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The Almighty Buck Businesses

High Tech Misery In China 876

Posted by kdawson
from the dawn-of-the-industrial-age dept.
theodp writes "Think you've got a bad job? Think again. You could be making keyboards for IBM, Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo and HP at Meitai Plastic and Electronics, a Chinese hardware factory. Prompted by the release of High Tech Misery in China by a human-rights group, a self-regulating body set up by tech companies will conduct an audit of working conditions at the factory. In return for take-home pay of 41 cents per hour, workers reportedly sit on hard wooden stools for 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Overtime is mandatory, with workers being given on average two days off per month. While on the production line, workers are not allowed to raise their hands or heads, are given 1.1 seconds to snap each key into place, and are encouraged to 'actively monitor each other' to see if any company rules are being transgressed. They are also monitored by guards. Workers are fined if they break the rules, locked in the factory for four days per week, and sleep in crowded dormitories. Okay, it's not all bad news — they're hiring."
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High Tech Misery In China

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:57PM (#26865663)
    we have to pay for coffee!
    • Re:Well at MY place, (Score:4, Interesting)

      by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:06PM (#26865735)
      The horror!

      However, in China I'm sure the benefits are great!

      I have to wonder if this story is accurate, though. Maybe it is, but snapping keys into place on keyboards seems like a perfect job for high speed robots. Maybe 41 cents per hour is too cheap to justify robots?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:29PM (#26865907)

        The robot costs what it does, getting it delivered costs extra, electricity costs extra, having someone who can fix the machine if needed costs extra... And even automated robots need someone to give it parts, etc...

        All compared to a few dollars per day per human. I know I wouldn't buy robots there.

      • Re:Well at MY place, (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @08:42PM (#26867189)

        I worked with a co-op students whose parents were slaves in a Chinese factory.

        They live at the factory. The foreman decides when they wake up, when they eat, and when they go to the bathroom. The foreman decides when it's time to let them go to bed at the end of the day.

        When you were awake and not in the bathroom or the cafeteria, you were on the assembly line.

        They made iPods.

      • Re:Well at MY place, (Score:5, Interesting)

        by alexborges (313924) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @08:50PM (#26867249)

        Well... i say they should ask the workers. Im not in favor of almost-slave-labor like it happens in China, but when one thinks of a billion-people country, images of true missery come to mind.

        I think it might be the case that the workers would be far worse if they didnt have a job at that sweat shop.

  • Film at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingAlanI (1270538) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:57PM (#26865665) Homepage Journal

    Horrible working conditions in China, film at 11.
    Sad that this stuff is so common; let's see if it changes over time as the country develops

    • by davester666 (731373) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:07PM (#26865739) Journal

      It's one of the jobs offered to you if you're one of the many people laid off in the US by IBM...

    • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dintlu (1171159) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:08PM (#26865743)

      In the meantime, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

      There are plenty of good used electronics peripherals on craigslist and ebay.

      • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spinkham (56603) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @07:11PM (#26866307)
        I bought 4 IBM model M keyboards on Ebay 10 years ago, and fully intend to keep using them until I can get a neural implant.
        Buy quality, and buy it once.
        Buy crap, buy it new every year.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by EdIII (1114411) *

        There are plenty of good used electronics peripherals on craigslist and ebay.

        You don't even need craigslist and eBay is dead as a doornail. eBay's new policies make it practically impossible to sell anything without the criminal enterprise known as PayPal. I give that company about 1 year before it files for bankruptcy.

        In the meantime, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

        Absolutely true.

        I still have the same keyboard I was using in 1995. Still operational and in use on a server. My most recent acquisitions were 2 wi

    • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:25PM (#26865863) Journal

      let's see if it changes over time as the country develops

      It did in the USA, the UK, and every other country that went through a transition from a mostly agricultural to an industrial economy.

