Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft News

Microsoft Mice Made in Chinese Youth Sweatshops? 481

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the they-get-a-discount-right dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The National Labor Committee offers an in-depth look into working conditions in Chinese sweatshops producing hardware (mice, etc.) for Microsoft, complete with pictures. Apparently, so called 'work study students,' 16 and 17 years of age, work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week, for around 65 cents per hour. Microsoft said it is taking the claims seriously and has 'commenced an investigation.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Mice Made in Chinese Youth Sweatshops?

Comments Filter:
  • More companies too (Score:5, Informative)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:53AM (#31856332) Journal

    MS is probably the most catchy one, but the factory produces and packages hardware for a lot more USA companies too:

    KYE factory in China, which manufactures computer mice and webcams for Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Samsung, Best Buy, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech, ASUS and other US companies.

    Earlier also Apple products were done by child labor [slashdot.org] at many factories.

    These companies should move their factories to US or EU. But it's cheaper there and this is one of the reasons why. As long as it's cheaper, they don't care about ethics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Of course that stuff is made in China; corporations care nothing about human rights, only profits. And a well paid (i.e., a living wage) workforce can't compete with sweatshop labor.

      If our politicians were more beholden to voters and workers and less beholden to multinational corporations, we'd have tarriffs protecting American workers from competing with sweatshops.

      • by TheKidWho (705796) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:12AM (#31856502)

        Of course that stuff is made in China; corporations care nothing about human rights, only profits

        The opposite is also true, our consumerist society cares most about cost which is what drives these companies to move to places like China.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:27AM (#31856672) Homepage Journal

          The opposite is also true, our consumerist society cares most about cost which is what drives these companies to move to places like China.

          No, son. Our corporations care more about profits which is what drives these companies to move to places like China.

          Surprisingly, you can find companies succeeding at all sorts of industries that we have been told have "moved out of the US" such as textiles, clothing, shoes, even electronics. For the transnationals that are owned by people who have nothing to do with the business itself, succeeding and making a profit is not enough. Employing people is not enough. Getting rich is not enough. Your not "winning" unless your constantly growing, and then growing faster. The drive to show quarterly increases in profit have driven this "dive to the bottom" that is resulting in kids in China working 12-hour shifts to make your WalMart trash.

          Honestly, every Walmart could close tomorrow and people's lives would go on as before. Stores would open and sell stuff. People would make stuff. Life would go on. But predatory capitalism, where Capital precedes Labor instead of the other way around, is going to make things a lot worse for a lot of people. The best part, is they can sell it as "making life better".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Herkum01 (592704)

          It is hard to consider the work environment when the average person does not have access to that information. That is one of the major problems with exploitation and outsourcing. Companies can pretend they are doing the world some good while having people in near slavery type conditions.

          Until information about how products is created, this sort of environment will continue and the consumer will not be able to adjust their purchasing habits.

      • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:21AM (#31856578) Journal

        If our politicians were more beholden to voters and workers and less beholden to multinational corporations, we'd have tarriffs protecting American workers from competing with sweatshops.

        1930 called. They want their protectionist economic theory back.

    • As long as it's cheaper, they don't care about ethics.

      Agreed. If they really gave a rat's ass about the conditions in their mouse factory, they'd audit this and other suppliers regularly. But a PR guy issuing soothing statements once or twice a year from his office is a lot cheaper than a dozen investigators flying around the world, to say nothing of the actual unit price rising when workers get breaks, weekends, and overtime pay.

      That list of companies tells the real story: this is simply the way global trade is done. And if this is the way your trusted big

      • There is a (deeply perverse) reason why MS(and the various other tech companies, it isn't just them) probably do care about the wages and conditions:

        MS wants to pay as little as possible for their mice, by squeezing the margins of their suppliers as hard as possible. If their suppliers are saying "Nope, can't do it for less than $X, labor laws require us to pay the workers $Y/hour." but they are actually only paying $y-1/hour, then the suppliers are fattening their margins by lying during pricing negotia
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      It should be pointed out that the National Labor Committee's standard MO is exposing the use of foreign sweatshop labor, so that there's a significant PR cost to continuing to use this sort of labor. Sometimes they're successful in embarrassing companies into doing the right thing. Sometimes they're not. Often they're more successful in embarrassing companies into appearing to do the right thing but continuing their sleazy practices behind the scenes. Or often the company that the American firm they're emba

  • I see pictures. I see many pictures. All contain images of smiling, happy workers, joyously engaging in their labor. What is problem?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asdf7890 (1518587)

      I see pictures. I see many pictures. All contain images of smiling, happy workers, joyously engaging in their labor. What is problem?

      The problem is that just out of shot is a manager who has just told them that if they don't look happy for the photos they, and anyone from their family/friends, will be sacked and never again employed by that factory or any other that the owner has connections to the owners of.

    • "YOU! Smile and look happy or you're fired!"

  • Fact of life... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated AT ema DOT il> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:01AM (#31856402) Journal

    While it sucks that working conditions like these exist, how else can we buy mice for $20?

