These are the hand-written pleas of workers in Chinese factories, tucked away into a purse bought from Walmart, a shopping bag from Saks and a box of Halloween decorations from K-Mart.
Chilling notes like these have helped propel the unjust conditions in Chinese factories into the global spotlight. Investigations by China Labor Watch and other nonprofits have further exposed the harrowing work environments: the low wages and unpaid overtime, the toxic materials and ensuing health problems, the crowded on-site dorms and verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse.
And then there are the suicides. In 2010, 18 workers threw themselves from the top of Foxconn buildings, which manufacture electronic devices for Apple, Sony, Nintendo and HP. With suicide rates among factory workers gripping public attention, companies like Foxconn are starting to respond these pressures—in some cases, by installing safety nets on the outside of their buildings to prevent suicides. While this at least acknowledges a problem exists, it only addresses a symptom, not the real problem: the undignified treatment of employees.
The conditions of Chinese factories clearly reveal significant labor issues—but it’s more complex than that.
This is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RELEVANT Magazine. Read the rest of the article here>>