      -jcr

      • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@infOPENBSDamous.net minus bsd> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:33PM (#26865945) Homepage

        It did in the USA, the UK, and every other country that went through a transition from a mostly agricultural to an industrial economy.

        Unfortunately, better working conditions aren't retroactive, and the possibility that things will be better in China in a century or so is of no help to the human beings being fucked over right now.

        • Re:Film at 11... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:40PM (#26866025) Journal

          I don't see any reason why it would take a century. Japan and Korea did it a lot faster than that.

          -jcr

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dougisfunny (1200171)

            Those two countries also had nice wars that helped them do it.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jlarocco (851450)

              How do you figure the massive destruction of war "helped" them do anything? Seems to me they had to waste a lot of resources just to get back to where they started in the first place.

              China should, theoretically, be able to pull themselves up even faster than Korea or Japan, if they wanted to, because they're not starting from scratch.

        • Re:Film at 11... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by couchslug (175151) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @07:42PM (#26866571)

          "Unfortunately, better working conditions aren't retroactive, and the possibility that things will be better in China in a century or so is of no help to the human beings being fucked over right now."

          They are still doing vastly better than most Chinese through history. This is the price of progress, and considering Chinas condition in 1948 the country has made amazing progress.

          We cannot compete with them unless we drop our wages and join economic battle the old-fashioned way. There is nothing we can do they cannot do cheaper.

          • Re:Film at 11... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by ktappe (747125) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @08:05PM (#26866857)

            They are still doing vastly better than most Chinese through history

            I'm sorry, I can't agree with this. If you give me a choice between working a rice paddy or being effectively chained to a hard stool with guards and spies, I'd choose the former 10 times out of 10. Advancement this is not.

            • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @08:22PM (#26867003)

              I'd choose the former 10 times out of 10.

              I doubt it... these people are making exactly that choice. They were, almost without exception, peasant farmers before. Don't underestimate the drawing power of a full belly... we're still warm-blooded and food is still a primary motivator.

            • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by tftp (111690) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @08:46PM (#26867217) Homepage

              If you give me a choice between working a rice paddy or being effectively chained to a hard stool with guards and spies, I'd choose the former 10 times out of 10.

              You seem to believe that a peasant is free to walk away from his rice paddies whenever he wants. To me it is quite obvious that 12 hours of hard labor in the sun, bent over and knee deep in water, are less pleasant than same 12 hours spent sitting on a stool in a room and pushing key caps onto switches, otherwise the workers would not be working at the keyboard shop.

      • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by w0mprat (1317953) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:50PM (#26866121)
        Starting in Victorian England there was substantial labour reform to do away with child labour and improve working conditions. During the industrial revolution people had gotten the idea they could use abuse cheap and underpaid labour in new factories, and got away with it for a while, but this eventually lead to reform.

        Now while I find it plausible the similar scenario of reform may happen in China, I doubt it will happen soon. What has happened to western nations is not necessarily directly transferable to China. But I do believe things may improve, but clearly China's labour conditions are not sustainable, things will change one way or another.
        • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tmosley (996283) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @10:37PM (#26868045)
          The common people lived as slaves well before the industrial revolution. The new jobs gave the people more choices, just as it is doing now in China. As their industrial output increases, and more and more positions become available to skilled and unskilled laborers, the pay will go up, and the conditions will get better. Even now, the conditions are far better than the lives they would lead without those jobs, as rural laborers (think cotton slaves from the American south, only without the actual ownership of the people by the masters (so there is no incentive for the masters to look out after their investments). One false move in that field, and your whole family is dead. Things get better as their economy develops, with or without reforms being shoved down the throats of industrialists by big government. In fact, such regulation only slows development. When you are forced to pay more, you have to fire some people (or shut down altogether), costing the workers their jobs. If conditions were so bad, they could have left and went back to their lives in the country. They stay because they are getting paid more.

