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Microsoft Technology

Photos of Chinese Sweatshop Used By Microsoft 539

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the only-buy-local-farm-raised-mice dept.
MongooseCN has a follow-up to last week's Chinese Sweatshop story. He says "The image Microsoft doesn't want you to see: Too tired to stay awake. These Chinese workers earn just 34p an hour (about 52 cents in US dollars), work 15-hour shifts, and deal with other abuses to package US-made products."
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Photos of Chinese Sweatshop Used By Microsoft

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  • The repost you don't want to read.

  • Don't forget this stuff has happened in every country that has been through an industrial revolution. Thankfully, China is going through theirs in 25 years, when it took us/Great Britain much longer.

    But that doesn't change the fact that we should fight against this. Walmart could lead the way, considering the massive volume they require, to manufacturing shop reform.

    • by sethstorm (512897) * on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:06AM (#31921550) Homepage

      Wal-Mart profits too much from their form of slavery to ask for decency(even if it gets rid of those pesky labor unions in the US).

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:59AM (#31922288) Homepage Journal

        No corporation will champion human rights. Corporations only care about profits and market share. The only actual humans they give a damn about are their stockholders.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099)

          Absolutely correct! They are MUCH more likely to work against human rights so they can get cheap labor closer to home. If they could get away with it they would breed Epsilons just like Brave new World.

          For the Betas and Gammas, Prozac is the new Soma.

    • by 49152 (690909) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:15AM (#31921712)

      At least here in northern Europe it got better when we formed labor unions and associated political parties, then we got new laws that protected the workers against the worst abuse. This is about a hundred years ago so not many people remembers it directly anymore, which is widely evident in political discussions today. Sure it can get to far the other way and we end up with ridiculous worker rights like full pension when your 50 and stuff like that. But profit seeking companies will not give their worker fair wages and decent working conditions unless they absolutely have to.

      How is this gonna happen in China?

      Correct me if I am wrong, but is it not still a one party state and "workers paradise"?

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:02AM (#31921490) Homepage Journal

    In China, it is common in many places to take a 30-45 minute nap after lunch, just sitting at your desk/workspace. While I cannot say that this is the case in this picture, it may not be as sinister as you would think at first glance. If there are 6 or 8 people sleeping and there isn't a manager with a cattle prod or whip in the background waking them up so they can get back to working, the conditions might not be *that* bad.

    • by MacroSlopp (1662147) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:09AM (#31921606)
      I've toured several Asian factories and this is the reality of Asian work life. People live in factory dormatories, work 6 VERY long days a week, and sleep at their desks when they get tired. We can pretend that we're shocked, but we all know that goods from Asia are dirt cheap and yet we never seem to ask "WHY"? Is this willful blindness? Until we start imposing tariffs based on unequal labour standards, this will never change.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      In China, it is common in many places to take a 30-45 minute nap after lunch, just sitting at your desk/workspace. While I cannot say that this is the case in this picture, it may not be as sinister as you would think at first glance.

      Last time I saw this pic it was titled as something like "workers taking nap during downtime". So I feel that this story is really an attempt at an anti-MS beat up

    • by skine (1524819) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:11AM (#31921640)

      I think that this is more the point:

      They are not allowed to talk or listen to music, are forced to eat substandard meals from the factory cafeterias, have no bathroom breaks during their shifts and must clean the toilets as discipline, according to the NLC.

      The workers also sleep on site, in factory dormitories, with 14 workers to a room. They must buy their own mattresses and bedding, or else sleep on 28in-wide plywood boards. They 'shower' with a sponge and a bucket.

      And many of the workers, because they are young women, are regularly sexually harassed, the NLC claimed.

      The organisation said that one worker was even fined for losing his finger while operating a hole punch press.

      • by Shihar (153932) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:27AM (#31921884)

        Yeah, I actually agree. Long shitty hours are pretty much par for an industrial revolution. China has a problem in that it hasn't developed enough of a middle class where it can be anything other than the cheap-o manufacturing center of the world. As their wages rise, it gets rougher to maintain their position as world factory. All developed nations go through it, but China is trying to do it in a very short timespan. When alls you have going for you is that you are cheap you need to be, well, cheap, at least until your middle class can take up some slack.

        So, the fact that they work long shitty days is too bad, but the alternative is to look like Africa. This is life.

