Sample Essay Paper on Human and Labor Rights as PR Issues

Human and Labor Rights are not Just an Industrial Relation Issue, but it’s also a PR Issue for Organizations

Introduction

The rights of workers, otherwise known as labor rights represent a group of legal rights, and acclaimed human rights that revolve around labor relations between employees and their employers. Generally, they fall under the labor and employment law and touch on matters to do with negotiation of the pay of workers, workers’ benefits and safe working conditions. The right to unionize happens to be one of the most fundamental labor rights, with unions taking advantage of industrial action and collective bargaining in a bid to push for an increase in the wages of their members, and advocate for better working conditions. Labor rights may also assume the form of self-management of workers or workers’ control, whereby they are allowed a democratic voice in the process of making policies and decisions that affect them.

In the United States, the body charged with the responsibility of overseeing and promoting democracy, protection of human rights, international religious freedom and advancement of labor rights globally is The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (State.gov). Labor rights are a somewhat new phenomenon to human rights, with the contemporary concept dating back to the 19th century where they were created after the industrialization process. To date, Karl Marx still remains eminent out as the most prominent individuals to advocate for the rights of workers. Later in 1919, the International Labor Organization was formed, forming part of the League of Nations in a bid to safeguard the rights of workers. Later, the organization was incorporated into the United Nations, which also went ahead to merge a number of articles into two, namely the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the basis of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Mantouvalou 2).

All along, human and labor rights have been associated with industrial relations that only revolve around the employee, the employer, the union representatives and the government. However, there has been an undisclosed link between human and labor rights and the concept of public relations. The public tends to rate an organization and add value to it as a business largely depending on how its employees are treated, with those treating their employees favorably gaining a positive view from the public. This paper shall discuss the relationship between the two; public relations and human/labor rights.

Human and Labor Rights as PR Issues

Public relations refer to the manner in which firms, organizations or individuals communicate with the media and the public. A specialist in public relations makes communication with their targeted audience either directly or indirectly via media with the sole purpose of creating and maintaining a positive image, while at the same time creating a strong relationship with their audience. This may be done through newsletters, press releases, public appearances or via the Internet. Depending on the nature of the organization at hand, the public, or audience could include existing clients, potential clients, the local community, voters, media, foreign citizens, students and their parents, fan groups on the Internet among others. In essence, the fundamental focus of public relations is promotion of the individual’s or firm’s image (Public Relations).

Which Aspects Within The Definitions Of Public Relations Support This Statement?

In view of the topic at hand, the issue of public relations relates to the manner in which the targeted audience views the organization as a whole. The view that the public hold in regards to an enterprise support the notion that human and labor rights are not just an industrial relations issue but also a PR issue for organizations. When a firm takes care of its employees by respecting their rights, this paints a good image to the public, as opposed to an instance where employees are often protesting, going on go slows or strikes as they demand higher wages or better working conditions. In this regard, creating and maintaining the organization’s image is not only done by speaking to the media and telling positive stories about the firm. Passive issues such as observation of the rights of employees also contribute to the manner in which the general public views an organization. It improves the image of the firm when employees get the correct treatment from their employers because they also act as ambassadors for the firm that they work for. However, if the employees of the firm are always engaging in go-slows, strikes, demonstrations and to some extent litigation battles, this does not augur well with the public and the organization loses credibility in the eye of the public. These actions of protesting mainly revolve around poor pay, non-conducive, and unsafe working conditions that leave the workers oppressed.

Key Publics

The key publics in this regard refer to the groups of persons who are directly affected by the organization, or those who have an effect on the organization. These are also people who share common goals or concerns with the firm. Publics could be classified as either active or latent. The active publics are those who are directly involved in the running of the organization and include customers, clients, and shareholders; while the latent public referring to the external observers who do not have any direct contact or interest with the firms could include the community. Further, other types of publics could be classified as “community public,” meaning people in the town not personally grouped into any other special public. There is the “employee public,” meaning the people who work for the firm. There is the “shareholder public,” meaning the people who own shares in the company.