          Also, the yuan is artificially low against the dollar. Once the Chinese let their currency float, that salary will start to look a lot better, especially as we start to lose more and more jobs in THIS country (due in no small part to our onerous regulations that drive companies overseas to places like China).
      • by DrYak (748999) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @07:38PM (#26866531) Homepage

        It did in the USA, the UK, and every other country that went through a transition from a mostly agricultural to an industrial economy.

        And by then, as the cost of labor raises with the working condition, instead of building the same hardware in better conditions, the big companies will relocate their production facilities somewhere else where the cost of producing the parts is even cheaper than everywhere else. Probably in Africa.

        • by Xiroth (917768) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @08:29PM (#26867063)

          And by then, as the cost of labor raises with the working condition, instead of building the same hardware in better conditions, the big companies will relocate their production facilities somewhere else where the cost of producing the parts is even cheaper than everywhere else. Probably in Africa.

          Bingo. So the process, over time, does in fact improve living quality worldwide, because it always creates employment among the poorest on Earth (as they are the ones that are cheapest to employ).

          Of course, it also decreases the quality of life in the richer countries by decreasing the amount of employment available in them. This is why I find anti-globalisation protesters so charmingly hilarious - what they are in fact arguing for is to employ fewer poor people and more rich people, which I'm pretty sure isn't what they think they're arguing for.

    • Re:Film at 11... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcvos (645701) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:41PM (#26866047)

      Sad that this stuff is so common; let's see if it changes over time as the country develops

      I'm not sure how big that chance is, as long as union protest run the risk of being overrun with tanks. Let's face it, one of the reasons we've got it better is because workers have the right to vote and the freedom to unionise.

      A dictatorship may call itself socialist, but as long as the common worker has no power or freedom, the people in power have no incentive to do anything for them.

      • Re:Film at 11... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by servognome (738846) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @07:16PM (#26866349)

        I'm not sure how big that chance is, as long as union protest run the risk of being overrun with tanks. Let's face it, one of the reasons we've got it better is because workers have the right to vote and the freedom to unionize.

        Throughout the Industrial Revolution unionization in the US was repressed (sometimes violently) by those in power. Police and National Guard troops were called in on several occasions to break unions.
        Just because people have rights, doesn't mean that corrupt officials will recognize them.

    • Re:Film at 11... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by digitig (1056110) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:56PM (#26866183)

      Sad that this stuff is so common; let's see if it changes over time as the country develops

      Unfortunately, capitalism seems to have some characteristics of a pyramid scheme, and latecomers to the party don't seem to have much chance.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Firethorn (177587)

        Compare the lifestyle of a US citizen from the '40s and one from today, then a Chinese worker from the '40s to today, and you'll see the Chinese worker has made a heck of a lot more progress.

        Playing catch-up is in many ways easier than maintaining your lead.

    • Re:Film at 11... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @08:18PM (#26866965) Homepage

      Every country that has established exploitative labour has never just changed as the country 'er' the minority rich and greedy developed. It has always resulted in extreme violence and in modern times armed conflict. Trade laws need to be implemented that so that a tax is placed upon goods that are produced under conditions that are illegal in the country for whom the goods are intended, you can not have free trade without fair trade.

      The reality is the only way to allow conditions to improve peacefully in countries like China is to force the issue via legislation, either pay for better, less polluted and safer conditions, equal to what is mandated in your own country and the conditions under which you and your industries are forced to compete or, pay the tax equivalent.

  • Fines... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daemonax (1204296) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:58PM (#26865675)
    Foreign companies that utilize this type of thing should be hit with heavy penalties. This would also encourage them to check working conditions before signing a contract with a manufacturer.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:59PM (#26865683) Journal

    In return for take-home pay of 41 cents per hour, workers reportedly sit on hard wooden stools for 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Overtime is mandatory, with workers being given on average two days off per month.

    The alternatives being what?
    Substinence farming or starving?

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:05PM (#26865725) Homepage Journal

      The alternatives being what?

      Make it easier to consume locally. Stop rigging the currency to be export-pushing.
           

      • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @07:51PM (#26866673)

        Stop rigging the currency to be export-pushing.

        The United States has been pushing the Chinese government to do just that for years now. In fact, that was why Clinton opened up trade relations with China in the first place, as a carrot to encourage monetary and social policy changes (which has failed completely btw). Good luck convincing the thugs in charge of the Chinese Politburo to give up their fat profits made on the backs of their pool of slave labour. Whenever foreigners criticise them they respond with something like, "you must learn to respect our ways" and if one of their own citizens criticises them then they are thrown in prison and forgotten (indefinite detention, its not just a GITMO thing).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:08PM (#26865753)
      And how much does 41 cents an hour buy over there? In the US, of course, 41 cents an hour would never be enough to support you, but Sally Struthers is always telling us that 41 cents will feed a starving kid in Africa for a whole month. Just getting the pay in dollars doesn't tell us much.
      • by sith (15384) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:39PM (#26866005)

        Dunno about where this factory is, but everywhere I've been in China, 41 cents (3 yuan) doesn't buy you much...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by neumayr (819083)
        According to http://www.xe.com/ucc/ [xe.com], 0.41USD about 2.80RMB, which bought you about two baozi [wikipedia.org] (the only low-end food source I can remember the price of right now) in Shanghai a few years ago. Outside Shanghai they're sure to be a lot cheaper.
        I'd say you'd need six of those to feed you, your wife, and the one child you're allowed.
        As those people work 12 hours a day, they'd still have 24.60RMB left. Actually enough for some variance in the diet, provided their rent doesn't exceed, say, 500RMB per month.
        I'm
    • by schnikies79 (788746) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:11PM (#26865777)

      I would say subsistence farming is much better than 41 cents/hour in a factory.

      • by gibson_81 (135261) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:18PM (#26865821)

        I would say subsistence farming is much better than 41 cents/hour in a factory.

        Well, either the subsistence-farmers-turned-factory-workers disagree with you or they are unable to get any arable land for subsistence farming ...

      • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:28PM (#26865897) Journal

        I would say subsistence farming is much better than 41 cents/hour in a factory.

        Say it all you want, but the people who actually have to make that decision seem to have come to a different conclusion.

        -jcr

        • by schnikies79 (788746) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:32PM (#26865937)

          Not everyone makes the decision, take for instance whole communities relocated by lake created by the three-gorges dam. Many of them were moved to areas so they could be factory workers. They did just fine (and were happier) living off the land.

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:39PM (#26866019) Homepage Journal

          Say it all you want, but the people who actually have to make that decision seem to have come to a different conclusion.

          Yes, the people who decided to incarcerate people and force them to labor as slaves for the profit of the government definitely came to a different conclusion. Slave Labor is good for the government, so it must be good for the people!

          A lot of the consumer goods that you can buy at the dollar store or the Wal-Mart are made with straight up slave labor, not even the feel-good two-days-off-a-month forty-four cents a day kind of slavery either. The prison camp for your beliefs or just being inconvenient to society kind of slavery. But honestly, isn't it all slavery?

        • by guyminuslife (1349809) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:59PM (#26866205)

          How quaint. You seem to have an odd notion that the people who work 12-hour shifts in horrible factories get to make meaningful decisions about their career paths. Never mind that if you're a subsistence farmer, the Chinese government can seize your land at any time. Or suddenly decide, "Hey, you guys, you're not farmers any more." And if you were born to parents who work in sweatshops...what are you going to do, go out and buy a dozen acres on $0.41/hour?

      • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:37PM (#26865991)

        I would say subsistence farming is much better than 41 cents/hour in a factory.

        Let them decide, they prefer to work apparently.

        Also keep in mind every country has gone through an industrial revolution.

        Western Industrial Revolution had the same horrors: Children working in factories 12 hours a day? Check. Children getting so tired they fall into machinery and die? Check. Grownups working 12 hours/day, 7 days/week? Check.