        The real tragedy as the parent points out is that they are making it shittier than it has to be. Doing stupid shit like not letting your employees talk as they do a mind numbing job for 16 hours is not just malicious, it isn't productive. Anything to break up the tedium is going to make your employees more productive. I have heard this complaint far more than once when I talk to folk who do business in China that managers are simply sadistic for the sake of being sadistic. It is ingrain in their management cultural treating your employees like shit is a good thing, even when there is no conceivable business reason to do it. Certainly it isn't every single manager in China, but it is a non-trivial problem. Their manager class culture is just a dozen ways fucked up, and they make a shitty industrial revolution far more miserable than it has to be.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Pharmboy (216950)

          Their manager class culture is just a dozen ways fucked up, and they make a shitty industrial revolution far more miserable than it has to be.

          Once there are enough jobs for everyone that wants one, then it will change, as employees who have a choice will exercise that choice. Henry Ford figured it out that if you pay people more than minimum, and actually a decent wage with decent working conditions, they will tolerate the most boring job in the world. Of course, first he tried it the old fashioned way wi

      • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:33AM (#31921958) Journal
        I think that this is more the point:

        They are not allowed to talk or listen to music, are forced to eat substandard meals from the factory cafeterias, have no bathroom breaks during their shifts and must clean the toilets as discipline, according to the NLC.

        I've been to the KYE factory (not for MS, for other clients) and while that is the official rule, you'll see every 3rd or 4th worker with a headset plugged into their phone, blasting out the latest Chinese pop tunes. There are rules, and there are "rules"; you do know that in China the car is supposed to yield for the pedestrian? Well, follow that rule and you'll die.

        As far as meals, yeah, they suck. It's Chinese food cafeteria style. The cafeterias at Sundstrand when I worked there (18 years ago) sucked too with poor versions of mass-produced food. Guess what: cafeteria style food usually sucks. This isn't your modern Microsoft of Apple dining experience with independent restaurants bidding and competing to sell $9 lunches.

        Bathroom breaks? Saw plenty go to the bathroom at KYE, Vtech, Compal, and other big places. Of course, you had to arrange for someone to cover your spot for 3-5 minutes, because that production line keeps going. They don't stop a 200 person line so one can take a leak. Typically they space breaks out so that your fellow workers can pick up the pace for a short burst to cover for you. And you do likewise.

        The workers also sleep on site, in factory dormitories, with 14 workers to a room. They must buy their own mattresses and bedding, or else sleep on 28in-wide plywood boards. They 'shower' with a sponge and a bucket.

        Dormitories are common in Southern China, especially in Dongguan and Shenzhen. Not so much in Ningbo, or Hangzhou, Suzhou, or other places. You know why? Because a cheap 1 bedroom apartment starts at 500 RMB a month; when you're making 800 RMB a month you can't live off-site. So you live in a dorm with a dozen others.

        As far as beds, ever travel in China? Ever stay at a non-Crown Plaza/Sofitel/Hilton hotel, but a 4 or 5 star Chinese hotel? Great amenities, as good as the best in the US, but the beds - like freaking rocks with half a dozen sheets over them for padding. That's how beds are in China, literally a box spring or solid wood platform. It's what people have IN THEIR HOMES, even those that can afford a soft, Western mattress. There's a belief that a really firm bed will keep your spine straight and tall.

        As far as sponge baths, welcome to Asia. You'll find that throughout Asia, not just in dorms, but even in mid and upper end homes. For example, I have a rather wealthy friend in Thailand, who lives outside of Chaiyaphum. Yes, she lived in the US for a decade, recently moved back home. Big beautiful new house, modern plumbing, AC, Internet, satellite TV, great place. And a big BUCKET with water, a smaller pan of water, and a washcloth for bathing. Nice modern toilet with a built-in bidet but a SPONGE BATH. When asked why, the answer is 'that is how we do it'.

        And many of the workers, because they are young women, are regularly sexually harassed, the NLC claimed.

        Yes, that does happen, and it's terrible. Many places in Asia still consider women as second-class; assholes love that kind of place. Happens all over, in fact...

        The organisation said that one worker was even fined for losing his finger while operating a hole punch press.

