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Report: Prison-like High-Tech Sweatshop in China Producing for HP, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM

Posted by Author on February 19, 2009

NEW YORK, Feb. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, Charles Kernaghan and the National Labor Committee (NLC) are releasing a 60-page report, High Tech Misery in China, documenting the grueling hours, low wages and draconian disciplinary measures at the Meitai factory in southern China. The 2,000 mostly-young women workers produce keyboards and other equipment for Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM. Along with worker interviews, photographs of primitive factory and dorm conditions and extensive internal company documents were smuggled out of the factory.

Full report: http://www.nlcnet.org/article.php?id=613

  • 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.”
  • 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 hour — which may be lost due to China’s low wages and repression of worker rights.
Young women cue up in the factory cafeteria

Young women cue up in the factory cafeteria

One Metai worker summed up the general feeling in the factory: “I feel like I am serving a prison sentence…The factory is forever pressing down on our heads and will not tolerate even the tiniest mistake. When working, we work continuously. When we eat, we have to eat with lightning speed… The security guards are like policemen watching over prisoners. We’re really livestock and shouldn’t be called workers.”

Charles Kernaghan, director of the NLC commented, “God help us if the labor-management relations being developed in China become the new low standard for the rest of the world. The $200 personal computer and $22.99 keyboard may seem like a great bargain. But they come at a terrible cost. The low wages and lack of worker rights protections in China are leading the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy, where there are no winners.”

Website: http://www.nlcnet.org/
Website: http://www.nlcnet.org/article.php?id=613/

6 Responses to “Report: Prison-like High-Tech Sweatshop in China Producing for HP, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM”

  1. 8dawg09 said

    This is so unreal. I can’t believe we are still living in this type of world. Of course its not our problem. It really is tho.. Everyone that buys anything made in China from either of these companies are just as at fault as whoever organized this hell-hole.
    I read this article to familiarize myself with the allegations. I need to understand this madness in order to prepare myself to make a marketing proposition to help pull HP away from this negativity. HP has lost customer loyalty and trust as a result. How will they overcome this? There will be no overcoming of this as far as I am concerned unless they pull out of China or make better arrangements.

  2. Richard said

    If Microsoft condones this type of treatment of workers employed on its behalf by subcontractors, I for one will absolutely stop buying microsoft products. I suspect that in addition to Microsoft, many companies with Chinese (and Indian?) electronics/software operations are guilty of the same exploitation of workers. It may be difficult to find ANY modern electronic appliances fabricated and assembled by employees working under appropriate conditions.

    Only when a sufficient proportion of the consuming population yell “Stop!” and quit buying from manufacturers that exploit their workers like this, will the manufacturers consider alternatives.

  3. […] protests, and Dr. Sophie Richardson and Carroll Bogert, Human Rights Watch. eradicating the exploitation of the workforce doesn’t seem to be very high on their list of priorities […]

  4. […] Report: Prison-like High-Tech Sweatshop in China Producing for HP … […]

  5. […] the expoitation of Chinese workers will continue, as well as the importation of criminally poor quality goods, along with the other […]

  6. pochp said

    This is shocking! Do these mentioned brands knowingly allow this?

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