Making Global Labor Fair


Recently I have been finding an overlap between my human resource management class discussions and business, government and society.  That being said, HRM was a key factor in my decision in writing about Wal-Mart for my paper 2.  My HRM professor has expressed multiple times her pure hatred towards Wal-Mart due to their work ethics and morals (or shall I say, lack there of).  As I just recently read Raising the Global Floor for my HRM class which discusses labor laws across countries, and reading books on Wal-Marts culture behind closed doors, I typed in labor ethics into the search tab on TED.com.

The first result that appeared was “Auret van Heerdan: Making Global Labor Fair”.  Auret van Heerdan is the President and CEO of Fair Labor Association, with an extensive background in international labor rights.

The beginning of his TED talk really caught my attention, discussing the issues of child labor starting in the earliest stages of multinational corporations supply chain.  From the production of chocolate in the Congo to the government in Uzbekistan forcing schools to shut down for three weeks in order for children to harvest cotton, and these were only a few examples.

The rest of the talk discusses ways in which we can fix these issues as all involved, governments and multinational corporations; believe they are not the ones responsible.  Van Heerden at around 12:00 says we need to create a ‘safe space’ for all involved to come together to face the problem, if we can get them together in a room, we can get it done.  He expresses how these conditions at the bottom of the supply chain cause consumers to compromise ethics in order to purchase the brands they want.

This TED talk just really struck me as it discussed how corrupt the supply chain is, as far back as picking the cotton for a t-shirt.  Here I am writing about the overworked adults working in Wal-Marts in America, as children are being forced by their government to leave school for three weeks to harvest cotton half way around the world.

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4 comments on “Making Global Labor Fair

  1. It is crazy to put into context the corrupt nature of our textile supply chain. After doing my paper 2 on forced and child labor, it was hard to to sit in that same HRM class and talk about people long hours and underpayment in a retail store that get to go home and sit in a chair and relax and realize that, like you said, children across the world get basically no pay to work as long to go home and sleep on a floor. It is all relative, of course, but as I learned in doing research for my paper, it is hard for any one developed country to make a difference until they fully understand the problem. So I completely agree that it will take some kind of gathering of all involved to discuss and relate the concerns and methods before any true solution is come to.

  2. It is very true many consumers compromise ethics to purchase the brands they want. I believe consumers can easily ignore and distance themselves from the reality of factory working conditions. Nike is a prime example of a brand that people were willing to compromise their ethics for.

  3. 80% of the chocolate… wow. Just shocking. I think I am only doing fair trade chocolate from now on.

    His larger point is that we have a global economy without global governance, what he calls governance gaps, is endemic… in other words, they are so widespread as to be a systematic part of the global economy.

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