The battle between labor and capital is as old as the ancient empires of Rome and Greece. Today, Chinese laborers are suffering greatly due to lax Chinese labor laws. This is an injustice that has, unfortunately, been a sensitive issue for many Chinese and westerners alike. In many cases, the western multi-national companies would prefer the cheapest labor that they can find. However, there are even limits to those desires. Hopefully the Chinese government will realize that the Communist party should be in favor or helping the poorest and hardest laborers. Considering that was and has been the Communist goal, it seems like the right thing to do.
Abuses of Labor in China
One of the most well known examples of labor abuses in China stems from the Apple product development plants. Due to the enormous demand for iPhones and iPads, many Apple managers and directors forced workers to spend excessive overtime. Not only were workers supposed to work overtime, but the conditions were also appalling.
In fact, just last year there were a number of Apple employees working in the same manufacturing plants who committed suicide. This year the managers are forcing employees to sign an anti-suicide pact to avoid such problems.
The legal limit of overtime in China is 36 hours, but many of the employees at two southern Apple plants were forced to work upwards of 98 overtime hours in addition to their normal work week. This leaves very little time for anything else during these busy months. In addition, the little time off is spent in crowded dormitories that house hundreds and even thousands of rural migrant workers that come to the city for part of the year. Many of these workers only make enough money to send home and barely survive.
U.S. Based Companies Object
In a particularly business-like maneuver, many U.S. based multi-national companies have fought proposed Chinese legislation to protect workers’ rights. They have found China to be far too profitable to be changed by unions and other organized labor movements. Wal-Mart, UPS, Microsoft, Nike, AT&T, Intel, and even Google were among the culprits that actively lobbied against these reforms. Nonetheless, the Chinese government has been reluctant to change much so long as their economy remains robust. Increasing workers’ rights would increase the cost of goods and make them less competitive.
Labor Rights in China Moving Forward
The horizon for Chinese workers does not look good. So long as American big-business and Chinese government officials are controlling the money and the politics, there will be no respite for Chinese workers. China is growing too fast for the Communist party to allow any disruptions. The increase in the Chinese middle class has already made the country less competitive. Chinese treatment of laborers has been poor for many years and it does not look like it will let up anytime soon. Organized Chinese labor is making some inroads, but overall it seems that a glimmer of hope is far in the distance.