Currently, there are abundant ways to earn money in market, while some methods are not completely acceptable. Regarding to the given academic materials, ‘Prison labour is a billion-dollar industry, with uncertain returns for inmates’ (Lexington, 2017) and ‘Protests in Bangladesh Shake a Global Workshop for Apparel’ (Abrams & Sattar, 2017), two debatable, even immoral treatments to ’employees’ get public attention. In prison, it is generally believed that the inmates will attend the labor courses by doing various jobs, such as weeding, repairing the road and rail and cleaning. Everyone thought those activities can correct them or at least inspire them, which are useful way to help them reintegrate into society. However, the information provided is adverse. A billion-dollar industry runs in prison, but low return to employees——inmates. The fact is much more different from what people assume before, a jail looks like a factory, rather than a correcting place for inmates. Providing cheap lobar to private companies like Victoria’s Secret to get millions of money, which has last for almost 40 years (Lexington, 2017). Similarly, squeezing employees in Bangladesh attracts global attention as well. The local workers work for global brands like H and Gap, and suffering bad conditions in the garment factories. Low wages, unsafe working conditions, unfair dismissal and imposed offense are main serious problems the employees meet. Although that big brand companies took some actions to improve benefit for workers, the local government is corrupt and dishonest, making unrest again and again. It is evident that unethical behaviors are everywhere, some are even behind people’s wear. Overall, how can people judge that? Or in other words, what is morally responsible behavior? How do we agree on what is morally acceptable? Some still do not understand the standard between the market and morality, some even do not know what is ethics, this paper will show all the answers.
1. Theoretical framework
2.1 Ethical theory
Richard De George (1999) summarized ethical theory in two extreme positions: ethical absolutism and ethical relativism. The former concluded that right and wrong are objective qualities that can be rationally determined, and the later claims that morality is context dependent and subjective. However, for the purpose of decisions-making in business, both of theories are not useful. Thus, the position is one of pluralism. It accepts various moral convictions and backgrounds meanwhile suggesting that a consensus on basic principles and rules in a certain social context can, and should, be reached. Imagine one person may prefer to think one theory, whilst another might think a different theory. In terms of making good business decisions, Kaler(1999) stated that people need to comprehend this range of perspectives so that a consensus can be established to deal with moral problems. Therefore, it is narrow and rigid to apply one theory. Regard to traditional ethical theories, they are generally offer a certain rule or principle that one can apply to any given situation, so they are absolutist in intention. They are composed by non-consequentialist ethics and consequentialist ethics. Consequentialist ethics is based on the intended consequences, the aims, or the objective of a certain action. On the other hand, non-consequentialist ethics starts from reasoning about the individual’s rights and responsibilities. Egoism and utilitarianism are two main consequentialist theories. Following the theory of the former an action is morally right if the decision-maker freely decides so that they pursue either desires or interests. According to utilitarianism, an action is morally right if it leads to the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people affected by that action. Non-consequentialist theories can be differentiated into two parts——ethics of duties and ethics of rights and justice (Crane & Matten, 2010). However, there are certain problems associated with traditional theories. They are too abstract (Stark, 1994; as cited by Crane & Matten, 2010), too reductionist (Kaler, 1999; as cited by Crane & Matten, 2010), too objective and elitist (Parker, 1998), too impersonal (Gilligan, 1982; as cited by Crane & Matten, 2010) and too rational and codified (Bauman,1993; as cited by Crane & Matten, 2010). As a result, there have been a number of more recent attempts to develop or resurrect ethical theories that emphasize greater flexibility. Contemporary ethical theories are those which have been developed in the business ethics field over the past ten years. They are virtue ethics, feminist ethics, discourse ethics and postmodern ethics. As indicated earlier, one theory will not be suggested or one approach as the best or true view of a moral dilemma, to sum up, decision-maker should toward a pragmatic use of ethical theory (Crane & Matten, 2010).
2.2 Captive employees: prison labour
Captive, a person or animal whose ability to move or act freely is limited by being closed in a space; a prisoner, especially a person held by the enemy during a war (Cambridge Dictionary, 2017). Namely, captive employee is this kind of people employed to work. Here, prison labour is captive employee, when correctional industries get millions of dollars, prisoners get a few cents. However, such shocking phenomenon is legally required in America (Lexington, 2017). Date back to 1800s, South Africa created this punishment for prisoners and with aim to rehabilitate them at first, and gradually deteriorated by colonial rulers. Historically, prison labor played an important role in the nation’s economy. in the nineteenth century, inmates built roads and all the major mountain passes, unskilled labor was used in mining. After the 1950s, with the abolition of the sentence of hard labor, they were no longer used for mining, but prisoners continued to be employed to the private companies. Some inmates died of heat prostration in quarry in 1982. Originally, people believed this concept improved civilization communication to Africans, however, under the colonial rule, the governors made use of this kind of cheap labour to enhanced their empires, since then, prisoners started being abused. Though among those decades, some laws were created to push forward the development of prison labour. Eventually, International standards of imprisonment was built up to protect prisoners’ human rights in 1998 (Human Right Watch, 1994). Return to current years, prison labour remains the similar kinds of jobs. The correctional industries are still a type of high return industry through providing labour to commercial companies. Workers do the same jobs such as sewing and building roads, but the evident changes are working conditions and improved wages. Compared with the market wages level, the part of they earned is still little, in fact they are treating unfairly by another way. (Lexington, 2017).
