Levi Strauss

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Levi Strauss at Home and Abroad

As one attempts to assess the business ethics of Levi Strauss and Nike in this writing assignment, we are again compelled to revisit the critical distinction of conduct that is legal, yet still unethical. In both instances, Levi Strauss and Nike behaved with the parameters of legal conduct, yet few would argue that profiting from exploitive work conditions is an ethical behavior of any socially responsible organization (broad view social responsibility). Obviously, it’s very tempting to just condense this argument to the point of “bad companies boosting profits from lower labor costs via exploiting foreign workers in sweatshops”. I am going to take a much broader approach here in my assessment, as complete fairness to the two corporations here requires a bit of an indictment of the legal, regulatory, political, and socioeconomic environment that they operate in. So, let’s start there … how is it that both of these large corporations are permitted (and driven) to outsource (with relative impunity) labor to countries with poor labor laws? In order to fairly assess their conduct, one must first examine the system under which they operate.

How has corporate America gone down this path? Why do so many large U.S. corporations outsource labor en masse, which costs the U.S. economy so many jobs domestically? Let’s start by looking in the mirror - and by that I mean you and I … the U.S. consumer. Our thirst for cheap merchandise made overseas knows no limits. Do any of us look at the country of origin for goods, and if it’s non-U.S. do we even pause for a second to consider boycotting said goods due to loss of American jobs? Or boycott due to the nation of origin’s reputation for worker abuse? Of course we don’t. We want that Japanese high definition television from Wal-Mart that costs $100 less. We want the clothing from China or Indonesia that is 30% cheaper than similar brands made here. So, my first premise in this entire...
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