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New Penn State resource for mapping labor rights risks and MOOC in Fair Wages in a Global Economy

"Deep Supply Chain, Labor and Human Right, and Working with NGOx and the Social Sector

Mark leads the morning session of the last day of our Penn State Executive Program's "Building a Sustainable Supply Chain". These are a few of my notes from he super talk.

The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry - social impact and sustainability in supply chains

Mark has spent his academic career studying worker rights primarily in the apparel industry. He has frontline experience in El Salvador, Bangladesh among other locations. His insights into the "high cost of low prices" can be startling. But he also brings a message of hope and practical tools to fix what isn't working.

He mentioned the 2015 book Dirty Side of the Garment Industry that exposes the tremendous toxic load of the industry in addition to the water consumption: 1 ton of

fabric requires 200 tons of water.

Mark showed the compelling trailer of the documentary THE TRUE COST.


Mapping Labor Issues Around the World

Supply chains have become multi-layered, long and highly complex. The growing desire to understand "on the ground" issues deep in the supply chain can be met with a very opaque set of information (if there is any at all). Foremost among these issues is labor rights, including forced labor and child labor.

In response, the Penn State Center for Global Workers’ Rights, where Mark is the director, has created the Labour Rights Indicators Map. According to the site, it provides "comprehensive numerical and textual information on country-level compliance with freedom of association and collective bargaining rights that is comparable between countries and over time. It contributes to a growing need for knowledge about the concept of labour rights and reliable information on compliance with international labour standards and human rights obligations in the world of work."


How do you determine a "living wage"?

There was great discussion about the Living Wage. Encourage you to explore the MIT Living Wage and for international estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the University of Amsterdam.

Billions of workers lack a sufficient income for a decent life. Wages for many workers have stagnated or decreased over the last few decades while economic gains have gone to the already wealthy.

Penn State has partnered with other universities to offer a free MOOC "Fair Wages in a Global Economy" to explore this issue. The course provides answers to critical questions: "Why do income inequalities continue to increase in so many countries? What role can collective bargaining and minimum wages play in reducing social and economic inequalities? What constitutes a fair wage?"

Online course about fair wages in a global economy

"Sometimes you just need to step up and do the right thing [to pay workers more]," said one participant who shared an experience of his company's work in China. They made the decision--after a couple of years of consideration--to increase the pay of their workers in factories in China.

For a multi-million dollar company, he said: "This costs us less than $6,000 a year."


If you made it this really should check out the trailer Mark showed in the course...

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