Labor Group Blasts Ford for Chinese Sweatshop Abuses

The Institute said it is aware of at least four serious injuries—maimed hands and fingers—over the last several years. Severely injured workers are fired.

The Institute for Global Labor & Human Rights released a new report today that said Ford Motor Company is guilty of worker rights violations at what it terms is a Chinese sweatshop that supplies Ford.

The study entitled “Dirty Parts/Where Lost Fingers Come Cheap:  Ford in China” is said to document worker rights violations—including workers maimed when factory management turned off critical safety equipment—at the Yuwei Plastics and Hardware Products Company in Dongguan, China.

“While millions of democracy advocates are launching protests across the Middle East and North Africa, workers at the Yuwei factory have never heard of a ‘union’ and have no idea what a union is or how it could help them,” said Charles Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labor & Human Rights, a pressure group formerly known as the National Labor Committee.   

According to workers cited in the report, 80% of the factory’s production is for Ford. Yuwei has a U.S. office and warehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan but attempts to contact the company were unsuccessful.

Ford issued the following statement: “We take these allegations seriously and are investigating the situation. Ford has a strong commitment to human rights and workplace safety, and we expect our suppliers to comply with local laws and our Code of Basic Working Conditions. We require all of our suppliers to ensure that our products – no matter where they are made – are manufactured under conditions that demonstrate respect for the people who make them.”

Workers earn a base wage 80 cents an hour, working 14-hour shifts and 7 days a week, it’s said.

The report says that on 13 March 2009 a 21-year-old, called worker “A,” had three fingers and several knuckles torn from his left hand when it was crushed in a stamping machine. He was making parts for export to Ford.

The report alleges that management deliberately instructed the worker to turn off an infrared safety monitoring system so he could work faster. “We had to turn it off.  My boss did not let me turn it on,” said worker A.  He had to stamp out 3,600 “RT Tubes” a day, one every 12 seconds.

The Institute said it is aware of at least four serious injuries—maimed hands and fingers—over the last several years, and notes that severely injured workers are fired.  New workers receive no training or safety instruction before being assigned to operate dangerous machinery, according to the Institute.

In the case of worker A, he received a total payment of $7,430 for the loss of three fingers, which left his hand severely handicapped. Workers compensation for a similar accident in the U.S. would result in a $144,292 payment.

Kernaghan is asking Ford to pay worker A an additional workers compensation payment of $72,126.40, which is just half of what workers compensation would be in the U.S.

“Ford,” Kernaghan said,“should not be complicit in the payment of below subsistence wages and the suppression of local and internationally recognized worker rights standards.”

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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2 Responses to Labor Group Blasts Ford for Chinese Sweatshop Abuses

  1. It is Time to End the Race to the Bottom – By Charles Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labor & Human Rights:

    When Walter Reuther first started working at Ford as a tool and die maker in 1927, he was earning $1.05 an hour, which today would be the equivalent of $13.29.

    Eighty-four years later, a worker in China producing auto parts for export to Ford is paid just 80 cents an hour. He and his co-workers have never heard the word ―union, and have no idea what it is or how it can help them.

    It was Wall Street‘s greed and wild excesses which led to the Great Recession that brought our economy to the brink of collapse, leaving—even today—more than 25 million Americans out of work or forced to take drastic cuts, working part time.

    It is a sad fact that not one single high flyer on Wall Street has been prosecuted for destroying our economy. Instead, Wall Street racked up $70 billion in profits last year. This was only part of corporate America‘s profits, which reached $1.7 trillion in 2010—the highest in the last 60 years. Corporations are holding onto their profits rather than investing in the U.S.

    These same corporations are now moralizing to us that while there are poor working people amongst us, we cannot allow middle class union workers to earn a living wage, receive benefits, or have the right to organize and bargain collectively. Essentially, corporations and their political mouthpieces are saying we have to spread the poverty so no one is left alone.

    In a sick sort of way, they have a point. Unions have to take all workers with them. We cannot leave anyone behind.

    We need to entirely change the debate going on in America.

    This is what we can do. We can help workers in the U.S. and across the global economy if we hold corporations accountable to respect local labor laws and internationally recognized labor rights standards.
    There is a precedent. Corporations have demanded and won all sorts of laws backed up by sanctions—intellectual property and copyright law—to protect their products in the global economy. Corporations say that without such legal protections, it would be chaos and a race to the bottom. For example, Mattel sues on average once a month to protect ―Barbie. If another doll comes along with look-alike lips, Mattel will sue to protect their ―Barbie.

    We do not entirely disagree with the companies on this. There does need to be a level playing field.

    Working together with the United Steelworkers union, religious organizations, students and other activists, we drew up worker rights legislation which for the first time ever will hold corporations accountable to respect local labor laws in the U.S. and internationally.

    The legislation is very simple. Corporations must adhere to the local labor laws, including minimum wage levels, in the countries where they are producing. This should be no problem, as every company says they already do this. Have you ever heard a company say they are violating local labor laws?

    In addition, under the legislation, corporations will be held accountable to respect the core ILO internationally recognized worker rights standards—no child or forced labor, decent working conditions, freedom of association, the right to organize a union and bargain collectively. Here too, this should not be a problem, since the companies say they strictly adhere to the International Labor Organization‘s worker rights standards.

    The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act is very simple. Corporations can produce goods and services anywhere in the world. But if they violate local labor laws in the countries they are producing, then their goods cannot be imported to the U.S., sold here or exported. The same is true of the core ILO labor rights standards. If the ILO standards are violated, the product cannot be imported, sold or exported from the U.S.

    When the USW introduced the jobs bill in the 110th Congress, there were 175 co-sponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate, including Senators Obama, Biden and Clinton. A Harris Poll showed that 79% of the people surveyed supported the proposed labor rights legislation.

    There is even a precedent for such legislation. When Congress was alerted that garment manufacturers in China were producing winter jackets for sale at the Burlington Coat Factory stores, and that the fur collars were made of dog and cat fur, Congress went ballistic. No one would kill dogs and cats on their watch! In no time, they passed the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000, which prohibits the import, sale or export of dog and cat fur from the U.S. Now we need to give the same legal protections to workers in the global economy.

    This is our time to act, and the worker rights legislation is our vehicle.
    When the stock market crashed in October 1929 and the Great Depression took hold, two thirds of Ford employees were laid off and wages plummeted. There was no unemployment insurance at the time, but the struggle went on. On March 7, 1932, the Ford Hunger March saw 100,000 rallying in Detroit, while thousands more marched on the River Rouge Ford plant. Five union workers were shot and killed, while scores of others were injured. In 1938, the United Auto Workers had 370,000 due-paying members. By 1941, after a long struggle, the workers won the right to organize at Ford.

    We won then and we can win now.

    Our economy belongs to the American people every bit as much as it belongs to the corporations.

    This is a time for struggle and solidarity.

  2. j says:

    it is all about money

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