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Microsoft Mice Made in Chinese Youth Sweatshops?

CmdrTaco posted about 4 years ago | from the they-get-a-discount-right dept.

Microsoft 481

An anonymous reader writes "The National Labor Committee offers an in-depth look into working conditions in Chinese sweatshops producing hardware (mice, etc.) for Microsoft, complete with pictures. Apparently, so called 'work study students,' 16 and 17 years of age, work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week, for around 65 cents per hour. Microsoft said it is taking the claims seriously and has 'commenced an investigation.'"

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481 comments

More companies too (5, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31856332)

MS is probably the most catchy one, but the factory produces and packages hardware for a lot more USA companies too:

KYE factory in China, which manufactures computer mice and webcams for Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Samsung, Best Buy, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech, ASUS and other US companies.

Earlier also Apple products were done by child labor [slashdot.org] at many factories.

These companies should move their factories to US or EU. But it's cheaper there and this is one of the reasons why. As long as it's cheaper, they don't care about ethics.

Re:More companies too (1, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#31856432)

Ethics? What is more ethical, moving your operation to the US/EU or taking away hundreds of thousands of jobs from those Chinese people just because YOU in your soft comfy couch wouldn't want to work in those conditions.

They are paid what the market will bear in that region, these people choose to work there for a reason, they aren't forced to. In fact it's a very good thing because it provides jobs and income to people who would otherwise have none. The USA and Britain have gone through this same period of the industrial revolution. A change in labor laws or working conditions can not be forced upon them, it must come from within China by the Chinese people themselves.

They should probably get paid a little more, but then again you have the whole tech/geek culture which scrutinizes any product that costs more then the competition.

Imagine if the iPad were made in the USA instead of China, people complaining about the price today would be having a shitfest if it was made here.

Re:More companies too (5, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 4 years ago | (#31856514)

Ethical is paying a fair wage to your employees, and budgeting so that your suppliers can do the same.

Re:More companies too (1, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#31856536)

Ethical is paying a fair wage to your employees, and budgeting so that your suppliers can do the same.

None of which matters if your products cost so much that few people buy them.

Re:More companies too (3, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 4 years ago | (#31856674)

Well, Apple gets away with charging an absurd markup for basically no reason, you would think they could get away with ensuring good wages for all their suppliers employees.

Re:More companies too (3, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about 4 years ago | (#31856660)

And this 'fair wage' is rooted where it matters. It's not fair here, no. It _might_ be fair over there (I don't know) - but comparisons using our standard and cost of living is invalid either way.

I'm not saying the current situation is right. I'm saying that the idea of a 'fair wage' is fluid, and our viewpoint is only valid here.

Re:More companies too (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 years ago | (#31856520)

Given that the factory in question is in blatant violation of existing Chinese labor laws, the suggestion that it be smacked down is hardly couchbound western cultural imperialism...

Re:More companies too (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#31856750)

Given that the factory in question is in blatant violation of existing Chinese labor laws

Is it? I'm sure the well-bribed, local officials would say otherwise. And their word is really how it is determined whether law is broken or not. That's how it goes in a nation of men not of laws.

Re:More companies too (3, Interesting)

CharlieMurphy (1224048) | about 4 years ago | (#31856698)

Unfortunately workers are often "forced to" stay at work as the employers withhold salaries to ensure the workers stick around. The workers poor education and government corruption mean there is not much the workers can do about it. There was a very well done documentary about a young girl working in a jeans factory in China which showed the terrible working and living conditions, I wish I could recall the name of it.

Re:More companies too (0)

yog (19073) | about 4 years ago | (#31856708)

TheKidWho explains the situation well. A lot of people simply don't understand basic economics and will impose their particular ideology on a situation in defiance of the very real and powerful financial incentives that actually drive business decisions.

Probably 15-year-olds shouldn't be working 15+ hours a day 7 days a week in grim prison-like conditions for miniscule pay. On the other hand, 15-year-olds shouldn't be watching TV 6+ hours a night 7 days a week, "hanging out" on street corners to look cool and show off their latest fashions, and eating a diet largely of fats, carbs, and chemicals that will induce obesity, coronary disease and type 2 diabetes in the near future.

Which population is going to build a great country? Not ours anymore. Back when Americans worked under those kinds of conditions, and when they didn't scramble to find some work, any work, they might well miss a few meals, at that time Americans built the world's most powerful industrial society that has dominated the globe for a century and counting.

I think it's likely the Chinese will become the predominant power in the world because of their work ethic. While we sit in our comfy air conditioned offices and whine about every little thing--I tell you it gets tedious listening to co-workers complain that the coffee isn't free or they got "cheated" out of a sick day and so forth--there are people out there making great sacrifices to get ahead and build a stronger economy.