        The thing about China is theirs is going to be over and done with in about 25 years for a total of 35; as opposed to hanging around for 75-100 and morphing into a second industrial revolution.

        You forget to realize that even these conditions are far better than any Chinese would otherwise see. Running, clean water? Dependable food? Shelter to sleep in? They don't get that when they're farming 12 hours a day making barely enough food to survive on.

        The other thing-- in the last 20 years, "extreme poverty" has shrunk from 40% globally to 20%*. That's not your humanitarian aid at work, that's American consumption fueling fewer deaths due to water poisoning, hunger, etc. in third world countries/regions. Why would you take that away from them? Until just recently (with the onset of this recession) Chinese were STILL taking trains to the cities to find a new life, new work, and new pay. That's in spite of all these "horrible work conditions" (by our standards, that we erroneously think nobody would want to work under) all over the place. They're welcome to quit their job and return to farming, but I think you miss how bad they have it farming.

        This knowledge should cause us to stop and consider what we'd be doing before we start taxing trade with the Chinese.

        *Go check out "The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for Us All" by Robyn Meredith. She covers all sorts of things like this and provides sound sources to back them up-- IIRC, there were about 30 pages at the back of this book with nothing but footnotes/sources for statistics like this one.

        • by ucblockhead (63650) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @09:07PM (#26867367) Homepage Journal

          You need to realize that the improvement of working conditions in the West in the 19th and early 20th centuries wasn't some sort of natural outgrowth of industrialism. It came about because the people in those societies became appalled at the conditions and government stepped in and forced companies to improve these conditions. The 40 hour work week wasn't created by some natural economic change of events...it came about because the government forced it on companies.

    • You forgot... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KingAlanI (1270538)

      ...street begging, prostitution, et cetera.

      Sadly, it's true that these sweatship jobs are often a good option compared to what else is available in those countries.
      It is most definitely a high violation by Western standards, true. But, do we really need to psuh to Westenr standards? And can we?

      TFA did point out that these people are being paid even less than what *Chinese* labor law requires. That at least needs tob e fixed

      Trouble is, these placed would probably clean house tem[porarily when inspectors show

  • Regulation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by perlhacker14 (1056902) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:02PM (#26865695)

    What we are seeing here, my friends, is capitalism gone wild.

    • by swb (14022) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:10PM (#26865769)

      No, you're seeing totalitarianism gone wild. All of the shitty labor in China is backstopped by the government and its willingness to create political prisoners.

      What really sucked about the Olympics wasn't the smog or anything else, it was the media broadcasting the fake news that China is just another free country. And the west sucked it down.

      • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:40PM (#26866021)
        Who the hell is supporting this? Dell, IBM, Microsoft... and by extension their customers (you and me).

        Blaming this on the Chinese while still exploiting things is bullshit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cobraR478 (1416353)
          That's true. However, the reason that those companies are able to do those things is because of the fact that the Chinese people don't have the necessary power to stop them. They don't have the right to freedom of speech and they don't have the ability to replace elected politicians with others. You can't call your system "capitalism" if you don't have those things. Just because an independent company is involved, doesn't mean its capitalism. That being said, this doesn't justify anything those compani
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      But in China, Joe Francis wouldn't just go to jail. They'd put a bullet in his head and charge his family for the bullet.

      Then he and Larry Flynt couldn't lobby the Chinese government that their keyboard companies were just too big to fail...
    • Re:Regulation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ocularDeathRay (760450) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:55PM (#26866173) Journal
      I would love to call bullshit on this, but sadly I can't. Don't get me wrong I love the idea of capitalism and the relative plenty I have lived with because of it, but it only works if the working class is doing well enough to buy some goods.

      perhaps I am rambling already, but this hits close to home for me. When I was a guitar playing, electronics geeking, jr. high student I found out that one of the worlds biggest audio electronics manufacturers had its headquarters about 10 miles away. As soon as I turned 18 and qualified to work there I started to chase it a little bit. Soon I was testing digital audio electronics and making more money than I had thought possible (for my age and experience I mean). My job was exciting (at least to me) and I could afford to live in a small apartment with one of my best friends from the factory. Everything was going great.