Ethical Implications

The adoption of fair labor practices as well as the promotion of human rights should be key to the reputation of any firm. In society, the manner in which employees are treated by their employers is a fundamental question of ethics, and it revolves around four major areas, being freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of forced and compulsory labor; the abolition of child labor, and elimination of discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, the profitability motive often motivates employers towards disregarding the above standards, which eventually leads to violation of their employees’ human rights (Psu.edu).

Unfortunately, the employees who get the short end of the stick when these ethical issues are not prioritized. The firms fail to pay proper wages in compensation for the work being done by their employees; they fail to provide a conducive and healthy working environment for their staff and in some instances and employees are also treated like slaves. As much as the employees experience hardship in their jobs, their economic and financial situations are always so dire that they persevere the disgraceful conditions. When they decide to leave employment in search of better conditions, they are replaced and the treatment continues on the new employees. In the long run though, the situation is dire for the firm, which may even end up closing shop. As stated, dissatisfied employees leave to search for better conditions elsewhere and this translates to high employee turnover rates for the firm. This leads to increased costs owing to the high costs connected to the recruitment processes. In addition, the firm creates a negative image to the public and this translates to lost business (Richemont.com).

Examples of Public Relations Activity

The Gap, a clothing company based in the United States of America, has in the recent past made a move that saw it send a rather strong message to the public as well as its employees. This was in reaction to the rising battle in regards to raising the minimum wage of workers, which is just gaining ground in Washington. To this effect, the CEO of the clothing company made the announcement regarding the fact that it had raised the minimum wage for its United States employees. Beginning June 2014, US workers would receive at least $9 hourly, while June 2015 would see the minimum wage increase by $1 to $10. By doing so, the clothing retailer’s management stated that owing to the fact that its success was highly contributed to by the front line employees of the retail shop; this was a way of investing in them so as to directly support the business. In this way, it would provide them with additional support as they grew their diverse careers with the outlet. For the business, which also operates a number of other brands under its wing, the move is in favor of the organization. This is because by impressing the public who may provide business as a way of appreciating the gesture. This also creates a competitive edge over the competition (Schwartz).

Apple Inc., in a bid to extend its staunch belief in human and labor rights, insists that for a company to fit doing business with, they must uphold the highest commitment to human rights. Apple does this by working to eradicate unethical hiring as well as exploitation of workers, even when such practices have been permitted by the local laws. The organization especially focuses on the reduction or total eradication of excessive working hours, particularly in the field of sourcing for raw materials of tin, gold, tungsten and tantalum.

For the longest time, the electronics industry advocated for workweeks that exceeded 60 hours, and Apple has been on the road to reducing this, unless under very unusual circumstances. However, any overtime worked ought to be voluntary and not forced under any circumstances. Apple hopes to do this by tracking weekly work hours for the workers who are in excess of one million all over their current supply chain. In 2013 as a result of the efforts of the firm, suppliers were able to achieve an average of 95 percent compliance, with a reduced average number of hours put in per workweek from 60 hours to 50 hours for the entire workforce. In the same year, the number of employees working for at least 40 hours, and these were found to work an average of 54 hours per week. In addition, over 97 percent of all workweeks attained the regulation of at least one day of rest in every seven days.

