Article 43


Sunday, February 08, 2009

China Sweatshops Revisited


Goods produced under conditions which do not meet a rudimentary standard to decency should be regarded as contraband and not allowed to pollute the channels of international commerce.
-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

God help us if the labor-management relations being developed in China becomes the new low standard to be accepted by the rest of the world.  The $200 personal computer and the $22.99 keyboard may be seen as a great bargain, but in the long run they come at a terrible cost.


Your Computer Made Here

By Jonathan Tasini
Working Life
February 6, 2009

With the collapse of the financial system, we are witnessing one obvious spectacular failure of the wonders of the “free market”. Let’s not forget, though, the other part of the wonderful “free market”: the grueling hours, despicable conditions and substandard wages that half the world live in, all a product of the fine system we are lectured about daily by an elite group of politicians, economists, CEOs and the other assorted riff-raff. Here’s a reminder.

The National Labor Committee has a new eye-opening report about the conditions at the Meitai factory in southern China. Please step away from your keyboard when you read this. Highlights:

Workers sit on hard wooden stools as 500 computer keyboards an hour move down the assembly line, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with just two days off a month.  The workers have 1.1 seconds to snap on each key, an operation repeated 3,250 times an hour, 35,750 a day, 250,250 a week and over one million times a month.  The pace is relentless.

Workers are paid 1/50th of a cent for each operation they complete.

Workers cannot talk, listen to music or even lift their heads to look around.  They must “periodically trim their nails,” or be fined.  Workers needing to use the bathroom must learn to hold it until there is a break.  Security guards spy on the workers, who are prohibited from putting their hands in their pockets and are searched when they leave the factory.

All overtime is mandatory and workers are at the factory up to 87 hours a week, while earning a take-home wage of just 41 cents an hour.  Workers are being cheated of up to 19 percent of the wages due them.

Ten to twelve workers share each overcrowded dorm room, sleeping on metal bunk beds and draping old sheets over their cubicles for privacy.  Workers bathe using small plastic buckets and must walk down several flights of stairs to fetch hot water.

Workers are locked in the factory compound four days a week and prohibited from even taking a walk.

For breakfast the workers receive a thin rice gruel. On Fridays they receive a small chicken leg and foot to symbolize “their improving life.”

Workers are instructed to “love the company like your home"..."continuously striving for perfection” ...and to spy on and “actively monitor each other.”

Now, this is, by the way, so-called “free trade”: China provides large subsidies to its exporters.  In 2008, the U.S. trade deficit with China in advanced technology products is expected to reach $74 billion.  There are 1.4 million electronic assembly jobs left in the U.S.paying $12.72 to $14.41 an hourח-which may be lost due to Chinas low wages and repression of worker rights.

You can read the full report HERE.

And, then, vow that everytime you hear someone on television or at work or even on this blog wax on and on about the wonders of the “free market” and so-called “free trade”, you will send them a copy of this report and ask them whether they’d like their kid or family member to be trapped in this miserable place.


Posted by Elvis on 02/08/09 •
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