PSY 533: L03 – Unethical Working Conditions

Have you ever wondered why some clothing companies have similar materials but vary in prices, or why local shops can’t compete with big companies such as Walmart or Publix? The answer to these questions is usually the labor cost that is acquired. Many leaders from big companies require cheap labor, they try to cut costs whenever possible. This often leads to the cuts of personnel or under worst leadership, the endangerment of lives and inhumane working conditions. This is considered the dark side of leadership. Northouse defines this as “the destructive and toxic side of leadership in that a leader uses leadership for personal ends.” This leader disregards what his followers need, and puts his needs over everyone else. This includes, profit, recognition, or power. Northouse quotes Lipman-Blumen mentioning “that toxic leaders are characterized by destructive behaviors such as leaving their followers worse off than they found them, violating the human rights of others, and playing to the basest fears.” In the next few paragraphs I will be give examples of both inhumane and the engagement of lives that the dark side of leadership has caused.

Living conditions for farm workers have not always been ideal, and even now, there is still a great harshness that accompanies them. In the article by Luciano, we are shown just how bad these can get and how little some of the employers’ care about their employees. Luciano is able to interview one of the farm workers Celdin. She gets to see firsthand what he goes through on a day to day basis. She first explains that “Celdin lives at a shelter for migrant workers provided by his employer, one of the many tobacco farmers in the state who sell their product to large tobacco manufacturers.” Luciano describes the living conditions that Celdin has to go through. One of the main things she finds is that Celdin prefers to sleep on an inflatable bed he keeps on the floor because he does not want to risk getting bed bugs. Another thing that stands out to her are the toilets, she describes them in detail: “Walking in, one is immediately hit by a dreadful stench coming from a small garbage can on the floor that’s overflowing with used pieces of toilet paper. At the end of the room stand three showerheads with no curtains, and to the left, three toilets side by side, but without stalls or panels to provide workers any privacy’. In a broader aspect, Luciano shares that “Among their findings was the fact that many workers live in rodent and insect-infested homes. One in four workers earns below the state’s $7.25 minimum wage, while exposed to pesticides and tobacco-related illnesses.” Among other results, the article by Wilkes-Edrington shares that “For every 32 pounds of tomatoes Leonel Perez picks on Florida farmlands, he says he receives a piece rate of 50 cents.” And even worse so, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows “This while Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that one farm worker dies on the job every day and hundreds more are injured.”

The mistreatment of employees can also be seen in companies in other countries that provide goods for us. One of the most famous misfortunes is that of the Bangladesh factory collapse. According to Kennedy, on the day of the collapse April 24, 2013, “More than 1,100 people, most of them employees of several garment and apparel factories housed in the building, were killed. About 2,500 others were pulled from the wreckage.” One year after, he reports his findings on the victim’s families. Kennedy states “So far, promises of compensation for survivors of the disaster and the victims’ families have been only partially kept, according to Human Rights Watch.” This lack of care for both the victims lives prior to the incident and the treatment to their families after is completely astonishing. The fact that employers allow human lives to be dispensable in order for them to receive a bigger paycheck is inhumane. I agree with Kennedy when he quotes Sally Greenber about the way that companies should behave, she mentions that The retailers must work together — European and American — to be transparent, to not hide behind indirect sourcing to say they didn’t know where their products were made.” Everyone should have the right to safe working conditions and humane treatment.

In conclusion, the dark side of leadership has shown to be one that I hope most people do not follow. This is why it is important to have ethics courses and to have laws that make sure workers are being giving the right treatment. People should not need to worry whether they are safe in their jobs, or that they aren’t getting paid anywhere near the minimal wage. One way to make sure this gets better, is buying from places that do not use these types of working conditions. It is the best way to insure that people have humane working conditions, and it also allows people to see that the dark side of leadership style is not preferred and should be avoided and discontinued.

