Thursday, August 7, 2008

Not to pick on China or anything...

We saw a great article today on a British E-zine called The Independent. Full article link here

It describes labor conditions in China and how workers are not allowed to form unions, negotiate for safe work conditions or higher wages nor get adequate medical care when injured on the job. What I found most interesting was the quotes from workers at a factory making artificial Christmas trees:

The China Labour Bulletin conducted a study of their lives. Ms Zhang, a 21-year-old woman who made artificial Christmas trees, was a typical interviewee. "We worked seven days a week, and we only had three days off a year," she says. "We worked overtime every night until 10 in the evening. The workshop was always filled with smoke. You couldn't see very far. When you entered the room, your eyes burned and watered, and you had difficulty breathing."

One night, Ms Zhang – exhausted and sore-eyed – was pushing plastic through an iron-roller when she felt terrible pain. Her hand was trapped. She was taken to hospital for extensive skin-grafts. Two weeks later the factory abruptly stopped paying for the medical treatment. They told her to get back to work. "I felt like jumping out of a window," she told the researchers. The skin on her hand is still peeling and painful.

"When you enter this factory," another young woman says, "you are under their control. If you get tired and want to stretch your neck or look around, you can't. They won't even allow you to look around!" If you do, you are docked the day's wages. To prevent workers from trying to seek out better factories, it's normal to pay two or three months in arrears. If you quit, do you get the backlog? Never.

I just want to point out that 85% of all fake Christmas trees purchased in the U.S. come from China, according to the Commerce Dept. If you or someone you know uses a fake tree, ask them if this story provides any holiday cheer while they decorate it.

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