    • Re:Fact of life... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Peganthyrus (713645) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:34AM (#31856762) Homepage

      Robots?

    • by Virak (897071)

      How about, maybe--and I know this is going to sound heretical around here, but hear me out--not having your products built in abusive sweatshops just so you can get your toys a bit cheaper without any regard for the consequences? Making life shit for other people for your own petty benefit in this manner is not an unavoidable "fact of life" by any means, though I suppose that there are people like you horrible enough to think that it's a reasonable and acceptable thing sadly is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebraining (1313345)

        I agree, but I don't think that his point was "screw them, I want cheap stuff". I read it as "It's obvious they get nothing, if it costs us $20".

        And it is. You don't have to do "research" to understand that any $20 mouse is due to workers getting a lousy wage.
        Any person that is surprised by this report is either lying or naive.

        The problem is, paying $50 instead of $20 doesn't guarantee the company pays they're workers more. For all we know, those $30 can be going to their profits anyway.

    • Sorry, I would rather pay 5 times more and know that they are made by workers not slaves. Same goes for anything else regardless of your shrug-it-off indifference.

  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:02AM (#31856408) Homepage


    "The National Labor Committee offers an in-depth look into working conditions in Chinese sweatshops producing hardware (mice, etc.) for Microsoft, complete with pictures. Apparently, so called 'work study students,' 16 and 17 years of age, work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week

    It's simply not profitable to have people who aren't afraid of their job and/or their life. Third World countries deliver both fears handily.


    Microsoft said it is taking the claims seriously and has 'commenced an investigation.'"

    Said investigation will be focused on how they can prevent such things from coming to light in the future. People will be bribed, families will go in/out of favor, etc. No real change will be made outside of moving it to another equally bad of a country/location.

  • by Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) <patrik.vanostaeyenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:02AM (#31856410) Journal
    In my opinion saying they "only" make 66 cent an hour means nothing without a reference. How much can you buy with 66 cent in China?
    • How much can you buy with 66 cent in China?

      For 33 cents you can hire someone to do your work for you.

      33 cents profit for you . . . per hour!

      . . . and the 33 cent guy hires someone for 16.5 cents . . .

      You can see now why China's economy is booming!

    • by billius (1188143) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:37AM (#31856794)
      I'm not an economist, but according to Wolfram Alpha the GDP per capita for China is 3290 USD [wolframalpha.com]. Figuring 15 hours a day * $.065 per hour* 6 days a week * 52 weeks in a year = $3042 a year, so about 92% of the GDP per capita. Like any big country, I'm sure the cost of living varies quite a bit from region to region (for example a Big Mac in China costs about $1.83 [woopidoo.com], meaning it takes about 3 hours to have enough to buy one) and working 15 hours a day definitely sucks, but at least on the surface the pay doesn't seem that bad. Anyone with more knowledge of economics have an opinion on the matter?
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I was thinking already "then they are making a really good salary". And that I mean serious. Really. When it comes to money, if that amount is true, they have nothing to complain about.

      You should not just look at "what can you buy in China for this amount" (in China your money lasts maybe 3-5 times longer than in western Europe when it comes to basic expenses such as food, public transport, clothing, etc - I find it really hard to guess). You also have to look at what the typical salaries are in a country.

  • ...I'd love to have earnt 65 cents an hour, scaled up to what the CoL is in my country, in an intense job to earn me quick money when I'm not studying. For me, working 15 hours a day is pretty standard, and I'll do it often providing (i) I enjoy the work; or (ii) it's for a limited amount of time.

    • It's not what they're being paid, it's how it's being done. They have laws that mandate paid overtime, but it'd be suicidal to ask for it. At least in the US, you'll survive long enough to make it to court and make your case to an impartial judge.

      Unlike the US, China (and many other Third World countries) make it a point to instill a certain fear in the worker's life. That's how they make the hardware so cheaply. That's also why it's not a temporary arrangement, but a permanent way of life.

      • Yes, the lack of worker movement leading to unions/tribunals/etc in China (irony...) is a problem. As is the fact that a teen worries about the cost of marriage and supporting his parents' farm. Although there are many jobs which youths have to do in the West which come with poor live-in conditions, and tower blocks of state housing in Europe resemble such dormitories in their liveability.

  • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alarindris (1253418) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:12AM (#31856498)
    Take away their pay and call them 'interns'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thijsh (910751)
      Don't they have thousands of 'interns' like that building the luxureous Dubai for instance?
      Contrary to what most people believe the worldwide total of exploited people you can categorize under the label 'slave' is more than before the abolition of slavery... Slavery and human trade is booming business and an order or magnitude more widespread than in 'slavery times'.
  • Not a surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Akido37 (1473009) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:19AM (#31856560)
    Every time news like this comes out, the Western companies act all shocked. OF COURSE they're working in crappy conditions for low pay - how else do they make products so cheaply?

