Tuesday, June 08, 2010

You - yes, you - are responsible for these deaths.

As has been pointed out here more than once, the main reason the Robber Barons outsource their manufacturing work to China and other third world nations is for the specific purpose of avoiding wage and labour laws, including workers rights such as 8 hour days, sabbaths, holidays, and sick leave. Factories in these countries are often defacto slave pens, with the "workers" required to live on site, work 7 days a week 365 days a year, and paid only a few cents an hour - in this case, less than $1 a day.

Why? Because you - yes, you - keep buying the products produced in these conditions, because you want the "best" price. "Best" apparently meaning a fake price that doesn't reflect any sort of moral or ethical working conditions, or even safe ones for that matter. You're too cheap to pay what things really cost, so you close your eyes and ignore the way your purchases are made. After all, if you bought stuff made in First World countries where such rules are enforced it would cost "too much" - the definition of "too much" apparently being the real cost of honest, safe, environmental and living wage labour.

And then you have the nerve to gripe that your wages are down! Why? Because you're competing with these guys:

New York Times Online
After Suicides, Scrutiny of China’s Grim Factories
Published: June 6, 2010

...Mr. Ma’s pay stub shows that he worked 286 hours in the month before he died, including 112 hours of overtime, about three times the legal limit. For all of that, even with extra pay for overtime, he earned the equivalent of $1 an hour.

“The factory was always abusing my brother,” the sister, Ma Liqun, said tearfully last week.

Since Mr. Ma’s death, there have been 12 other suicides or suicide attempts — eight men and four women — on two Foxconn campuses in Shenzhen, where employees live and work. The factories here, with about 400,000 employees, make products for global companies like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard...

...Sociologists and other academics see the deaths as extreme signals of a more pervasive trend: a generation of workers rejecting the regimented hardships their predecessors endured as the cheap labor army behind China’s economic miracle...

...Economists say the changes are already eroding some of China’s competitive advantages in the global economy by raising wages, the cost of production and, soon, the prices of a wide range of consumer goods that China exports.

“The factory model has run into some serious limitations,” says Huang Yasheng, a professor of management at M.I.T. and the author of “Capitalism With Chinese Characteristics.”

...Foxconn, founded by the Taiwanese industrialist Terry Gou, is a $60 billion manufacturer with a reputation for military-style efficiency that includes mapping out assembly line workers’ movements in great detail and monitoring tasks with a stopwatch.

The company is also known for the scale of its operations.

Last week, its site here, covering about a square mile, was teeming with uniformed migrant workers, filing into work at gray, low-slung factory complexes, or entering utilitarian high-rise dormitories...

...Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard have already said they are looking into conditions at Foxconn — although Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, said last week that he was troubled by the suicides but that Foxconn was “not a sweatshop.”

Bull malarky. Either they're lying or they don't know the definition of sweatshop, because that's exactly what these factories are - and they knew it when they signed contracts for their production to take place there. They knew and didn't care, because they are far more interested in increasing their profits than they are interested in making sure workers everywhere have the same basic rights that they themselves INSIST on having in their cushy contracts.

The top brass and administrative layers of these companies would NEVER agree to work under such conditions, nor would they EVER agree for their children to have to go such factories to live and work. They are hypocrites, to put it mildly.

Greedy blood-sucking hypocrites, actually.

...labor rights groups, including China Labor Watch, a human rights group based in New York, say they have documented what they call the dehumanizing treatment of workers at Foxconn...

That's not enough, class - not nearly enough. Documenting it? They already knew, and so did you. Yet you buy the products anyway.

You're guilty.


Aimee said...

Thank you for this - it is hard to hear the truth. Years ago, I decided that the only way I could avoid supporting the clothing industry sweatshops was to buy only used clothing - and that is what I do. I am aware that there are some issues with the used clothing market as well, but I do have to cover my body with something! Although, I guess nudism is an option for the purists.

I also buy furniture secondhand for the same reason (and other things secondhand - like cars- because I can't afford NOT to). I believe in reusing and recycling, and in taking my dollars away from unethical organizations and giving them to ethical ones, whenever possible. However...

I am sitting here typing this on a brand new apple computer. My husband bought it - I didn't think we needed a new computer at all - but that doesn't let me off the hook. We should have used our old one as long as we could, donated it to a school, and bought a newer but secondhand one.

Ahavah Gayle said...

I applaud your good shopping sense - your methods are great ideas that I wish more people would adopt.

Like you, apparently, many of us started out shopping second hand out of economic necessity and only found out later about the bad effects of "free trade" and globalization.

Shopping ethically is harder than it looks, too. A company that has good policies in one area often has bad ones in others - so we sort of have to choose our battles. And it takes more research than most people are willing to put into it. Fortunately, there are some rating sites based on certain issues - again, you have to decide, though, which issues are most important to you because no companies pass all litmus tests, sad to say.

On a somewhat related note, I'm typing this from a used laptop. I bought my old one new about 9 years ago. Needless to say, it could just no longer keep up with the software, and had some minor hardware issues (such as no sound) which were more and more annoying with so many podcasts now available to listen to on all sorts of topics. This one isn't top of the line, but it's light years ahead of the one I had, LOL. And by buying it used I supported a local business, kept dollars in my community as much as possible, and kept from having more rare earth minerals and other resources wasted on a top-of-the-line new model that I just don't need.

Need vs Want is the issue in a lot of ways. People buy the "latest" fashions every year because they want to, not because they need to. Ditto for cars, furniture, clothes, shoes, and all sorts of products. We give all the kid's outgrown clothes to charity, and wear our own until they are unwearable (but even then we can salvage all the buttons and zippers then use the cloth itself as scraps or rags).

I honestly think a lot of my generation (x-ers) and many of the y-ers just never learned how to be frugal and be content with adequate products instead of new top of the line products. It's a skill, you know, that has to be consciously practiced. But it's good to see young people are starting to be environmentally and economically aware of the conditions their purchases cause.

Hope you're having a great summer.