High Tech Misery in China

The dehumanization of young workers producing our computer keyboards

Feb 06, 2009
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Today, the National Labor Committee (NLC) is 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. According to the NLC the report gives 'an unprecedented view inside the prison-like conditions at high-tech sweatshop in China producing for HP, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM.'

High Tech Misery in China

Workers inserting keys

Today, the National Labor Committee (NLC) is 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. According to the NLC the report gives 'an unprecedented view inside the prison-like conditions at high-tech sweatshop in China producing for HP, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM.'

Click here for the full report.

Some of the inhuman labour practices described in the report include:

  • 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.

 

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."

Website: http://www.globallabourrights.org/
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IBM
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