Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) is a new nonprofit organization founded in Hong Kong in June 2005. SACOM originated from a students’ movement devoted to improving the labor conditions of cleaning workers and security guards under the outsourcing policy. The movement attained relative success and created an opportunity for students to engage in local and global labor issues. SACOM aims at bringing concerned students, scholars, labor activists, and consumers together to monitor corporate behavior and to advocate for workers’ rights.
We believe that the most effective means of monitoring is to collaborate closely with workers at the workplace level. We team up with labor NGOs to provide in-factory training to workers in South China. Through democratic elections, we support worker-based committees that can represent the voices of the majority of workers.
Advocacy for Workers’ Rights
Many students and scholars are deeply concerned about the dark side of corporate-led globalization. Corporations should commit to ensuring that working conditions in their supply chains are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible.
Most corporate codes of conduct, however, are not effectively implemented. Their ability to protect the workers is drastically compromised by the loop-holes built into the existing monitoring model. The fact is that only a certain proportion of the supplier factories are audited every year, and the large number, if not all of these audited factories, receive prior notification before the actual date of the audit. Since the management can have time to prepare fake reports, this monitoring program fails to systematically ensure factory compliance with codes of conduct. Moreover, the audit reports are neither made available to the workers nor the consumers. The right to know about the corrective action plan proposed by the audits is denied.
To rectify the above-mentioned problems, we believe that a successful monitoring program must include, as a central feature, the participation of the workers. The workers should be able to take part in the company decision-making process in relation to their rights and welfare. We advocate for a transparent and democratic mechanism as follows:
First and foremost, corporations should disclose the names and locations of their supplier factories at different tiers;
Second, corporations should invite independent NGOs to provide participatory training with the workers on labor rights, corporate social responsibility, and consumer campaigns;
Third, the trained workers should be allowed to run factory-wide elections to select their own representatives for the workers’ committee.
In sum, this proactive agenda will help create sustainable development wherein workers are benefited. Moreover, consumers will no longer be left in the dark regarding whether the products they buy are coming from exploitative conditions.