Happy employees usually equal a bigger bottom line, but even though there’s plenty of research around to convince business owners and corporations to treat their workers well, an astounding number of them not only pay poor wages but implement horrific work conditions. From human rights violations to low ethical standards and abuse of employees, it’s always disturbing to hear about a huge company taking advantage of the people who work for them.
What’s worse, even though social media and the internet have made it easier than ever for people to share their job experiences and warn others, workers for these companies are forced into silence in fear of retaliation and losing their jobs. To expose the workplaces with the most horrible working conditions, it often takes a media expose or a brave whistle blower to come forward. Here are companies that are known for having terrible work conditions.
In a recent Oxfam America report, it was revealed that many of the largest poultry producers in the US subject their employees to ruthless treatment. One of the biggest culprits is food mega corporation Tyson Foods — yes, the ones who make the chicken nuggets and such that line grocery store frozen food aisles. Not only are Tyson Foods’ workers poorly paid, but they’re forced to stand dangerously close together while working on the assembly line. Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with your colleagues while wielding sharp knives and tools, repeatedly ripping apart chickens, and operating dangerous machinery. It doesn’t stop there: management at Tyson Foods routinely deny workers restroom breaks. The report, “No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry”, found that an overwhelming majority of workers admitted to being denied these breaks or being mocked and ridiculed by their managers for even asking. This is against the law and inhumane. As a result of being denied this basic need, many of the company’s workers have resorted to wearing adult diapers to contain their own waste.
It’s not a huge secret that Apple outsources the manufacture of its products and components — no, that iPhone you love will never be made outside of a foreign country with deplorable working conditions. The terrible thing, however isn’t that they outsource the production of their electronics but the fact that Apple doesn’t care about monitoring how overseas workers are treated. With the billions they have, you’d think it would be no problem to make sure workers aren’t being abused or underpaid, but the company isn’t bothered at all about it.
When Apple found out that some of the factories in their supply chain had high suicide rates among the workers, with many jumping from the windows during their shifts, what did Apple do? You’re wrong if you think they investigated how the factories ran and demanded change. No, they simply told the factory management to put nets outside the windows to catch would-be jumpers and send them back to the production line.
No word on just what makes workers in those factories want to kill themselves on the spot, but the factories that Apple uses also have other problems such as demanding overtime of up to 200 hours per month. Seriously, that’s abuse beyond words and highly illegal. Apple’s factories also deny workers breaks and the machinery and chemicals used to produce the electronic components is not well kept or particularly safe. This became even more evident when there was a major explosion in a Shanghai factory used by Apple that injured over 60 workers.
Sears has been known to use sweatshop labor for years, but the clothing retailer isn’t alone. What they are, however, is heartless. In 2012, one of the Bangladesh factories that they outsource to exploded in flames and 112 workers were killed. That’s not the worst, however. When it was discovered that one of the Samoan factories that Sears uses abuses its workers, the company did nothing. The factory employees receive only about $500 for working nine months — yes, just $500 for the entire nine months — and their pay is frequently cut at the whim of management. The workers are forced to live in the factories because of their working hours, and over 250 of them share just two pounds of chicken total at mealtimes. Complaints from the workers about their treatment often results in the electricity being shut off and temperatures in the factory rising to dangerously high levels.
In yet another overseas sweatshop used by Sears, this time in Vietnam, management admitted to literally dragging a seamstress from her work area, sitting her in front of all the other workers, and gouging out her eye with a plastic pipe. Why? To make an example out of her. Coincidentally, retailer JC Penny used the same Vietnamese sweatshop that Sears does. When JC Penney learned what was going on, they at least feigned remorse and compensated the abused workers. Sears acknowledged what had happened, but refused to do anything about it or pay anything to the workers.
Walmart not only has unsafe working conditions in the overseas factories that it uses to produce its cheap goods, but here in America as well. The dirty, unsafe warehouses and long shifts for pay so low that a significant number of its employees rely on government aid is pretty bad, but the people working in Walmart’s sweatshops literally put their lives on the line each day. In 2013, a factory in Bangladesh that Walmart used collapsed and killed over 1,000 people, all due to how unsafe and shoddy the building was.
After this horrible incident, retailers from countries all over the world signed a pact to help bring their sweatshops up to a reasonable safety standard. Walmart refused to sign the pact, but did say they’d provide their own inspections. Anyone who thinks this bit of self regulation will actually do any good obviously hasn’t been paying attention to Walmart’s track record.
Family Dollar Store
Since 1938, it’s been required by law that hourly employees be paid time and a half when working overtime. How does discount retail giant Family Dollar get past this? By giving their low wage workers a fixed salary, calling them “managers”, and working them into the ground. See, with a fixed salary and a promotion, it doesn’t matter that these particular employees are made to work 60 or 70 hours per week — the company doesn’t have to pay them overtime because they’re not hourly workers. Very crafty, Family Dollar.
After a group of these so-called managers sued the company, it was revealed that some of them work so many hours that they have to sleep at their stores overnight. One person reported doing backbreaking labor hauling boxes for 60 hours a week with no overtime, while another was refused medical attention after he sliced off his finger during his shift — he was made to wait until after work to go to the hospital.