Apple also protects student workers from abuse. Students are taken advantage of and Apple, in 2013, joined forces with Stanford University’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP) and Dell Inc. on a project whose objective was aimed at matching the firm’s suppliers with credible schools. This would further assist in driving accountability for the various vocational schools, and also in raising the quality of education for student interns. In partnership, they evaluate the education as well as the internship performance of more than 12,000 students who represent schools in excess of 130 in a period of two years ranging from 2013 to 2014. The data obtained will then be used in evaluating the quality of education from each participating school. In addition to this, techniques aimed at helping human resources managers from the different factories in accurately assessing the quality of schools when hiring have been developed. They shall be availed to the public so as to enable students, and not only the interns working for the suppliers of Apple, make informed decisions when enrolling in vocational schools and also in their choice of internships. The suppliers hiring student interns are also required to follow some additional standards, and it is upon them to ensure that the educational program is in line with the educational goals of the students. Their work hours should also not interfere with school attendance, and suppliers working with many students are expected to attend Student Worker Training programs organized by Apple (Supplier Responsibility). This move creates a positive image for the company to the public, a factor that contributes to its business growth. In addition, the workers are motivated in a way that makes them more productive. Higher productivity gives rise to more quality products, which enables the firm to create a niche for itself in the market.

An example of a less positive public image is the fast food industry player, McDonalds, which sees its workers walk out of their jobs quite often in a bid to protest low pay, and demand for a pay rise up to $15 an hour. McDonald’s is one of the organizations that pays its workers relatively low wages in comparison to other firms, despite the fact that its presence is felt in many countries thanks to its wide network coverage. The low wages paid could translate to reduced worker motivation, which could eventually lead to substandard products, or worse still, bad customer service. This not only reduces the number of clients that come to the fast food outlet for service, but it also leads to a distorted public image that does not augur well with any firm. A bad/negative image could bring a business down. However, McDonald’s has found a method devised at reducing labor costs, and this is by way of offering computerized services at some outlets. This has been done by installing touch screen computers where individuals make orders on the products they need, make payments and the products are dispensed via a dispenser at the outlet. As much as this may be a way of cutting back on labor costs, the firm stands to lose in terms of customer loyalty due to the fact that this displays a rather negative image to the public. Humans are social beings and tend to care for each other, and if the company does not take care of its human beings, who in this case are employees, then clients and customers may not feel obliged to give back to the organization by buying products from them (Weissman).

Conclusion

Labor rights are human rights, and human rights are crucial for any person on the surface of the earth. Violation of human rights is infringing on their humanity and this, viewed by all people is always in bad taste. As such, it would be in order to state that violation of labor rights for employees creates a negative image, which is bad public relations and may lead to the fall of a business. In view of this, human and labor rights are not just an industrial relation issue, but also a PR issue for organizations.

 

 

Works Cited

“Introduction to Public Relations.” IPR.org.UK-Public Relations. Web. 4 April 2014. <http://www.ipr.org.uk/>

Human Rights, Ethical Labor and Employment Practices. Web. 5 April 2014.  https://www.richemont.com/corporate-social-responsibility/marketplace/supply-chain/human-rights-ethical-labour-and-employment-practices.html

Mantouvalou, Virginia. Are Labor Rights Human Rights? European Labor Law Journal. Web. 4 April 2014. <http://www.ucl.ac.uk/laws/lri/papers/VMantouvalou_Are_labour_rights_human_rights.pdf 2012>.

Penn State University. Sweatshops, Labor Rights, and Labor Standards Ethics Interest Group. Wed. 5 April 2014. http://rockethics.psu.edu/research/groups/labor-rights

Schwartz, Mathew. The Gap Sends a Message About the Minimum Wage. PR News. February 24, 2014. Web. 4 April 2014. <http://www.prnewsonline.com/water-cooler/2014/02/24/the-gap-sends-a-strong-message-about-the-minimum-wage/>

Supplier Responsibility. Web. Web. 4 April 2014. <https://www.apple.com/supplier-responsibility/labor-and-human-rights/ >

U.S. Department of State: Diplomacy in Action. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Web. Web. 4 April 2014. <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/>

Weissman, Jordan. The Magical World Where McDonald’s Pays $15 an Hour: It’s Australia. Aug 15 2013. Web. 4 April 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/the-magical-world-where-mcdonalds-pays-15-an-hour-its-australia/278313/>