      Well the company went after some major buyouts and a few of the new products flopped. 9/11 happened and people stopped purchasing entertainment related items like the recording equipment we were making. The company was de-listed from the nasdaq and things started to go downhill. There had been several competitors with production facilities nearby. Soon we were the only one. They had all moved to contract manufacturing in china. Our company faced the decision to either do the same or collapse completely. To the stockholders it was a no-brainer. They moved the production to china putting us all out of work.

      I had been making about 150 dollars a day, for the first four ten hour shifts of the week, and if I worked friday and or saturday it was $225. I was told the man who gets my job in china will make the equivalent of 150 dollars a month, for working 14+ hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, living in some shitty dorms. I remember my hands aching from the job, and people were always needing surgery on their wrists, and that was with 40 to 60 hour weeks, I can't imagine the schedule in china. If they can't do the job though, there are people lined up around the block to take their place.

      well some years have passed now, and it has been wild. I figured I had a career in electronics manufacturing, but there are really no factories in this area anymore. There used to be hundreds. I had to move back with my parents or be homeless, and I had to come up with a new career path. It has taken years to get qualified in some other type of work that is actually stable, its not nearly as much fun, but my bills are finally paid again.

      As for the company, the quality of the product went to shit, people quit buying, they are a very small company now. Very few of the original people still survive there. Even the china production is very small now.

      The dilemma for me is when I am out buying tools for my latest job, or when I am buying electronics, I picture whats going on in china and it makes me sick. But I go to the store and look around, and I no longer have the choice to buy from a country that respects the workers a little bit. Even if there were lots of American, Canadian, British, etc, keyboards around, I doubt I could afford them with my paycheck from the new career... so the house of cards continues to crumble.
  • by rbrander (73222) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:04PM (#26865707) Homepage

    1) Government regulation (and enforcement) setting minimum working conditions.

    2) Enthusiastic uptake of some kind of "no humans were exploited in the making of this product" sticker, in the free market.

    I've found it heartwarming at work that the younger staff are all hugely in favour of "fair trade" products that purportedly don't exploit poor farmers and farm labourers, mostly as applied to coffee and sugar products. The aggressively seek them out and we have people coming from floors around to our "fair trade only" coffee station. We older folks are "for" this stuff as long as you stick it under our noses, shame us a bit, and it doesn't cost *much* more.

    Which it doesn't, of course - that's the pathetic thing about these stories - the conditions in that factory, as opposed to conditions that might not pass muster here but at least wouldn't *disgust* you, are probably scraping $2 off the cost of the $60 "MS Egronomic 4000" keyboard that you could only pry from my cold, dead (non-RSI'd) fingers. I'd be happy to pay $65 if it came with such a sticker...the other $3 paying for the checking and enforcement of the rules from the sticker-issuing NGO.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      1) Government regulation (and enforcement) setting minimum working conditions.
      2) Enthusiastic uptake of some kind of "no humans were exploited in the making of this product" sticker, in the free marke

      I've found it heartwarming at work that the younger staff are all hugely in favour of "fair trade" products that purportedly don't exploit poor farmers and farm labourers, mostly as applied to coffee and sugar products.

      Agricultural products cannot be considered in the same way that manufacturing or assembling jobs can.

      Agricultural products are not nearly as mobile as manufacturing, which can easily be moved to a cheaper country at the drop of a hat. Companies are already leaving Asia and taking their manufacturing to Eastern Europe because labor costs and regulation are at even lower levels.

      And despite what you say, consumer study after consumer study unwaveringly shows that consumers are incredibly price conscious. Thoug

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CRCulver (715279)

        Companies are already leaving Asia and taking their manufacturing to Eastern Europe because labor costs and regulation are at even lower levels.