2.3 Captive employees: sweatshop workers
Another example, which is related to Nike Asian workers. Nike is the most publicly recognized company in the global athletic shoe and has effective promotional strategy which makes it famous (Greenberg & Knight, 2004). After the media reported Nike’s sweatshops in Asia, Nike’s fame shattered. In Nike’s Asian factories, there are exploitation and violations, workers sufferred from low wages, long working hours and forced overtime, among many other issues. In fact, Nike was only one of abundant of corporations exploiting workers in Asia, but it has got public concern over any competitor in the athletics market (Memphis, 2007). At that time, people began boycotting this brand, because they thought this way was not moral at all. It seems that consumers are concerned about the working condition of factories. In a survey, people claimed they preferred good working conditions product to sweatshop, and they were also willing to pay more for that. Actually, their behavior told a different answer. When the price of good working condition rose, some turned to purchase unlabeled one, which means under poorer working conditions. It is ambiguous between consumptive attitude and consuming behaviors, what exactly consumers care, money or morality? It is worth mentioning that shoppers enjoy low prices and constant novelty from fashion chains, this means garment factories need to update product quickly and cheaply. Therefore, poor working conditions and low wages result from consumers preference, but also due to unscrupulous regulators or employers (Kimeldorf, Meyer, Prasad & Robinson, 2006). Look back to Bangladesh government abused garment employees, it is quite hard to solve this kind of problems. In many developing countries, they have become industrial countries’ factories. For global companies, they own many factories in different poor places in order to reduce labour cost, what they exactly care about is cost of production, not their employees at all. For factory managers, even local governments, they get the budget first, and they would pay salaries as low as possible, if there is corruption or collusion. For private sectors, they have legal contract with official department, so they can use prison labor recklessly. In other words, captive employees can be everywhere and they are unavailable to protest immoral and unfair treatment due to disadvantaged; however, more further actions should be taken.
Even though no direct way can stop bullying, bullying can be reduced by exerting pressure and strengthening supervision. For instance, due to the product was boycotted, the sales decline so much, Nike had to do something to save itself. For the purpose of shed its sweatshops, Nike set up minimum wage, stopped hiring children, created internal auditing programs and hired external ones to monitor its factories. Moreover, it published detailed reports of conditions in its factories and became much more transparent than its competitors (Memphis, 2007). Another aspect is to set up rules and regulations to supervise employers. From the article ‘Protests in Bangladesh Shake a Global Workshop for Apparel’ (2017), workers in Bangladesh suffered from bad working conditions and owned labour rights groups, and their group was repressed by government by different ways again and again. The activists were fired, detained, abused and even killed, it seemed no laws there. After the issue caught public attention, the subcontractors and global brands cooperated to overcome it. Therefore, various accords were born to improve safety for the country’s garment workers. Some alliances have no such clause, but they impose financial punishment and dismiss members that violate their terms (Abrams & Sattar, 2017). It is important to set up rules, putting it forward by government and be obeyed by employers. In regard to the jail, prisoners have to attend labour, and the treatment is unfair and immoral. The prisons claim the aim to make inmates work is to rehabilitate them; hence this tradition has maintained for many decades. However, correcting inmates, the jail can employ them for nonprofit industry, such as charity and public service. Like planting trees, mending roads and preserving public order, this way not only make them contribute to society, but also let everyone knows the inmates are willing to correct themselves. Let prisoners work for public, and people could witness what they contribute, which is a better way to make them be accepted again. In order to earn more money, however, immoral jails send them to private projects, such doing is not real redemption for them. If they have to do that, or they do not have chances to choose, they should deserve the relevant level of wage. Even for prisoners, justice demands decent work for decent wages (Quigley, 2003).
