Capitalism & Free Trade

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By: Cara Mezzetti
E-mail: rlprncss@aol.com

A global assembly line is a capitalist's dream come true. It allows companies to do business in free trade zones to manufacture goods throughout the world at the lowest possible cost to the company. This assembly line enables companies like Nike, with corporate headquarters in the U.S. w to shut down their factories here, and move over seas where there are less restrictions and cheaper labor. Where as the production cost are drastically less in these free trade zones, so are the human rights laws, especially those pertaining to women, the majority of the work force. By moving its production sites to places like Asia, Nike is able to pay workers sub-minimum wage, on top of allowing the corporation to dodge responsibility for the treatment of its work force. Nike strategists have certainly managed to devise a plan to escape the responsibility and liability of insuring that it assembly line sites are safe, healthy and fair labor places of work, by subcontracting to foreign owned and governed factories. South Korea, the " sneaker capital of the world" is one of these places. According to the article "The Globe Trotting Sneaker" the workers in these assembly factories are predominantly women. The article also highlights the fact that South Korea has a military government that possesses a strong determination to suppress labor organizations. Nike is not blind to this information. These facts only work more for the sneaker typhoon. It allows them to profit legally from under paid, over controlled and unorganized women laborers. A Confucian following culture. In which Korean women except the philosophy that her morality is measured by the amount of hard work she is willing to endure for her families well being and to acquiesce to her father and husbands dictates is yet another benefit that Nike reaps the profits from. The Global assembly line affects every part of the factory workers life both U.S and Korean. This is due to the fact that at any given time, the corporation may decide to pick up and move to a neighboring country because the labor is cheaper and the restrictions fewer. The women working in these factories of South Korea endure numerous difficulties, low pay, poor work conditions etc.. For many years they remain silent. In the 1980's the silence was broken, but not shattered. For the first time, women workers organized, separate from the men and brought their issue to be heard. They began to rebel against not only the companies for which they worked, but against the government. Eventually, they won the right to organize, and they created the Korean Women Workers Association. (KWWA) This union was a major political and economic feminist move. Prior to its creation, women enjoyed no representation or benefits from their anti-union government. The trade agreements that South Korea entered into were for monetary reason only, with no worker consideration or rights. Though the KWWA has not changed the government dramatically, it has made a motion in the right direction. It brought not only laborers rights into the picture, but women laborers right as well. The latter is particularly important because the majority of the workers are women. The KWWA won the right to organize unions as well as seeing as allowing workers to see an increase in their wages. This political move posed a threat to the government by way of setting a precedent, opening a door for other groups to follow. This movement affects the global assembly line because it makes room for higher wages, an increased production cost and more human rights considerations. As previously mentioned, Nike is able to use sub-contractors as a means of evading responsibility when the treatment of its workers comes into question. In Asia, the demand for work is so high that workers are willing to accept more harsh work environment for less pay than U.S workers might be. Asian women and children make up the bulk of the factories...
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