Meanwhile we keep enacting unfunded entitlements for ourselves, and ask the Chinese to underwrite it on the basis of their sweatshop profits. Something's very wrong with this picture and we are in big trouble. Whenever someone writes an article about China's sweatshops, I wonder what has happened to the work ethic in the U.S. Ethics and morality aside, we should admire them for their industry and diligence.

Re:More companies too (4, Insightful)

commandermonkey (1667879) | about 4 years ago | (#31856714)

You are may be correct in stating that they choose to work in those conditions. And although the conditions may be abhorrent to a citizen of a developed western country it may be the norm in China.

That doesn't mean I am comfortable with supporting those practices.

When people go off about 'what the market will bear' they seem to only factor in the financial cost of producing an individual widget and not the cost of Goodwill, Public Perception etc. that also factors in.

Look at the apartheid boycott's. Damage to companies based on their labor practices was very real and help bring about social change within a country. Even though the practice was the norm in the region.

Re:More companies too (1)

houghi (78078) | about 4 years ago | (#31856748)

Ethics of following the law?

The factory violates every labor law in China, with grueling, long hours at an exhausting work pace.

I do not say that they must move country, but at least force their producers to follow the law.

Re:More companies too (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856768)

these people choose to work there for a reason

Yes - because there is a shortage of work and otherwise they'd starve.

they aren't forced to.

Sure, because starvation is always an option.

In fact it's a very good thing because it provides jobs and income to people who would otherwise have none.

So it's OK to exploit people, as long as you can rationalize it?

Fuck you, you insensitive jackass. I hope you take your fucking libertardian teabagging bullshit straight to hell.

Re:More companies too (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#31856434)

Of course that stuff is made in China; corporations care nothing about human rights, only profits. And a well paid (i.e., a living wage) workforce can't compete with sweatshop labor.

If our politicians were more beholden to voters and workers and less beholden to multinational corporations, we'd have tarriffs protecting American workers from competing with sweatshops.

Re:More companies too (4, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#31856502)

Of course that stuff is made in China; corporations care nothing about human rights, only profits

The opposite is also true, our consumerist society cares most about cost which is what drives these companies to move to places like China.

Re:More companies too (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 years ago | (#31856672)

The opposite is also true, our consumerist society cares most about cost which is what drives these companies to move to places like China.

No, son. Our corporations care more about profits which is what drives these companies to move to places like China.

Surprisingly, you can find companies succeeding at all sorts of industries that we have been told have "moved out of the US" such as textiles, clothing, shoes, even electronics. For the transnationals that are owned by people who have nothing to do with the business itself, succeeding and making a profit is not enough. Employing people is not enough. Getting rich is not enough. Your not "winning" unless your constantly growing, and then growing faster. The drive to show quarterly increases in profit have driven this "dive to the bottom" that is resulting in kids in China working 12-hour shifts to make your WalMart trash.

Honestly, every Walmart could close tomorrow and people's lives would go on as before. Stores would open and sell stuff. People would make stuff. Life would go on. But predatory capitalism, where Capital precedes Labor instead of the other way around, is going to make things a lot worse for a lot of people. The best part, is they can sell it as "making life better".

Re:More companies too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856752)

Baloney. It's pure profit and lack of regulation that drives companies to China. Apple juice isn't exactly a hot market, yet most of it comes from China. It's cheaper to have someone make it in China, load it on a ship, send it to the U.S.A., load it on a truck and send it to stores. The consumer isn't benefiting, the price isn't all that cheap to us; it's the company selling it since they don't have to pay workers (healthcare, social security...) here in the U.S. and have plausible deniability when we discover that our apple juice is made in the same plant as anti-freeze.

Offshoring anything only helps the corporations. It does little to help the average person.

Re:More companies too (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#31856578)

If our politicians were more beholden to voters and workers and less beholden to multinational corporations, we'd have tarriffs protecting American workers from competing with sweatshops.

1930 called. They want their protectionist economic theory back.

Re:More companies too (1)

coutch (157269) | about 4 years ago | (#31856650)

It's so easy to put all the blame on the corporations. but the consumer has to take the blinders off and look in the mirror.

When we buy something (electronics, car, clothes, vegetables, fruits ... anything!), do we stop and ask ourselves in what type on conditions that good was produced ? unlikely ...

Or do we only look at the bottom line and get as much as we can for the lowest cost ? sounds more like it ...

There will always be a corporation willing to do something shady to produce something for a lot cheaper .... because there will always be a consumer willing to overlook shady practices and BUY those goods.

It starts with the consumer. WE have to change.

Re:More companies too (1)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | about 4 years ago | (#31856478)

As long as it's cheaper, they don't care about ethics.