Nowadays, more and more organization pay attention to provide prisoners human rights, therefore, there are many non-profit projects for inspiriting inmates. For instance, Fine Cell Work is a charity and social enterprise that runs rehabilitation projects in 30 British prisons by training prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework, undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells, to foster hope, discipline and self-belief. Having the opportunity to work independently helps them to regain control of their lives and allows them to maintain dignity (Fine Cell Work, 2017). Such non-profit company is a moral model to save inmates. Nevertheless, it is not a simple way to promote this concept all over the world. How to develop it in Africa which is a poor area? There are abundant unmoral prisons but no sufficient financial fund to set up non-profit organizations to follow every jail. Paying prisoners decently is another method to make them better in the immoral labour market. It is even the demand of justice (William, 2003). Look back to current situation in prison labour: low, or little wage, inmates look like slavery; even though they tried to strike, failed. Governmental organization set normal wages level to prisoners with private companies, the deduction of wages is much. There are two types of prison jobs, first is working for government to mine but get little or nothing; second is working for private business with contract with local correctional authorities, which is a kind of low-cost labor (Human Right Watch, 1994). It seems impossible to persuade government to offer fund to increase wages, it will be serve financial perssure. Hence, the second type of jobs holds much more potential for reform in ways that will help inmates. As explained above, the private companies have contract with authoritative institution, if more efficient regulations can be agreed by both, it can put prison labour forward much better. Like requiring unemployment benefit to inmates, which makes inmates feel them are employees in society. Instead of being slaves, such feeling helps them avoid reoffending. Reform the prison labour system, and make private companies acknowledge the captive inmates as their employees, which will have positive impact on prisoners materially and spiritually. Policymaker always finds it difficult to advocate new laws or regulations without any realization on an issue. Since not every policymaker knows what happens and what the degree of that in every jail. The prerequisite to innovate prison labour system for policymaker is to build up more relationships with prison and know more about the situation of it.
Actually, it is hard to avoid the market from immoral behaviors, illustratly earlier, the standard of morality varies from person to person. Above mentioned methods try to make employers treat employees more morally, however, only when certain issue happens, specific methods can be used. Nike took actions to correct itself, in fact, big brands like H&M, Gap and LEVIS also provided a lead. Nike improved working conditions and transparency after scandal occurring, while global clothing brands like H&M and Gap who set garment factories in Bangladesh also faced similar trouble. In order to save reputation, they took a series of actions to improve workers working conditions. An executive director, together with the government and social partners worked so hard to reduce the damage and confidence levels of these retailers’ brand, and an accord born, a coalition of retailers, is dedicated to improving safety for the country’s garment workers. Moreover, the Al-Hamra Garments factory built an exterior staircase, in order to avoid collapse like in 2003 again. In the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse, retailers formed two coalitions dedicated to improving the lives of workers: the accord, led by H&M, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which includes Gap and Walmart (Abrams & Sattar, 2017). Attaching importance to working conditions, should not be occurred after negative report, Levi Strauss did a good job here. In the last century, the number of companies taking steps increased dramatically, among these firms, Levi Strauss was the first company to develop a comprehensive code of conduct. Later, more and more firms committed themselves yo ensuring consistent application of labor norms to workers, regardless of where they do business and whether they directly own the operation (Bernaz, 2016). As presented before, the ethics theories and the principle of application are complex, the terms of morality and ethics which use interchangeably are notoriously difficult constructs to define. One reason why the moral character is ambiguous is that people make judgments in difficult dilemmas where there is no clear right or wrong choice. Second reason is that the majority of research programs restrict their inquiries to a small scope rather than examine multiple aspects of personality simultaneously. Nonetheless, there are some relevant aspects to locate the moral character: motivation, ability and identity elements. Moral character is assumed that it is not a single personality dimension, but rather a multifaceted construct comprised of broad and narrow traits. Generally, these differences could decline harmful behaviors and foster beneficial behaviors by supporting one’s motivation to be moral ability to be moral and/or identity as a moral person (Cohen, Panter, Turan, Morse & Kim, 2014). Back to workplace, the specific cases are discussed above, clear answers to what moral behaviors to employees are already given.
To sum up, although it is equivocal to distinguish right and wrong from others, treating employees immorally should not be the reason. Every individual has their own ethics standard; however, it should not only benefit own self but hurt someone else, especially the case prison labor and sweatshops workers. In workplace, moral behavior can be presented by these ways. First of all, treatments of employees should be legal. Make sure that be legal workers and decent work for decent wages. Second, estimating whether under a considered position, because both employee is helping with employers, not being controlled unreasonably. Are markets based on captive employees morally legitimate? It depends on the degree and situation. The detail can reflect whether the company is running in a moral way or nor. Like making use of prisoners to reduce labour cost, actually squeezing them, that is unethical, however, it is legal. Public should pay more attention to such case, although it is difficult to sanction those employers in legal way, at least can put pursure and force them improve transparency. Moreover, encourage government to set up more advanced laws and regulations, immoral treatment could reduce. In conclusion, morality has a complex theatrical system, it is unreliable to judge right and wrong without any particular case; however, it can be better accepted with the analysis of motivation, ability and identity elements of moral character.