        Ummm... Yeah. Anything more than innuendo on that one? I've been in forging facilities with open pits for steel coils, wide-open 400 ton flywheel presses, etc. Nowhere near OSHA compliant (not unlike manufacturing facilities in the US and EU about 60-70 years ago). I've even seen an accident or two. Workers are shuffled off and cared for, and another is brought in to keep the machine running. One time the operator really screwed up and because of his bone-headed move (trying to

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          regarding the finger incident:

          "A worker from Shanxi Province had his index finger chopped off while operating a hole punch press machine while working on an internet camera. Management did rush him to the hospital for emergency treatment. However, after an investigation, management determined that the worker had disobeyed regulations related to operating the punch press machine, so the worker was fined 200 RMB ($29.26) and fired! The foreman and section chief in that department were also fined. Management t

    • I think life for most people in China is very difficult. Think about it, there are 1 billion Chinese people in China. There is a HUGE oversupply of workers there allowing companies to take advantage of that and pay them almost nothing to do work. If you're uneducated, what choice do you have? You either make $.50 per hour or earn nothing and starve. If you turn down that job, there are thousands willing to do it instead.
    • by arielCo (995647)
      That would explain why *all* but 2 or 3 of them are "slumped" at the same time, which struck me as odd the second I saw the pic. But then again, people will choose what to see in *anything*.

      in appalling conditions and 86f [30C] heat

      Really? I know that matches many sweatshops in Asia and Central America, but this doesn't look like that. No visible sweat, no hair sticking to their necks (asian hair is mostly silky), reasonable ceiling height, fluorescent lighting. It rather looks like Daily Mail pasted a stereotypical description to go with the pic.

      'This is not nearly enough to support a family. My parents are farmers without jobs. They also do not have pensions. 'I also need to worry about getting married, which requires a lot of money. Therefore'This is not nearly enough to support a family. My parents are farmers without jobs. They also do not have pensions., I stil l push myself to continue working in spite of my exhaustion.

      N

    • Or maybe they just put their heads down so they wouldn't be seen on the photo some jackass photographer was taking for some magazine that doesn't interest them the slightest bit?

    • Seconded. It's exactly what I thought when I saw the photo.

      They sort of think it's a healthy habit to have a short nap at noon -- I was like "what?!" when I was actually asked to take a nap. If I'm not mistaken the schools in China actually allocate "nap time" and encourage students to sleep.

    • I wish it was accepted in our office to do the same.
      A 15 min nap can be more productive than a 30 min normal break.

      I'm not saying that there are no human rights issues in China. I am just saying what I am saying. If you disagree, please read the text again...

    • In China, it is common in many places to take a 30-45 minute nap after lunch, . . .

      Sounds great to me! SUBSCRIBE!

      Now, how do I convince my (WASPish) parents that they are Chinese?

      That's the difficult part of the equation.

  • I believe Microsoft might actually have a problem with this. Seriously, why are they working 15 hours when they could as well work 18?
  • It's the Hobson's Choice that these people have to make - in that it is their only (real) choice for work.

    What is going on with those factory bosses that makes them want to whip/kill/etc.?

  • apparently it's still better than being unemployed or they'd quit.

  • by Malc (1751) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:06AM (#31921548)

    Is this picture genuine? I'm inclined to think not. Having lived in Shanghai for a while, I can attest to a culture of after lunch naps in China, in an office where software engineers earn many times as much. I was quite surprised the first time I came back to the office after lunch, to find people strewn across their desks, or heads back on chairs. I was looking for our QA Lead one day and thought maybe he was off on holiday. No: he was snoozing on something like a yoga matt under the desk of an empty cubicle at the back of the office.

    Really, don't trust the Daily Mail.

  • by Peter Trepan (572016) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:07AM (#31921562)
    Unless they are being forced to work in this factory as literal slaves, the fact that they're doing it probably means it's the best option available. By all means lean on the factory to improve conditions, but before taking the business elsewhere for the sake of the employees, find out what the employees would do otherwise. Work in an even worse factory? Become prostitutes? Starve?
  • by CXI (46706) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:07AM (#31921574) Homepage

    I know we always want to bash Microsoft here at Slashdot, but did the submitter fail to notice Foxconn (Apple's supplier), Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Acer, Logitech and Asus all use this same manufacturing house? How about:

    "Photos of Chinese Sweatshop Used By US Tech Companies"

    I guess that just doesn't have the same bite? At least it's more accurate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      apple has been getting run through the alternative press lately for sweatshops, with nary a mention of the fact that practically every factory in china is a sweatshop. apple, microsoft, cisco, tonka, whoever, if you don't think the cheap plastic gewgaws you get for stupid cheap prices are being assembled with slave labor, think again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why would it say "Apple" when no Apple sourced products come from the factory in question? Sure Foxconn buys from them and Apple (among many other companies) buys from Foxconn, but Apple has also been auditing all the factories that source their products after they discovered this type of thing going on a few years ago. Here is the list of companies [nlcnet.org] outsourcing from KYE and their contact info. By all means contact them and express your intent not to purchase their crap. Please do not, however, conflate them

  • Eventually the Chinese equivalent of Upton Sinclair will write the Chinese equivalent of The Jungle and everything will magically get better.

