An Ethics Can of Worms, All Named “Nike”

Jack Marshall writes in his EthicsAlarms.com blog that I was “open[ing] an ethics can of worms” with the piece about Nike and its $4-a-day workers. He raises a terrific set of questions that need to be argued over before deciding whether a company doing international business is behaving ethically. They’re not easy to answer. I guess I’ll try them out on my business ethics students next month. Here they are

 Q: If workers agree to work for a given price, is the company’s obligation to pay them more?

 Q: Should any company pay less than a living wage for full-time work, whether or not desperate workers assent?

 Q: Is it better for a company to pay fair wages and go out of business because it can’t compete with competitors who pay less, than to keep creating jobs, products and wealth for investors by keeping the business profitable?

 Q: Is a US company justified in using local standards of fairness when it is doing business in a foreign country, rather than America’s ethical standards?

Q: Can a company wash its hands of the arrangements made by its foreign contractors, no matter how unjust or exploitive?

 Q: Is it not per se unethical for a company like Nike to pay millionaire athletes obscene amounts of money for mere endorsements while it pays only $4 a day to the workers who make their shoes?

 Your answers are welcome. Just leave a comment.

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