The law is a two edged sword aimed at cutting the oppressed free while punishing the unjust. This is one of the maxims that I have believed in and that inspires me towards applying for the JD program. By applying for this program, I desire to equip myself with the power to bring this ‘sword’ closer to the oppressed. I believe that this course will help me represent my people better and also in making them aware of their rights according to the law. All this intrinsic motivation to undertake the law course is extrinsically supported by the fact that most of the people from Vietnam, my home country, do not have easy access to legal services. I therefore wish to complete my course and make such services easily available to them. One particular area of interest for me is in the labor sector where most Vietnamese employees are not aware of what their legal rights are, which in turn makes it easier for some employers to violate the employees’ rights. Also, some who employees who are aware of their rights can not afford suing their employers for violating the country’s labor laws. Several right violation incidents involving Vietnamese employees and multinational companies have only worked in strengthening my resolve in pursuing a law course.
One such incident involved Nike and Vietnamese employees, mostly rural women. Nike is one of the leading global manufacturers of sports gear and is also recognized for its incorporation of outsourcing in its production processes. Nike began its operations in Vietnam back in 1995 and statistics show that by 1999 the company was contributing 5% to our country’s GDP (Rathore, Bhatnagar, Kanungo & Torres, p. 1). However business is not all about creating monetary wealth; it is also about being responsible for the communities within the company’s environment. Nike failed to do this when it did not stop the violation of labor rights by its subcontractors in Vietnam. There were widespread reports of workers being overworked beyond the legal time, poor working conditions, and of managers abusing employees both verbally and physically. Most of the Vietnamese people avoided working in the Nike factories but the Korean and Taiwan immigrants, who were desperate, had no options. They still worked in these factories and would each day let their rights as employees to be violated out of fear of losing their source of livelihood. When an audit on Nike factories was conducted by Ernest and Young, about 100 employees were found to be minors and the working conditions were found to be unfit for all the employees. The people knew that their rights were being violated but they were too desperate and too disunited to organize a powerful opposition. Whenever I recount this story I see the gap that lack of awareness of labor rights amongst employees created, and which the Nike subcontractors took advantage of by violating the employees’ rights. A gap I seek to help fill by completing my course.
Similar cases of labor rights violation have been noted by the Vietnamese government in mostly South Korean companies which lack structures for payroll scales, and which do not compensate their employees according to the volume of work assigned to them. The government cited cases where South Korean firms have laid off workers and refused to pay them in its protest cum warning to these firms (Deutsche Presse, 2008). One thing that hurts me is that most of these workers have no one to defend them when the government’s protests are not heard. Lack of legal counsel is a key weak point that some of these multinationals use; they know that most of the workers cannot afford hiring lawyers even when they out rightly violate the employees’ rights.
I desire to enlighten my people about what privileges, rights and freedoms they have as they go about their work. I desire to be the voice that tells them that even when they desperately need the income, they should not agree to work in poor working conditions or allow minors to work. However, even with this burning passion to serve my people, I cannot let myself be blinded into thinking its going to be an easy task. This is why I seek to equip myself with adequate knowledge so as to achieve this goal. This is a big battle I am setting myself up for, a battle against ignorance and forces that would wish to see this ignorance continue. Common knowledge dictates that big weapons are needed for big battles, and that’s why I seek to enroll with an institution that is keen on providing quality education. An institution that will equip me with more than a certificate after four years but also with adequate knowledge to deal with real life legal situations. When I complete this course, I believe my community will have something to rejoice for, one more warrior fighting for them. I hope to bring home a degree for the whole community; and I believe that the thought of my people being overworked, underpaid, and having their employee rights violated will keep me focused on achieving this bachelors.
Deutsche Presse (2008). “Vietnam warns Korean firms on labor violations.” M&C. Retrieved from
Rathore, A., Bhatnagar, D., Kanungo, P., & Torres, M. Nike in Vietnam: The Tae Kwang
Factory. Retrieved from