    In summary: "I'm SHOCKED to find gambling going on in this casino!!"
    • I think that as well, those companies are not stupid they do everything they can get away with, once things like that become public they play the shocked ones...
      Nothing new here, worked since the outsourcing of manufacturing has started.

      • Problem is for certain commodity items you cannot even avoid such things, show me one mouse manufacturer who does not outsource production or does not go to the cheapest bidder. Hell Logitech for instance was one of the last to outsource from Europe to Asia, but in the end they were forced to do so as well.
        The same goes for almost all computer parts :-(
        With food you at least can buy organic or fair trade, with computer parts there is almost no chance.

  • Surprise people, but this is what's behind the "Made in China" sticker on all that crap you buy. Think about it next time you throw out your old cellphone, upgrade your comp, or buy an iPad. If there wasn't a demand, there wouldn't be a market.
  • by jsse (254124) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:25AM (#31856638) Homepage Journal
    I'm not here to pro-Microsoft, but....

    65 cents x 15 hours x 24 days (people work 6 days a week there) = US$234 ~= RMB1,614.00

    The wage is much more than the average of the workers there. The starting salary of a factory worker is no more than US$100/mth, an experienced worker (>2 yrs exp) might not be able to ask for more than US$200/mth.

    Also, from what I've seen in the article, the working environment is MUCH better than any other factories I've ever seen in China.

    Still, I agree that the working hours are too long, but I'm sure the workers there are more than willing to work more than you'd ask for, given high-paid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gzipped_tar (1151931)

      In China (and everywhere else I believe), it is not illegal on its own to arrange 15-hour shifts. However, this can be carried out only in the presence of the employees' consent, and the "extra hours" (ones beyond the usual 8 hr) must be paid with extra wages (at least 2x on weekdays and 3x on holidays).

      I can tell you that those girls and boys are more than willing to work the extra hours, but they're usually poorly educated and don't know their rights.

      Also, in China it's not illegal to employ a 16- or 17-y

    • nonsense. The working hours are long, but it's hardly a "sweatshop." It's a decent living wage in China under (judging by the photos) very reasonable conditions in comparison to alternatives.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      I just read TFA, before commented already on the salaries, and now I realise the numbers given do not add up.

      The wage yes it looks very good. But according to TFA there is a base wage of RMB 770, plus overtime for longer working. TFA also talks about 12 hour shifts (sounds more reasonable) several times. There may be people that push on to 15 hours but that is rare. Quality falls rapidly with those hours and factory managers are not that stupid either.

      By the way you are talking about migrant workers here,

  • by NevarMore (248971) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:30AM (#31856720) Homepage Journal

    Can we just please let this one slide and go pick on Apple?

    I like my Microsoft mice and keyboards. They're actually pretty decent, don't make me hate them too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Can we just please let this one slide and go pick on Apple?

      No, but Apple is also evil [pcworld.com].

      I like my Microsoft mice and keyboards. They're actually pretty decent, don't make me hate them too.

      I find that they suck fucking ass. The wireless ones have inferior range to the Logitech products, and they do not have the MTBF, either. Microsoft's gamepads are the quickest to get sloppy; the analog sticks get twitchy and drifty LONG before Sony's, for example. Microsoft knows jack about hardware design. The shape of the mice is probably the most inexplicable thing. Make it fit my hand like a glove, so I have to move my whole arm to use it? This is stupid.

    • by thijsh (910751)
      Buy Logitech instead... exact same crap built in the exact same factory by the exact same Chinese workers... But as long as there are no photo's them being 'exploited' yet you're doubleplusfeelgood.
  • Occasionally stories like this come out, and most of the "sweatshops" look very similar to this. The conditions don't look that bad. They're not working in dirty factories with dangerous equipment. They get paid what is probably a low, but livable, salary. Most of them probably come from the countryside and have no other option for work, unless they want to stay on the farm. Remember the photos from an iPhone that came with some pictures the cute factory girls took of themselves? The factory was maybe a lit

  • by Targon (17348)

    With the cost of living and such over there, that may very well be like getting paid $100/day here. For someone 16-17 years old without any work experience, that isn't all that bad. Of course, I don't know the true cost of living there, but people need to stop using the exchange rates in the wrong way. If the average daily pay for an adult is $1/day but that lets someone live an average standard of living for that country, that isn't really horrible. On the flip side, if the standard of living

  • It is still cheaper to use manual labor then robotics to manufacture products like this. I thought robotics were supposed to make products cheaper to manufacture. Ah, it may be the cost of replacement parts. ;)

  • No wonder mice are the only useful thing with a Microsoft branding!

  • And? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @01:48PM (#31860410) Journal

    How is this different from pretty much everything else manufactured in Southeast Asia? Everything you buy that is made in China is made by people who are treated a little better than slaves. The companies provide rooms at the factories for their employees, with 6 people per room, communal bathroom, and no kitchen facilities. The employees are charged rent for the rooms, even if they don't stay in the rooms.

    Remember this the next time you are at Walmart, buying crap that has been made in China. It is cheap because the people who made it are being exploited.

FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies.

Working...