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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chairman Johnson's Workers' Paradise

by folkbum

If only the US Business climate were more like China's, Ron Johnson wistfully dreams. Really?
In China, death from overwork is so common, there's a word for it: guolaosi. But despite the fact that guolaosi kills over 600,000 Chinese workers a year, working conditions in China are improving. And consumers in the West can help prevent guolaosi deaths by demanding fairly-produced goods from China.

Yan Li's family knows the meaning of guolaosi far too well. Li worked for a Foxconn factory in Southern China where he helped assemble components for iPads, Playstations, and mobile phones. He stood on the assembly line in one place, making the same tiny motion with his wrist all day. Sometimes, according to his family, his shifts would last for 24 hours. Sometimes up to 35 hours at a time. Li had no trade union, no group to represent his interests, and if he had tried to form one he'd probably have been imprisoned or killed. This went on until one day 27-year-old, otherwise healthy Li finished a particularly long shift and dropped dead.

Gualoisi is not uncommon in China. In fact, China Daily estimates that up to 600,000 workers a year die from overwork. That figure includes many workers like Li who are young and have no serious health problems before starting brutally strenuous jobs. It also includes workers who commit suicide to escape abusive work environments, which incidentally, happened to another worker at Li's factory the same night he died. These deaths occur at factories that make things all of us have in our home and use daily — cell phones, computers, car parts, etc. The factory where Li died might have made the computer I'm writing this story on, on the one you're using to read it. (via)
For our sakes, lets hope Chairman Ron doesn't get to set economic policy for the US anytime soon.

(Also worth wondering why then PACUR hasn't been shipped to China, like lots of Bemis's other suppliers.)

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