    Or maybe one day the Chinese people will come together in solidarity to form a national union to ensure better working conditions. No. That'll never work. It's too communistic.

  • Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:09AM (#31921616) Homepage Journal

    These Chinese workers earn just 34p an hour (about 52 cents in US dollars), work 15 hours shifts

    The $.52 is meaningless; how much does an apartment cost? What is the price of food? When I was in Thailand in the USAF in 1974, the average wage was about $1,000/yr, but I rented a bungalow for $30/month (woman included), and could take three girls to a nice restaraunt for a dollar. It cost a nickle to go anywhere.

    How many hours a day do American Microsoft programmers work?

    It isn't just the Chinese who are being exploited, it's also the Americans whose jobs have been exported to China, and maybe even their American staff.

  • Blah Blah Blah, at least they're making money. Why these articles are a dime a dozen, if people are still surprised about it then do something about it.
  • 86f? Seriously? (Score:3, Informative)

    by EaglemanBSA (950534) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:13AM (#31921684)
    I mean come on, 86 F? Oh NO! Not 12 degrees cooler than body temperature! I've worked on plant floors where the ambient temperature for my 16 hour day was >110 on average, and in some spots >125.

    Do I make more money than them? Yes. Do I have more freedom than they likely do? Yes. Is my job less menial? Likely. But 86f? Please.
  • Similar Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Allnighte (1794642) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:15AM (#31921706)
    This reminds me of the time I worked in a Sony TV manufacturing plant for 4 months. No heating or air conditioning, dirty restrooms, 12 hour shift where I'd gladly nap during my 10 and 30 minute breaks. The cafeteria basically only had snacks. Monotonous work. No sitting or resting outside of your breaks. Oh wait, this was in San Diego, California. Guess what, manual labor jobs suck? Congratulations! Of course I'm sure it's worse where OSHA isn't breathing down a company's neck, but is this really news? Did anyone expect Microsoft to *not* have these kinds of places?
  • by Chysn (898420) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:17AM (#31921740)

    [The workers] have no bathroom breaks during their shifts and must clean the toilets as discipline, according to the NLC.

    Come on, the toilets can't be that bad if nobody gets bathroom breaks. Sounds like a win for everyone!

  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:18AM (#31921762)

    It may surprise many people who don't take naps, but there are in fact a lot of people who do - even in full view of others.
    Not much different from eating lunch at your desk while checking /. - shocking to some, normal to others.

    Move along.

  • Meaningless (Score:4, Interesting)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@nosPam.comcast.net> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:19AM (#31921768)

    This is all meaningless, the factory will get slapped on the wrist, the workers will lose their jobs and microsoft will make a comment about taking such accusations 'seriously' and that they are 'investigating'. The public will be outraged for a month or two before forgetting which large corporation they are supposed to hate this month. Then the news media will go away and at the next contract renewal the whole job will get bid out again.

    The reason it is meaningless is because the Chinese system of contract factories will at most simply shift the work to another factory - in China. The lax oversight, weak wages and rampant corruption in the system that allowed this kind of thing to happen in the first place remain. The only way to fix the issue is to stop production in China altogether and shift production to another country. That is the only thing that could possibly get the Chinese government to give a damn. Until companies start to shift work out of China and into a country that isn't inherently corrupt it just a game of whack a mole.

    All that being said, the same factory, with the same management, employing the same people could still easily rebid and get the next contract simply by playing around with the paperwork on who owns the factory.

  • All of China is the same, all products from there are made in some sort of sweatshop, or semi slavery condition. These people's backbones are what holds up the China boom. It's all based on cheap labor and no rights-no laws which add costs. England did the same at one time. It's the logical conclusion of a society where everything is measured in money terms. Slaves are the ultimate efficient factory "technology"- intelligent human labor, no cost. The economy, competition, lower costs pressure, demand this
  • And 52 cents isn't so bad, that's like a brand new Coca Cola every spirit-crushing hour.
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:34AM (#31921968)

    Take two paragraphs from it:

    For as little as 34p an hour, the men and women work six or seven days a week, making computer mice and web cams for the American multinational computer company.

