BGSU students overwhelmingly agree that sweatshop labor is a problem and the subjugation of people to create cheap goods is wrong.
A sweatshop is defined by Merriam Webster as a shop or factory in which employees work for long hours at low wages and under unhealthy conditions.
According to the New York Times, a Chinese company called Foxconn has come under fire in the past few months for the alleged poor treatment of its workers.
Foxconn is a major electronic supplier for companies including Apple, Dell, HP and many others. At the company’s Apple factories, there have been multiple explosions which have killed four and injured hundreds. There have also been 17 worker suicides at the factories, leading the company to install anti-suicide nets.
“It’s a really sad situation that as a capitalist society we’ve put ourselves into,” said Chelsea Burden, a social studies education major from Sidney, Ohio. “Most people don’t want to pay more for a good, so they would sacrifice strangers they don’t know.”
Many students recognized the issue at hand as well their involvement.
“We’re buying their products, so we’re contributing to the problem,” said Sarah Weaver, a junior from Cincinnati studying sports management.
A few students had heard a little about the Apple factories, while others had not heard anything at all. This led some to say that the media has a role to play and is partly to blame.
Ashley Drachenberg, a senior sociology major from Cleveland, and Stevie Brown, a freshman visual communications major from Centerburg, Ohio, both said that these types of issues are important and the media does not give them the attention or coverage that they deserve.
One student said that while conditions are bad in some places, they are bound to improve. Citing The United States as evidence, Drachenberg said that sweatshop labor and poor working conditions were widespread, but over time conditions have improved.
However, one student was less optimistic.
“It won’t change, corporate businesses will find the cheapest way to make something,” said Francisco Cardenas, a senior visual communications technology major from Genoa, Ohio. “They don’t care about human life.”
Luke Stoll, a sophomore studying environmental health from Orville, Ohio, brought the materialism of modern society into question. “Unemployment is high, and when human rights are being degraded, people need to ask themselves ‘why do we need these things?”
Most students expressed concern and a desire to change something, but either felt unsure or unable.
Many said that they would consider changing what and where they buy with some more knowledge about how things were produced.
“If I knew more about the process of the way a product was made and there was an alternative, I would change my purchasing habits,” Burden said.
But there are other factors that weigh on some peoples decision, like style and appearance.
Tony DiMartini, a sophomore studying to become a physician’s assistant, admitted that he wears a lot of Nike despite knowing the company’s reputation for sweatshop labor. DiMartini said that he does not agree with sweatshop labor, and it is up to the companies to change.
“If more people knew about this, then Wal-Mart’s sales would go definitely go down, but there are still people who would save an extra few dollars and wouldn’t care,” Cardenas said. “I would rather pay the extra money for a product made in any place with better labor rights.”