 

References

Edrington-Wilkes, L. (2013, February 1). Farm Worker Conditions Linked to Modern Slavery. Huffpost Live. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/farm-worker-conditions-modern-slavery-video_n_2593772.html

Kennedy, B. (2014, April 23). The Bangladesh factory collapse one year later. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-bangladesh-factory-collapse-one-year-later/

Luciano, L. (2011, November 4). Migrant’s woes: bed bugs, foul toilets, illness. NBC News. Retrieved from http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/11/04/8620474-migrants-woes-bed-bugs-foul-toilets-illness?lite#undefined

Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (Seventh Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: SAGE Publications.

2 Comments

  1. Daren Kenneth Kullman February 7, 2016 at 11:22 PM #

    PSY 533 Blog Unit 01 Lesson 3 Blog Reply
    Your writing about the mistreatment of employees seems almost impossible in today’s day and age of media frenzied reporting, however, it is occurring and at alarming numbers. Much of it, as you write is due to the culture created when corporations make decisions based solely on one factor, typically financials, and fail to take in to account the ethical consequences of their decision.
    This decidedly right vs. wrong argument appears to fall well within the meta-ethics belief (Lefkowitz, 2003). “One needs to have standards of what is right or wrong before one can act in a manner that either aligns with or violates those standards” (Pennsylvania State University, 2016). The idea that the executive of the company must first indeed have a belief of right vs. wrong and make decision based on that concept.
    Unfortunately, as you point out, these leaders seem to have lost all ethical basis when their decisions are made for exclusively non-ethical reasons. In the video, Food Inc., we see that the food industry is run exclusively by only a few companies in the world (Kenner, 2008). This video awakens the viewer to the fact that these companies appear to make decisions unethically, but in fact have a belief that they are making the decisions “for the many” (Pennsylvania State University, 2016). These very skewed beliefs cause the companies to justify their decisions as ethical and just (Kenner, 2008). In the film they go so far as to bankrupt farmers that go against the parent company, sue them in court for misuse of their seeds, as well as hold loans over their heads in order to gain compliance (Kenner, 2008). Again, all is done in the name of lowering food prices to the many, providing jobs to the many and keeping the food industry thriving.
    It seems that in any industry the corporate leader can use the argument of protecting the many or that the good outweighs the harm in order to justify their decision as ethical (Pennsylvania State University, 2016). I agree that only when we as consumers demand more of the producers of the products we buy will something be done to change. Unfortunately, we will have to also decide to pay more for the privilege of buying ethically.
    References
    Kenner, R. (Director). (2008). Food, Inc. [Motion Picture].
    Lefkowitz, J. (2003). Ethics and values in industrial-organizational psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    Pennsylvania State University. (2016). PSY 533 Unit 01 Lesson 3 Ehtical Dilemma. State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University.

  2. Isaac John Belt February 5, 2016 at 11:09 AM #

    Unethical Working Conditions- It is hard to comprehend that during the year of 2016, we still have these unfair working conditions in the United States and throughout the world. Through the years it seems organizations/ and government have been on the path to attempt to make working environments safe. In addition, the minimum wage states requirement in the United States would hopefully be able to prevent some of these types of situations. The conditions that the government is creating would be considered the building blocks for meta-ethics. Meta-ethics is concerned with how right and wrong are determined which theories typically focus on the creation of ethical standards (Penn State 2016). However, it seems that those things are not always successful. Based off the blog below it appears that we still have miles to go to ensure that unethical working conditions are eliminated.

    Why do you think efforts to improve working conditions have not be successful in several industries?
    Coming from a manufacturing background where unions are common. The employers work really hard to ensure that employees are able to file grievances. However, the company I currently work for also has non-unionized facilities. These facilities are monitored to ensure employee engagement is up and that employees are fairly treated. The facilities have even implemented an Employee Opinion Survey were they frequently reach out to gage a “Pulse” of the organizations engagement levels.

    I think that groups needs to really highlight these unfair conditions and states/ local governments need to step in to ensure that employees are being properly treated.
    Reference:
    Penn State University (2016). PSY 533 Lesson 03. Ethical Theories. Retrieved on 2016, February 02 from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1775390/pages/l03-normative-ethics?module_item_id=20678661

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