Global Players - their abuse of power

Term Paper, 2002

14 Pages, Grade: 1,2 (A)


Table of Contents


Sweatshops – unlocking the power of poverty

What is a sweatshop?

Made in Saipan USA!

Working conditions

Sexual harassment

Exploitation Ltd.

No fairy-tale

Safety conditions

Code of Conduct – ray of hope?



List of sources


Globalisation is expanding – with all the advantages and disadvantages coming along with it. There are winners as well as losers and the GAP™ between these two parties is getting bigger and bigger. The global players in this world are the ones that take most advantage of this development by exploiting both – nature as well as individuals.

In order to get bigger and increase profits, companies make use of all possible means and it seems that ethical standards have not been existing for years. From child labour or illegal medical tests to financing wars in developing countries, thus causing the deaths of numerous people – the range of opportunities to reach the objective is quite large.

This dissertation will show the real face of several well-known companies that are generally well-reputed, although this is definitively not justified in view of their background activities.

Sweatshops – unlocking the power of poverty

Companies in the garment industry like adidas, Nike, Reebok, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, C&A and others are producing in sweatshops that are mainly located in countries where poverty forces people to do any job in order to live, or at least to survive. Since companies know that their workers do not have any other choice, it is pretty easy to exploit them. In spite of paying minimum wages fixed by law, they usually pay much less – knowing that problems will not occur due to the fact that there are lots of other workers willing to replace a dissatisfied worker immediately.

The term "sweatshop" first came into general use more than 100 years ago. It was used to describe the way owners of manufacturing plants tried to "sweat" as much labour as possible out of their employees. However, this expression and the original meaning are still up to date today and globalisation favours this development essentially.

What is a sweatshop?

The Department of Labour defines a work place as a sweatshop if it violates two or more of the most basic labour laws including child labour, minimum wage, overtime and fire safety laws. Many people connect the word sweatshop with images of dirty and cramped houses, where in former times immigrant women worked as seamstresses. Today sweatshops still do exist, but today large bright factories are common sites of labour abuses. Sweatshop workers report about horrible working conditions including sub-minimum wages, no benefits, non-payment of wages, forced overtime, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, corporal punishment, and illegal dismissals.

Furthermore children can often be found working in sweatshops instead of going to school. In order to prevent unnecessary payments pregnant women are dismissed regularly or, in some cases women workers are forced to take birth control or to terminate their pregnancies. Since it is much easier to handle workers who do not know about their rights, bosses often refuse to employ workers organized in unions and intimidate or dismiss any worker suspected of speaking to union representatives or trying to organize their fellow workers. The following text will give a more detailed description of the current situation and of some of the facts that are typical of a sweatshop.

Made in Saipan USA!

Saipan is the main Island of a chain of fourteen islands in the Pacific Ocean, known as the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. After World War II, the U. S. won control of the Marianas from Japan.

Because of the Marianas´ limited economic base, the U. S. delegated the control of minimum wage and immigration laws to the government of the Marianas. Furthermore they made sure that imports of products into the U.S. were duty free without any quota restrictions. Experts estimate, that contractors and U.S. retailers avoided to pay more than $200 million of duties for $1 billion worth of garments shipped from Saipan.

Doubtless, the main reason for this large amount are the conditions existing on the Marianas. Over 90 % of garment industry jobs in the Marianas are held by foreign “guest workers”, predominantly young women from China, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Thailand. These workers are promised high wages and qualified jobs in the USA, and therefore they agree to repay recruitment fees from $2,000 to $7,000. After signing the job contract they confidently arrive on Saipan, where, in some cases, they have to deposit their passports and identity cards in order to prevent them from going back. The majority of workers arrive on Saipan deeply in debt and therefore they have to accept to be treated like slaves.

This combination of circumstances enables owners of sweatshops to cut costs in various ways. Living costs, for example, can be decreased by room sharing – it is not unusual that 12 women have to share a room of 20 m². But since they have to work in shifts up to 12 hours a day seven days a week there are at most 6 women in a single room at the same time, and that is not too bad, is it?!

By the way, as rents are being paid everywhere, it is totally justified to charge $100.00 - per person!

Compared to sweatshops in other regions where workers get $0.11 per hour, on Saipan employees are paid $3.05 per hour, which is pretty high, but still $2.10 below the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. In spite of these really high wages even companies from Asia moved their production to Saipan, owing to the simple reason that garments sewed on Saipan can legally be labelled as “Made in the USA”, since the Marianas are part of the U.S. territory. But even these “high” wages are not enough to enable workers to pay their debts. Prostitution often seems to be the only solution.

Working conditions

As already mentioned above, living conditions are pretty bad – however, working conditions are even worse. There is no difference between sweatshops on Saipan or in Asia, almost everywhere hundreds of predominantly women or children work in large factories – often without windows or any adequate ventilation. If there are windows they are barred in order to prevent theft. Therefore it is so hot that workers sweat without even doing anything. The air is filled with sweat and dust and the body dries out, since workers need permission for drinking or going to the toilet . In addition they are only allowed to leave the room once or twice a day. This leads to problems of course, especially for menstruating women. In Indonesia e. g. women have the legal right to stay at home during their menstruation - of course without getting paid. However, the majority does not claim this right, as sanctions like wage reductions have to be expected. Therefore thousands of women wear black underwear and long blouses during their menstruation in order to cover the blood-stains. As a woman refused to take off her slip in order to prove her bleeding, she was called a liar.

Sexual harassment

Levi Strauss & Co. decided not to produce on Saipan – but that does not mean that working conditions are better there. Only 21 factories are held by Levi´s – the major part of Levi´s Jeans is being produced in over 600 other factories in more than 60 countries. The Sunday Times reported that about 150 women, working for a Bulgarian supplier of Levi´s, were humiliated in a bad way. Regularly, after finishing work they had to strip in front of the management, in order to – as they were told – to prevent theft. Who refused to take off their clothes was dismissed immediately. But that is not the peek. Sexual harassment takes place in different ways. Seamstress Marlene Vega reported that she was pulled to the car of Mr. Sharp, the son of the Formosa manager. “Jimmy wants you, and that is not a request – it is a command!” Marlene could escape, but was dismissed the next morning.1

As Formosa produces for Nike and adidas, they promised to examine this reproach and to improve the working conditions. However, nobody could be found guilty even though not a single victim was asked about what had happened.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Global Players - their abuse of power
BVL Campus gGmbH  (Private Technical School for Economics)
1,2 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
486 KB
Global, Players
Quote paper
Alexander Scheling (Author), 2002, Global Players - their abuse of power, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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