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article below posted May 16, 2010    Bookmark and Share

Exhausted workers are slumped over their desks during breaktime.


Teenage Microsoft Sweatshop

15-hour shifts and poor conditions in Chinese factory

from the National Labor Committee

Producing computer mice & webcams for Redmond-based Microsoft, HP and other companies, the KYE factory in China is the subject of a recently released in-depth report, “China’s Youth Meet Microsoft” (see www.nlcnet.org/reports?id=0034).

Over the course of a three-year investigation of the KYE factory in Dongguan, China, unprecedented photos were smuggled out of the factory of exhausted teenagers, seen slumping over asleep on their assembly line during break time.

“We are like prisoners… We do not have a life. Only work." according to one teenage worker making products for Microsoft.

KYE recruits hundreds (up to 1,000) “work-study” students 16 and 17 years of age, who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week making webcams, mice and other computer peripherals. Some of the workers appear to be just 14 or 15 years old. A typical shift is from 7:45 a.m. to 10:55 p.m. Most of the students work for three months, but some stay longer.

This Microsoft webcam is produced by the KYE factory.


Along with the students, KYE prefers to hire women 18 to 25 years old, who are considered easier to discipline and control. Here are some of their working conditions:


• Workers report that before the recession, they were at the factory 97 hours a week, while working 80.5 hours. In 2009, workers were at the factory 83 hours a week, while toiling 68 hours.

• Workers are paid 65 cents an hour, which falls to a take-home wage of 52 cents an hour after deductions for factory food.

• Workers have to report early for unpaid military-like drills. Management controls every second of their lives.

• The work pace is grueling as workers race to complete their mandatory goal of 2000 Microsoft mice per shift. During the long summer, factory temperatures reach 86 degrees and the workers are drenched in sweat.

• Security guards sexually harass the young women. Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music or going to the bathroom during working hours. Freedom of movement is restricted and workers can only leave the factory compound during regulated hours.

• Fourteen workers share each primitive, dirty dorm room, sleeping on narrow bunk beds. To “shower” workers fetch hot water in a small plastic bucket for a sponge bath. Workers report that the food is awful.

Some of the workers appear to be only in their early teens.


“KYE management claims factory conditions are excellent, and that they are in full compliance with China’s labor laws,” says NLC director Charles Kernaghan. “But the young women describe the factory as a prison, where everyone who can flees within six months. It is almost impossible to find a worker who has been at the factory for more than a year or two. As usual, the codes of conduct for Microsoft, HP and the Electronics Industry Council have zero impact.”

Catching up on sleep during breaktime.




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Comments (15)

Please keep comments polite and related to the above page.



#1 - George H. - 05/16/2010 - 20:51
It's not like they're being enslaved or whipped at their workstation. If they don't like to work there, they don't have to. Truth is, these workers want the money badly. Perhaps love of money is also the culprit on their part?

#2 - David Hirning - 05/16/2010 - 23:00
Yeah, I'm sure that's it, George. They're just greedy.

#3 - Devin Glaser - 05/16/2010 - 23:19
Haha, right on David.

George, they may offer classes on empathy. Might want to take a few credits.

#4 - Kathleen - 06/07/2010 - 16:34
Perhaps it is "need" for money rather than "love" for money? The reasons that anybody would stay in a work situation like that probably have more to do with necessity. That can be difficult to understand if you have never experienced having to work in a horrible work place.
Shame on Microsoft! No one should be treated like that, especially by a profitable company like Microsoft.
There is no reason that those workers should not be treated decently.

#5 - Eric - 09/09/2010 - 22:38
Are these workers "abused" because they are so tired they have to sleep during breaks? Or are they fortunate, since they are to be able to sleep during work hours? Which in America for cultural reasons is generally taboo. Perhaps Americans are projecting their frustration about their own need for more sleep onto people who actually are truly far better off than their recent ancestors, who were starving to death under Mao just a short while ago.

#6 - Chipher - 11/05/2010 - 19:36
Just to put it in context, there are 2,900,000 Defense military, many of them 'working' overseas at our 700 US-foreign military bases, every one of them 'works' just half what these Chinese girls work, and take home more than 50 times what they do, and since our overseas military are 'expatriate', all expenses are paid except for the bar tab, and they pay no US income taxes! Club Fed, and I'm not talking about the tiny fraction active duty, 80,000 in combat, I'm talking about the 854,000 'Top Secret' nobody even knows what they're doing, or if they are doing anything! I know personally overseas military who make over $70,000 a year, three all expenses paid flights home to CONUS every year, all tax free, and they only have to perform ONE LAUNCH PER YEAR.
So have a care for China, your own American children will be there by about 2014.

#7 - Jonathan Inskeep - 12/06/2010 - 14:07
Microsoft is a criminal organization, and not just because it exploits foreign workers. If the government established technical standards for computers, the company would die within six months. Microsoft steals from everyone who uses computers, solely because it has become the standard that everyone else must code to. It is the equivalent of a company claiming to own a pound or an inch or a mile (or the equivalents in the metric system) and allowing the company to charge everyone who sells things by the pound (or inch or mile). Bill Gates has fought tooth and nail against the internet and the spread of technology to the majority. He was a piss poor programmer in college before he dropped out, and he was a poor poker player as well. He should be arrested, and the entire assets of Microsoft should be seized and distributed to the people Gates has exploited.

jonathaninskeep@mac.com

#8 - Jacob - 12/18/2010 - 22:42
Good one George!

You did leave out another important point:

"Hey, No one put a gun to their head!"

...some people...

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#11 - erik - 01/10/2014 - 10:30
Marxism/communism is a wonderful thing isnt it....told where they can work...how long they must work..what they wear what they eat ect...(union labor at its finest!)...well folks this mentality is pervasive in our current admin...its coming your way soon....have fun!

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