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Victoria’s Secret, one of the biggest brand names in retail, has been around for many years, known for selling lingerie. Victoria’s Secret has branched out from exclusively selling lingerie to now carrying make-up, fragrances, purses, shoes, clothing, and bathing suits. Within the past few years, the company has expanded to the global markets. They now have stores in major cities including London, Dubai, and Munich. Being one of the top grossing retail stores, Victoria’s Secret, uses foreign sweatshops to irresponsibly manufacture their products.
The lingerie store was harshly criticized for their sweatshops’ working conditions and unfair wages. The utilization of sweatshops puts the company’s name to shame and gives them a negative reputation. Victoria’s Secret should not be allowed to run sweatshops because it is morally and ethically wrong.
Victoria’s Secret was publicly attacked for their working conditions being unacceptable. On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly interviewed the national labor committee director, Charles Kernaghan.
He specifically questioned Kernaghan about Victoria’s Secret sweatshops’ working conditions. Kernaghan begins by saying, “The workers are working from 7 a.m. in the morning until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. at night. So they’re going 14 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. They get one day off every three or four months” (Kernaghan). The amount of time the workers put in are more than an average full time person puts in which is unfair. He not only points out their long, unfair hours but goes to say that the “sweatshop that houses miserable conditions.
Where right now in Jordan it’s freezing. There is no heat or hot water in the dormitories…there’s no water about two or threes days a week” (Kernaghan). It is also unfair for them to be living in such poor conditions where having no heat or water could affect their health conditions and in turn affect their working production. Such conditions have them “work under the shadow of death, and experience struggle and frustration in work” (Genesis 3:17-19). The working conditions are so horrible that it begins to affect the workers mentally. Workers that are negatively affected mentally is considered mental abuse and “in practice, sweatshops promulgate mental…abuse” (Arnold and Hartman 2003). The people are treated horrible and are not treated in the way that should be. They do not have the essential survival needs for living conditions, which makes it seem that the workers are not even treated as human beings. “The Oxford Declaration on Christian Faith and Economics” suggests, “people should never be treated in their work as mere means.
We must resist the tendency to treat workers merely as costs or labour inputs” (The Oxford Declaration 4). The workers should have better working and living conditions considering that they are working long hours for the company. Working in such poor conditions points to the conclusion that they are “treated in their wok as mere means.” They are not treated as means to ends. It is morally wrong and unethical the way the company treats their workers mentally and physically by providing poor living and working conditions and having them work long hours.
It is unethical and morally wrong for the employees in sweatshops to be working such long hours and not get paid enough. On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Kernaghan continued on to point out that even though the workers are working a lot of hours, “they are cheated of about 40 percent of their wages. They get three-and-a-half minutes to make a pair of underwear, for which they’re paid 4.5 cents” (Kernaghan). They should not be paid depending on the limited time they have to make one pair of underwear but they should be paid by either how many pairs of underwear they make or by an hourly rate. They are paid so little for the amount of the effort and production it takes to make products like that.
It is wrong that “people are often pushed into a narrow range of occupations which are often underpaid, offer little status or security, and provide few promotional opportunities and fringe benefits” (The Oxford Declaration 4). It is not acceptable for people to be working long, hard hours and get paid poorly while receiving poor living conditions such as no water or heat. They should be getting better working and living conditions as benefits for being employed in these factories. It goes to say that the company’s choice of under paying their employees “fail[s] to reward work fairly” making it unjust and wrong (The Oxford Declaration 4). Having been being attacked for poor living and working conditions and the workers being underpaid, it gives Victoria’s secret a poor reputation and bad name.
Victoria’s Secret being exposed to the world for their sweatshops had others look further into their company to expose them even more in an unfavorable manner. Victoria’s Secret was being investigated even more and a department called Venture 47 found that the company was faking time and wage accounts for the sweatshop employees (Batchelor). Fraudulence and deceitfulness is morally wrong and unethical in business and shall not be done.
Steven Greenhouse from The New York Times, wrote an article about it stating that “wage violations were so widespread…that the factory…cheated its workers $5.3 million” (Greenhouse). The company could have paid them their fair wages but decided to falsify their records and eventually get publicly humiliated even more. In Fighting Sweatshops by Richard Appelbaum, he talks about how “there is always the danger that manufacturers, fearful of bad publicity or even sanctions, will shift production away from problematic factories rather than work with them to improve conditions” (Appelbaum 10). This supports the idea that once there is problems in these factories having to do with conditions or wages; it leads to the giving the company a bad reputation.
There are multiple reasons as to why sweatshops are unethical and morally wrong but there are some people who argue that sweatshops are ethical and morally right. Some might argue that even though working in a sweatshop with underpaid wages, it still provides a job for someone rather than no job. In “Stitching Lingerie Improves Women’s Lives in South India” by Charukesi Ramadurai, she discusses how she went to one of the sweatshops for Victoria’s Secret and saw the benefits for the worker’s of working in a sweatshop. She even talked to someone about how they feel working in the sweatshop and the woman positively replied that she was “very happy to have found a job and a purpose in life” (Ramadurai).
She argues that it is better to have a job rather than no job and to have to wake up every day knowing she has something to do. Those supporting sweatshops propose, “sweatshops are attractive to people in places with few employment options, a lack of social services, and impoverished living conditions” (Calkins and Radin 265). Supporters also add on to say that working for sweatshops is not mandatory and that it is voluntary. Supporters also ask the question as to what is considered a sweatshop.
Although there is supporting ideas of sweatshops being okay and that Victoria’s Secret should still have them, there is still the counter argument that they are not okay and that Victoria’s Secret should not have them. The definition of “sweatshops are places of employment with low pay, poor working conditions, and long hours,” which argues with the supporters’ argument of what is considered a sweatshop (Powell and Skarbek 1). These underpaid, unfairly treated sweatshop employees’ are violated “of basic human rights as people are exploited for their labor” (Calkins and Radin 261). There are so many health and safety hazards, fear, and physical and mental abuse which is part of basic human rights (Calkins and Radin 262). Sweatshops being unethical and morally wrong are strongly supported by “The Oxford Declaration on Christian Faith and Economics” stating, “Many workers suffer greatly under the burden of work.
In some situations people work long hour for low pay, working conditions are appalling…health and safety regulations are flouted” (The Oxford Declaration 4). It proves to show that Calkins’ and Radin’s argument is even more supported. In “Improving the Conditions of Workers, Harrison and Scorse believe that sweatshops are morally wrong and unethical and that the sweatshops can be fixed to become no long sweatshops and/or become ethical and moral. Their rationalization of this idea is “if we could pressure multinational corporations to significantly improve the working conditions and wages…companies…would no longer be…unlimited pools of cheap labor” (Harrison and Scorse 2). An anonymous person of The New York Times also further attests by adding, “until it treats its workers better, it has no chance of becoming a just and stable society” (China, the Sweatshop).
When it comes down to being morally and ethically wrong in business, Victoria’s Secret needs to get rid of their sweatshops. The company is unethical in terms of their working conditions and hours, wages, and working environment. The criticism of their unmoral and unethical actions led to giving Victoria’s Secret a bad reputation and name. Their choice of utilizing sweatshops has led to further exploitation and investigation of unmoral and unethical actions in their company.
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