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Hullabaloo


Monday, September 24, 2012

 
Foxconn riots pointing a way forward

by David Atkins

Workers at the now infamous Foxconn manufacturing plant in China, its reputation sullied for abuse and mistreatment of the workers who make overpriced electronic devices for export, are rioting:

Foxconn Technology, a major supplier to some of the world’s electronics giants, including Apple, said that it had closed one of its large Chinese plants early Monday after police were called in to break up a fight among factory employees.

The company said several people were hospitalized and detained by the police after the disturbance, which occurred late Sunday, escalated into a riot...

Disturbances at factories have become increasingly common in China, rights groups say, as laborers have begun to demand higher pay and better conditions.

Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the China Labor Bulletin, a nonprofit advocacy group in Hong Kong seeking collective bargaining and other protections for workers in mainland China, said workers in China had become increasingly emboldened.

“They’re more willing to stand up for their rights, to stand up to injustice,” he said.

The same Taiyuan factory was the site of a brief strike during a pay dispute last March, Hong Kong media reported then.
These sorts of events will hopefully become more common across the globe in protest against the ongoing predation of capital against increasingly defenseless labor.

American labor should stand alongside their brothers and sisters in China, in part by demanding that companies that manufacture goods in China adhere to minimum protections for workers' rights wherever their goods are manufactured. Rather than fear the Chinese worker, American labor should embrace her.

Better wages and labor conditions for Chinese workers may mean higher prices for the latest unnecessary iPhone "upgrade" as Apple protects its unholy profit margins rather than charge a fair price for its legally unique rounded corners. But they also mean more and better jobs domestically for American workers, a better rounded Chinese economy, a reduction in the U.S. trade deficit with China, and a greater respect globally for the contribution of labor in an arbitraged world economy.

The future of labor doesn't lie in shrinking back toward protectionism within nation-states. It lies in globalizing the labor movement. It's not a new idea, after all: some famous German said that same thing in a pithy way a long time ago. The new model, however, has to learn from the failures of the old models on both sides of the Cold War, and embrace a real respect for democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, environmental protection, innovation, and a newfound respect for wages over assets.

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