    It was the militaristic management and sleep deprivation that affected the worker most. 'I know I can choose not to work overtime, but if I don't work overtime then I am stuck with only 770 Chinese yuan (£72.77p) per month in basic wages,' the worker said.

    If the basic wage is £72.77 a month and they earn £0.34 an hour that gives a working week of just under 50 hours which doesn't seem like slavery to me. It also puts them at a comparable income to a chambermaid or baker, which makes sense since it's working the line at a factory.

    If they are working 15 hours a day, 6 days a week at £0.34 that's £132.60 per month. That puts them at a comparable income to an accountant, which is insane amounts of money for working the line at a factory.

    Chinese incomes taken from: http://www.worldsalaries.org/china.shtml [worldsalaries.org] (and using the "770 Chinese yuan=£72.77p" conversion rate from the paragraph quoted above).

  • by greggish (319517) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:37AM (#31921990) Homepage Journal

    that the majority are from uncaring scumbags defending these working conditions. Not sure why, but I just expected differently from the slashdot crowd.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Maybe because the media likes to lie and spin these things to seem worse than they are? Maybe because using loaded language, such as referring to this job as a "prison", even though the workers *choose* to work there, is ugly and underhanded? Maybe because, without context, this kind of outrage is largely meaningless? Maybe because the article notably *doesn't* mention: cost of living, wage relative to other jobs in the area, surveys of worker satisfaction, etc?

      I could go on, but I think I've made my poi

  • Pissed about this! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ticklemeozmo (595926) <(justin.j.novack) (at) (acm.org)> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:40AM (#31922044) Homepage Journal
    I'm mostly pissed that the guy making the mice is getting paid $0.52/hr but I have to pay $16 plus shipping to get one?!! I'm OUTRAGED! I don't think this would be such a big deal if the greedy corporations actually passed down some of the savings to us.

    Yes, because of the pesky labor unions in the US, I can see a mouse needing to cost $16 if made here because some high-school dropout is entitled and thinks he should get $25/hr for putting self-adhesive feet on mice. But if you saving money on labor, how about the customer saves money too?
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:03AM (#31922344)

    First is the cost of an xbox, or whatever, a major part of our overall expenses? I think I am fairly typical, and my biggest expenses - by far - have been: income tax, mortgage, health care, education, and retirement. Lowering the cost of computer mice, or toaster overs, does very little, if anything, to lower my overall cost of living.

    Does lowering the cost of labor even lower our cost of goods? In the 1980s, when auto manufacturing was shifted from US workers making $15 to hour, to offshore workers making $0.35 an hour, did the cost of cars go down significantly?

    Offshoring labor certainly causes inhumane worker conditions, and causes high unemployment in the west. But I don't see where offshoring labor is helping the average US citizen at all.

    So why don't we stop buying goods that manufactured offshored? For one thing, we often have no choice, and we don't even know. For example, is an all-Americans Dell computer really made in the USA?

    For another thing, I think it has to do with a lack of solidarity. If I personally stopped buying goods made offshore, it would not amount to anything. If several million people made an organized effort, that might get somebody's attention.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:17AM (#31922542)

    A few weeks slashdot posted the story about "Chinese Reactions To Google Leaving China."

    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/03/26/0147222/Chinese-Reactions-To-Google-Leaving-China [slashdot.org]

    A lot of posters insisted that the Chinese liked their government, and wouldn't have it any other way.

    This is a little hard for me to understand. Do Chinese really believe that these brutally inhumane conditions are superior to western culture?

    • by MooseTick (895855) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @12:00PM (#31924324) Homepage

      Yes, they do. They think we are lazy and our way is wrong. They believe our media distorts the truth and unfairly critisizes them. They believe people in those crap jobs deserve it because they aren't smart or were too lazy in school. They think they are more free and we pay wayyy to much for stuff. They want us to buy more stuff for more money.

      We aren't exactly a lot different. We believe their media distorts the truth. We think they are ideologically mistaken. We "know" we are free and they make wayyyy to little money. We want them to stop working for nothing and stealing our jobs, but still sell us stuff dirt cheap.

  • by Mister Whirly (964219) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:54AM (#31923216) Homepage
    They don't even get to listen to iPods that are made next store in another sweatshop!

The 11 is for people with the pride of a 10 and the pocketbook of an 8. -- R.B. Greenberg [referring to PDPs?]

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