Friday, July 4, 2014

As Hong Kong Rocked in Protest, Transformers 4 Plays Chinese Politics: Critics Call Director "A Giant Tool"

A few hours ago, I was sitting in a local theater with my wife watching Transformers 4, the latest iteration of Director Michael Bay's "robot porn" series. (The fact that we paid money to see it is perhaps an admission of a guilty indulgence.)

Trying to keep warm in the chilly theater, we were enjoying that special Bay combination of explosions, CGI, and corny star-studded humor. All of a sudden, there was a cut-away scene to the Chinese Ministry of Defense in which a top official says "the central government will defend Hong Kong at all costs"!

I felt like my sci-fi escapism had been blind-sided by a Communist Party public service announcement.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Government Steps Up To Labor’s Demands: Importance of Yue Yuen Shoe Factory Strike

Photo provided to China Labor Watch by Yue Yuen worker.

This essay was originally published at ChinaFile.

On April 14, most of the 40,000 workers at the Dongguan Yue Yuen shoe factory—supplier to Nike, Adidas, and other international brands—began what would become a two-week work stoppage. While there are thousands of strikes in China every year, the Yue Yuen action broke the mold by attracting an unprecedented show of government support for worker demands.

Monday, April 28, 2014

CBC (The Current) interview on Yue Yuen strike

On Monday April 28, I went to CBC's studio in Midtown Manahattan to chat with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti about the progress of the hitoric Yue Yuen strike. The entire segment on the story can be listened to hear:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NBC News interview on progressing Yue Yuen Strike

As it entered the 40,000-strong Yue Yuen shoe factory strike entered its second week, NBC New's Alastair Jamieson interviewed me on some aspects of the protest. The full article is below.

Worsening China Factory Strike Threatens Adidas, Nike Sneakers

BEIJING - A wage dispute at a huge sneaker factory that supplies brands including Adidas and Nike escalated Wednesday, highlighting the growing problems faced by China’s manufacturing powerhouse. 

Workers at the plant – owned by the world's largest maker of sneakers, Yue Yuen – earn as little as $1.67 an hour making shoes that can sell for up to 100 times as much in the United States. 

Tens of thousands of employees have been off work for a second week, forcing Adidas to switch production to some of its other suppliers. At least one organizer was arrested by police and has not been seen for 24 hours, activists told NBC News Wednesday after a settlement offer was rejected. 

At the core of the dispute is the issue of historic underpayments for social security and housing fund contributions, but the issue goes far beyond the shoe plant. 

Workers throughout China are demanding not just higher wages but better social insurance as they face the prospect of supporting a rapidly aging population.
“The fact that something as nuanced as social insurance has led to a strike shows just how much things are changing,” said Kevin Slaten of U.S.-based non-profit China Labor Watch. “This generation of workers is a lot more aware of its rights and this problem is not unique to this factory.” 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interview on BBC World News about massive Chinese shoe factory strike

On April 15, 2014, a day after a Dongguan shoe factory strike began that would continue ont April 28 and involve about 40,000 worker, BBC World News interviewed me about the event.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Apple responds to campaign, but falls short of progress

This post (with the exception of date changes) first appeared in the blog of Green America.

Co-authored by Kevin Slaten, China Labor Watch, and Elizabeth O’Connell, Green America 
On March 12 in partnership with Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour and the activism arm of the Nation, Green America and China Labor Watch launched a petition to Apple to improve worker health and safety in the factories that make Apple products.

Apple was quick to respond to our campaign, in a statement shared with Computer World, however, their statement falls far short of meeting the demands of the campaign.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Guardian interview on worker safety in Apple factories

I talked with The Guardian's Samual Gibbs to discuss worker safety in Chinese plants making Apple products as part the following article:

Apple urged to stop using harmful chemicals in its factories

Labour and eco groups call for chemical safety in manufacturing at Apple factories in China, and say Samsung, Dell and HP should change too

Pressure groups China Labor Watch and Green America say Apple should stop using harmful chemicals including the solvents n-hexane and benzene in its manufacturing.

But they said that they were not calling for a customer boycott of the products, and that any reports suggesting that were “misinterpretation”.

The groups will call on Wednesday for Apple to “stop needlessly exposing workers in Chinese manufacturing facilities to toxic chemicals now causing severe illnesses” arguing that using those chemicals rather than alternatives saves it a “shockingly small amount of money”.

“Together with Green America, we demand that Apple takes responsibility and removes chemicals like the solvents n-hexane and the carcinogen benzene, which is known to cause leukaemia providing its workers with a legal standard of welfare,” Kevin Slaten, programme co-ordinator at China Labor Watch, told the Guardian.