|Commission on Human Rights
American Violations of Human Rights
Definition: ...unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, often
including locked exits and poor ventilation ... low wages or no wages,
long hours of work with no overtime pay, and retaliation against workers
who stand up for their rights. www.heartsandminds.org
Causes: (Remember everything is debatable. As a representative
of your country, you might argue that sweatshops dont exist, they
are a neccessary evil, or they aren t really a problem. None of
these causes are a fact that cannot be disputed at the MMUN
- Corporate greed
U.S. and multi-national manufacturers have found that they no longer
need to operate their own factories. In a world virtually free of borders,
they look for subcontractors in countries where regulations are weak
and labor and operating costs are lowest.
- International policies
Governments, international trade regulatory agencies like the World
Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank and other foreign lenders create
international trade laws and lending policies requiring developing nations
to bolster their economies by creating export industries regardless
of implications for social justice and environmental sustainability.
And Third World countries desperately need the foreign money
- The hunt for the lowest price
Corporations flood stores with a staggering variety of goods made in
every corner of the world. Retail giants put pressure on their suppliers
to keep the cost down, while encouraging consumers to buy more at discounted
- The muddle in the middle
As the playing field has shifted overseas, the number of middle merchants
has increased. Contractors, importers, agents and others are each trying
to make a profit from those directly below them on the supply chain.
Consequently, factories may not know where their goods are headed, just
as U.S. manufacturers and merchandisers often dont know
the products source.
- Squeezed at the bottom
All these factors pressure factory owners to cut costs. And where does
the price squeeze end? At the bottom, with the laborers, who are pushed
to produce goods as quickly as possible. This is where forced overtime,
low wages, punishments and fines for slow work and mistakes, child labor,
and other abuses come www.coopamerica.org
- Public Disclosure
Full corporate disclosure backed with independent monitoring and punishment
for violations are not only the way to prevent labor abuse, but social
injustice and environmental damage as well.
Drawbacks: Very expensive and difficult to monitor thousands
of factories in more than a hundred countries on 6 continents. Can
only be done properly with the employment of tens of thousands of
- Right to Organize
Workers can be made aware of their rights and any company code of conduct.
They should be able to freely associate; to advocate for those rights
and improvements in their workplace conditions, pay and benefits without
fear of reprisal.
Drawbacks: Perhaps the most realistic solution, b/c it allows
workers to monitor themselves without the need for an extensive international
beauracracy that must be everywhere at once. Still rights to organize
must be guaranteed by the country in which the workers work, for this
solution to work.
- Living Wage
Companies must pay workers a living wage. That means enough money to
meet basic monthly necessities in the community where the worker lives.
Drawbacks: Again, enforcing this will be difficult. And money
for increased living wages must come from somewhere, meaning decreased
profits for corporations at some level, possible loss of jobs in third
world countries, and increased cost for consumers. It is important
to remember that there is no solution without trade-offs.
Which side is your country on?
Many third world countries support sweatshops because they need foreign
investment at any cost. And developed countries like America waver between
support for sweatshops, under pressure from corporations, or opposition
to sweatshops under pressure from protestors in their own countries. At
the MMUN conference your country may support sweatshops even though your
citizens are victimized by them! Remember you represent a country, and
must support its views even if they contradict your own.
Sites to Check Out: