Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rawlings and Haiti

The New York Times has an interesting column about Rawlings and its commitment to Haiti. The basic idea is that Rawlings used to produce baseballs in Haiti, and therefore should feel obligated to move their production back there to help out the country after the earthquake. Rawlings had a plant there a couple decades ago that employed 1,000 workers, but they transferred their production to a plant in Costa Rica due to political instability. While I agree that Haiti should receive as much support, both financial and logistical, in the wake of this terrible tragedy as possible, I don't think Rawlings has any obligation to open a plant there. I really hope they would contribute to the rebuilding efforts out of a sense of goodwill, but to move their production to a country that is still unstable, and which had major infrastructure issues even before the earthquake, just seems off. Suggesting that they have an obligation to do so seems very off. What do you all think? Should Rawlings feel obligated to reopen their plant in Haiti?

9 comments:

cheshirecat said...

This is the United States of America. No one has an obligation to help anyone. That was one of the principles this country was founded on.

Jon Roberts said...

I don't think they have an obligation, but if they are looking to have a big impact in improving the quality of life in Haiti then they would do better to employ people there than to give money. There may be a very good business case to make too, with it being close to the U.S. and the low wages there. They may also be betting there will be a U.S. or U.N. presence their to keep things stable. They may be hoping to benefit from some goodwill in the U.S. for doing it. I have no idea if this would factor in, but with the DR right next store and all the impact players that come from there, there might be some kind of marketing advantage.

My $.02

Joan said...

Millions have lost everything in the quake – homes, food, jobs! For the next 12 months, the World Food Programme says 2 million people will need critical food assistance! If you want to help and learn more about the crisis response, go to: http://wfp.org/crisis/haiti> or you can text FRIENDS to 90999 to make a $5 donation.

Rich Mahogany said...

I believe US companies should have to maintain humane wages and conditions when they operate overseas, but this is ridiculous. Rawlings left Haiti twenty years ago because the country became dangerous. Nothing in the article says that Rawlings' departure was unjustified or unfair. So what, exactly, is the source of its obligation to return? And wouldn't its relocation damage Costa Rica's economy and put its citizens out of work?

I get the point here - it would be great for Haiti if businesses returned there - but Rawlings does not owe a "debt" to Haiti.

Fernando Alejandro said...

Yeah my main problem is with this idea that they're obligated to do anything. I hope they will give to the efforts down there if they haven't already, but I definitely don't think its fair to say that they're obligated.

Roberto E. Alejandro said...

I think the point of the column is that Rawlings benefited from having a factory in Haiti at a time when the regime in power guaranteed that wages would remain suppressed by making it impossible for the workers to organize. Then, when that regime was ousted, Rawlings left, claiming they were concerned with political instability. What the article implies is that the favorable business environment left with along with the Duvalier regime, and that it was the prospect of having to pay their workers a reasonable wage that was the real reason for abandoning Haiti for Costa Rica. Thus, if Rawlings was one of those entities who helped keep Haiti impoverished by getting in bed with an oppressive regime and employing workers and underpaying them, then perhaps they have a moral obligation to go back now, in this time of need, and help a country they once took advantage of. I have no problem with that suggestion of obligation.

Jon Roberts said...

I guess I should have read the article before I commented. For the most part I support free trade, but I think it is perfectly reasonable to penalize companies that are taking advantage of environmental disregard or human rights abuses. In this case it seems like Rawlings did take advantage of a country with a dictator who prevented Haitians from free association (forming unions), which is protected here.

If I were involved in MLB I would take an interest in the ethics of my suppliers, 110 dozen balls not withstanding. I think the idea in the article of making some clothes there is a good one.

Rich Mahogany said...

Roberto, that is a far more compelling argument than anything in the article. It certainly gives me pause for thought.

Fernando Alejandro said...

I agree. The article doesn't really touch on any of that.