men and women migrate in order to find jobs. Many of them provide for their families by working in factories to manufacture clothing and footwear for some of the largest international brands. While some of these workers are successful in finding suitable employment, many others face difficulties ranging from homesickness to bad working conditions, and may even be forced into trafficking – otherwise known as modern-day slavery.
There are 214 million international migrants worldwide. The majority of this population move in order to find work and to provide for their families. Many of these people are successful; in 2009 alone, migrants sent an estimated $414 billion back to families in their home countries. However, labor protections for migrant workers are notoriously weak, and millions of migrant workers face abysmal working conditions and become victims of trafficking—a modern-day slave trade.
FLA’s research, assessments and surveys over the past two years confirm that excessive working hours have a negative impact on workers, often resulting in physical and psychological stress for workers and increased worker turnover. FLA surveys in China found that an estimated 50 percent of workers in the garment industry and 80 percent in electronics manufacturing work more than 60 hours per week, and an estimated 80 percent regularly work more than 7 days in a row. Even more alarming is the fact that 20 percent sometimes work more than 24 consecutive days without a day of rest.
Understanding workers’ perception of the factories they work in is essential for management seeking to recruit and retain talented and qualified employees. The Fair Labor Association’s SCOPE Workers’ Surveys are standardized, quantitative questionnaires which are completed anonymously by a randomly-selected, representative sample of workers. SCOPE surveys measure the effectiveness and impact of factories’ social compliance efforts in areas such as hours of work; hiring; communication; and grievance and complaint systems.
The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School recently released a report titled “How Widespread Use of Fixed-Duration Contracts Threatens Cambodian Workers and the Cambodian Garment Industry.” According to the report, the increased use of fixed-duration contracts (FDCs) in Cambodia: