Op-Ed: Chinese sweatshops - Is anyone liable for anything?

Posted Apr 15, 2010 by Paul Wallis
I’m sitting here in Australia, using a Microsoft mouse, keyboard, and system. What do I see? Chinese kids getting paid 52c an hour to make these things and some trying to commit suicide. Am I happy about that? I am not.
A teen worker at the KYE factory in China assembling a technology product
A teen worker at the KYE factory in China assembling a technology product
National Labor Committee
According to the National Labor Committee, Chinese workers are literally being worked to death on 15 hour shifts. They’re supposed to make 2000 mice per shift. That’s 2.2 a minute. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? This is for $7 a shift. Some are working 80 hour weeks.
They have dorms, steel frame bedrooms in areas like old style offices. There’s a notable absence of bling. This includes 15 year old kids. Some of the girls complain about sexual abuse, and one guy committed suicide One girl attempted suicide by jumping off a roof. At least one person was compensated for a beating and “interrogation” over a missing iPhone.
Microsoft and Apple claim to be in the process of dealing with these issues. It must be emphasized that these are not Apple and Microsoft or other affected companies, and that neither corporation is directly responsible in any way for any aspect of the work conditions.
So much for the disclaimer. The ethics and basic levels of competence, however, aren’t subject to such niceties, nor is any level of politeness justifiable.
The questions remain:
1. Where were they when this was happening?
2. How and when did they find out?
3. Why didn’t they find out sooner?
4. You’d think that even the most debased, mindless corporate cockroach would know there was a strong possibility of a situation like this.
5. There is a level of expectation on major corporates that they have some theoretical understanding of what’s acceptable, and that child labor and sweatshops are not acceptable. That’s apparently not the case. If it was, they could have acted sooner and far more efficiently to oversight the factories.
6. Is it plausible that America’s top corporations have suddenly become so ignorant of situations affecting their products?
You’d have to have been born pretty recently not to be aware of the possibility of abuse of labor laws. These companies are said to “violate every Chinese labor law”, (although at least one, KYE, denies it’s breached any laws at all).
And nobody knew anything?
It’s no news to anyone that the electronics industry is now run by a collection of third rate cheese dip peasants. Gizmos that don’t work, shoddy operating systems, total lack of creative imagination, corporate dunghills, prehistoric software, etc., are now the enchanting norm. It goes so well with the obscene slopfest we claim to be a civilization.
But slave labor, too?
For those who’ve forgotten, that’s a massive violation of human rights. Can Western corporations be charged with crimes against humanity on the basis of participation and knowledge of these situations? Or benefiting monetarily from slave labor? Some would say they can and should, and it’s major jail time. But will they?
It flies in the face of recent history to believe they will. Slavery in South East Asia is hardly new, and nor are sweatshops in China. It’s just that nobody mentions them any more. Mainstream media is more interested in promoting nobodies to celebrity status and getting paid kickbacks.
It’s pretty obvious that the real problem for outsourcing corporations has been getting found out. Remember, this outsourcing to China is the same mentality that invented the maquiladoras, and ignored serial killings of Mexican women in the 90s. Human life has yet to have any proven value to outsourcers.
The sick history of recent times to responses on the subject of abuse of human rights is that:
1. There is no problem.
2. There’s a problem, but it’s not our problem.
3. There’s a problem, and it is our problem, and we’re not going to do a damn thing until forced to do something by a court.
From which elegant necrotic thinking is derived this procedural blueprint:
1. Nothing is a problem until it makes headlines.
2. When it makes headlines, you can produce a few years’ worth of fluff denying everything until you get to court or until it blows over.
3. The political system is so inbred that nothing is an issue unless it donated to the other side.
4. American corporations can commit mass murder, as long as it doesn’t affect stock prices, and Washington will do exactly nothing, however much it talks.
Or maybe public relations is the answer to crimes against humanity? Or merchandising or gambling?
A free set of steak knives with every Chinese suicide?
How about a lottery to see how many of them live until they’re 20?
Find bits of a Chinese kid in your mouse, win a prize.
As the Chinese say: "Fen, ma?"
Disgusting bloody subhuman bastard scum. Become a billionaire on the basis of kids committing suicide? They must be proud. The fact that nobody will ever really know who these faceless corporate pigs are that come up with these situations and benefit from them are is a damning indictment of the real labor situation on Earth at the moment. Does someone sit down in a meeting and say, "How can we cripple another generation today," or what?
If we wind up with a corporate world where the big three most hated corporations are Microsoft, Apple and Monsanto, I’d say it’s time to go back to scratching on rocks.
Either that or the French Revolution, part two.