        Cite? The only major manufacturing moves to Eastern Europe have been Dell and Nokia, moving from Western Europe. Eastern Europe might be comparatively poor, but the cost of living there is much higher than in rural Asia, and it's unlikely to pull manufacturing out of the very Third World.

  • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:04PM (#26865719)
    Okay, so here's the thing.. The rest of the world needs to refuse to do any sort of business with China until business practices are brought in line with at least a minimal respect for human life. It would help Chinese workers because they wouldn't have to endure this kind of shit, and it would help the developed world because our factories wouldn't have to try to compete with stuff produced in this way.
    • by Shajenko42 (627901) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:14PM (#26865795)
      The US could do this, if China didn't have us under its collective thumb. We can't embargo anybody until we're no longer so deeply in debt to them.
      • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @07:23PM (#26866417)

        its not even about about inability to repay china loans.

        what has us by the balls is that we've GIVEN AWAY our manufacturing. manuf, today, IS FREEDOM. but we forgot that and so we suffer since we are no longer independant.

        a huge great nation like the US once MADE things. I go thru old electronics 'junk stores' and find many really old things that say MADE IN USA on them. the quality is still there to see and in fact, many people seek out the older US-made parts and devices.

        but we gave that way. we can't build things in the US anymore. we are DEPENDANT on china. we are stuck.

        I wonder if obama sees this? bush certainly didn't - he didn't lift a single finger to detach us from the stranglehold of china. if anything, we created MORE sweatheart deals with chinese manuf's over the last 8 years.

        formula for fixing the econ: rebuild our local manufacturing of electronic parts (goodbye chinese 'bad electrolytic capacitors'!), put americans back to work and regain some self respect in this country. stop throwing money at rich bankers, making them even richer. stop throwing money at the entertainment 'industry'. REBUILD AMERICAN MANUFACTURING. its the only way to break free of chinese economics.

        once the US leaves china (if that could ever happen) you'd see a whole bunch of changes happen in china. they'd have to!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by the_humeister (922869)

          I don't know why this myth continues to persist. We, in the USA, manufacture a whole ton of crap. In fact, we're still tops in the world [industryweek.com] for manufacturing output!

  • No surprises here (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dupple (1016592) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:11PM (#26865771)
    Capitalism can only work because it thrives on and creates the poor.

    We wouldn't be in the mess we're in without it.

    Call me a troll or flame me, but there has to be a better way than chasing the profit...

    Sustainability perhaps?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      Rubbish ... you could easily double these people's wages and it would add less then $1 to the total cost of your PC. Would you really stop buying if they did that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brandybuck (704397)

      China is capitalist? Since when? They have factories and capital, but control over the means of productions is still largely in the hands of the government.

    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:30PM (#26865919) Journal

      Capitalism can only work because it thrives on and creates the poor.

      Thank you for that marxist flashback, you ignorant twat.

      Capitalism is the way out of poverty. Those countries that reject it inflict starvation on their people.

      -jcr

    • by StormReaver (59959) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:39PM (#26866011)

      "Capitalism can only work because it thrives on and creates the poor."

      Capitalism works great most of the time, but can easily be abused to bring about situations like this. We hear about the fraction of a percent of abusive companies because it's news that sells. We don't hear so much about the greater than 99% of capitalist companies and individuals that provide good, sustainable products and services (for whatever reason).

      Seriously, do you think that anybody gives even a tiny little rat's ass that I created a small company's data entry and reporting infrastructure for a reasonable price and included full source code so they wouldn't be locked into me as a sole service provider? Does that sound like news that people will care to spend time or money knowing?

      The various news media have long since relied on sensationalism to make money. If you base your world view on what you hear/read from media outlets, it's almost impossible to view the world as anything other than corrupt and beyond redemption. There's a whole other world that doesn't get reported.

    • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:41PM (#26866033) Journal

      Capitalism can only work because it thrives on and creates the poor.

      There were no "poor" before capitalism? That's news. A thriving middle class is in fact a recent phenomenon, arising at the same time as capitalism.

      We wouldn't be in the mess we're in without it.

      No we wouldn't... In the same way that there wouldn't be plane crashes if there weren't any airplanes.

      Call me a troll or flame me, but there has to be a better way than chasing the profit...

      Sustainability perhaps?

      You're not a troll at all, you're just willfully ignorant, yet outspoken. Sort of the opposite end of the spectrum of Fox News.

      By all means, explain your system that works any better than the current system.

      "If there's a new way, I'll be the first in line...but it better work this time." -Megadeth

  • by adam1101 (805240) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:27PM (#26865877)
    From the perspective of a journalist who spend some time with some of these workers: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/book-qa-chinese-workers/ [nytimes.com]

    I think Americans - and many urban Chinese, too - tend to see the factory workers as passive victims, motivated by poverty and desperation. Spending time with these young women taught me the opposite: They are resourceful and ambitious, full of plans to improve their lot and change their fates, willing to challenge their bosses and quit their jobs for better ones, and willing to take night classes to improve themselves. When you ask these migrant workers why they came to the city, they will tell you that their families are poor, but they also talk about the opportunity and adventure of urban life. They may have very little power in our eyes, but in their own they are the leading actors in their own dramas and not victims of circumstance.

  • $.02 per keyboard (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mainguym (611910) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:39PM (#26866017)
    OK, so we've accounted for not more that .2 percent of the cost of a keyboard. Realistically this is much less because I've seen very few $10 keyboards. Maybe we should also ask, where does the rest of the money go? I can't think of the last time I paid less than $1 for a keyboard. Even retail apparel margins aren't that good, perhaps some tech executives need to take a look at their cost structures...
  • by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:43PM (#26866061)

    my 'original' microsoft natural keyboard (bought in 1994, still working just perfectly) cost me $250 or so from what I remember, and the latest natural keyboard 4000 I bought for the office was only $60...

    The 'original' says it's made in Mexico, I wonder when the production was moved... I also don't see why keyboards have to be so cheap, it's not like you change it every day: I can totally see myself using this keyboard for another 15 years easily (assuming that in 15 years I can find a ps/2-whatever converter, that is my only worry)

  • What if... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) * <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:48PM (#26866103) Homepage Journal
    ... We no longer expected a free keyboard with our new PCs? The companies on the list are all major PC manufacturers, so a large number of those keyboards are probably the cheap ones that are provided with new computers. But do we really need a new keyboard with every new PC?

    After all, a large fraction of all the new PCs purchased today are purchased to replace existing systems; which themselves had keyboards before. And being as keyboards themselves have not changed dramatically in the past 10 years (or more), there is a good chance that the consumer could have just used the keyboard from their old system on their new one.

    The throw-away mentality towards consumer electronics is likely a major culprit in the development of these sweatshops.
  • Rant your way... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by carvalhao (774969) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:37AM (#26870819) Journal

    These kinds of comments that go along the line "we must stop this" and so on are so ignorant of other people's reality that get to the point of being disgusting.

    Believe it or not, people in countries other that yours are not stupid nor masochistic. And tend to choose what they believe it's best for them, no matter how different that may be from YOUR personal choices.

    The reality is that yes, working conditions are miserable. But they are not slaves. They may choose not to work in those factories. It is just that the alternatives are so bad (starving to death, for one... yes, that may seem incredible for you that feel STARVING after going 2 hours without a snack, but people DO starve to DEATH)that working in those conditions is actually acceptable!

    And what is your solution? Penalize the asses out of the companies that operate this way, so that it becomes unfeasable to maintain operation in those countries, condemning the locals to a fate they had chosen not to have because YOUR WELL FED ASS decided what is best for THEM!

    The sheer arrogance is unbelievable...

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