Agreed. If they really gave a rat's ass about the conditions in their mouse factory, they'd audit this and other suppliers regularly. But a PR guy issuing soothing statements once or twice a year from his office is a lot cheaper than a dozen investigators flying around the world, to say nothing of the actual unit price rising when workers get breaks, weekends, and overtime pay.

That list of companies tells the real story: this is simply the way global trade is done. And if this is the way your trusted big brands do business, you can rest assured that your no-name brands are worse. Maybe someone out there is working on a niche "cruelty-neutral" computer with child-labor and heavy-metal offsets sent to Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders...

Re:More companies too (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 years ago | (#31856610)

There is a (deeply perverse) reason why MS(and the various other tech companies, it isn't just them) probably do care about the wages and conditions:

MS wants to pay as little as possible for their mice, by squeezing the margins of their suppliers as hard as possible. If their suppliers are saying "Nope, can't do it for less than $X, labor laws require us to pay the workers $Y/hour." but they are actually only paying $y-1/hour, then the suppliers are fattening their margins by lying during pricing negotiations. MS has absolutely no reason to put up with that if they can avoid it. If they are going to pay $X per mouse, because the workers cost $Y/hour, there is No Fucking Way that they want to take the bad PR for workers earning $y-1/hour. Now, because I suspect that MS doesn't really give a fuck about a bunch of chinese 16 year olds, they would likely accept either paying less per mouse or not taking the PR hit; but paying more and taking the PR hit means that KYE is shafting them to enhance their own margins.

That, I suspect, pisses Microsoft off.

Re:More companies too (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 4 years ago | (#31856568)

MS is probably the most catchy one, but the factory produces and packages hardware for a lot more USA companies too:

Yeah but this is Slashdot. Less about news and more about advertisement, dupes, Microsoft-bashing and old jokes.

These companies should move their factories to US or EU.

So why should they move again?

And yeah, salaries are low, working conditions are bad, but since when have less industry made anything better? Or well, maybe more comfortable/peaceful and spartan if that's what you're after but then there's places to move to to live that life to.

The thing is that people who move into the cities to work in the plants get a much better income than they would have had out in the countryside. And they can get more items and since everyone else also work so cheap and don't have more money their money lasts longer than what they would do in NY.

And with fewer jobs and lots of poor people salaries and working conditions rather go down than up. So what are you suggesting?

The more industry they get the more work-places there is around and hence possibilities to pick a better place based on working conditions, salaries and such.

It won't just pop up jobs for everyone for western salaries with their instant high education levels.

Why would any company move there if they had to pay as much as they already do?
What benefits would they gain from not having any high-paid (relative) jobs in the cities?

Re:More companies too (1)

BorgDrone (64343) | about 4 years ago | (#31856658)

Earlier also Apple products were done by child labor at many factories.

Yes, and now we have an iPad shortage.

They could at least have waited until after the release before they enforced their code of conduct.

umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856340)

boycott

Re:umm... (3, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | about 4 years ago | (#31856368)

That's going to be a bit of a problem, since most other mouse manufacturers apparently contract out to this outfit too. FTFA:

Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech and Asus also outsource production to KYE Systems.

And it looks like that's just a sample list, not the complete set. The focus on Microsoft is because the article was in a Seattle newspaper, not due to sole complicity by Microsoft.

Not only their mice (1, Flamebait)

Tukz (664339) | about 4 years ago | (#31856342)

I believe all microsoft software is written by the exact same people. ... oh come on, they walked right into that one!

Re:Not only their mice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856604)

awww the Microsoft fanbois can't take a joke and moderate as flamebait.

Re:Not only their mice (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856640)

or there's no -1 not-funny mod.

Relevance? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 4 years ago | (#31856352)

Seriously, given that the Chinese are pretty much balls deep in America's backside these days, does anyone care about this anymore? What Walmart-shopping, XBox360 buying American shopper is going to do anything about it? Is the American government (thanks for giving .cn the Most Favored Nation status) going to do anything about it?

Re:Relevance? (3, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | about 4 years ago | (#31856386)

Consume less. Buy second hand, upgrade only when you need to, don't buy iToys, enjoy the fresh air, etc.

The American govt doesn't have to do anything. You, OTOH, can.

Re:Relevance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856584)

Good idea! That'll really help these poor Chinese people by... um... taking away their jobs??

Re:Relevance? (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 4 years ago | (#31856644)

And in the meantime enjoy a shittier quality of life while making no appreciable difference in the situation.

There are a few inconvenient truths in the world:

1. Nothing you do yourself is going to affect the world large scale. You can convince others of your ideals and act as a group, but in that case your words' affect on others, not your own actions, made any change.

2. People typically act in their own self interest, and they benefit for it.

3. A large group of individuals acting in their own interests will often not enact a course of actions which are in the best interests in the group as a whole. Prime example here can be seen with a large crowd in a theater. If someone yells fire (and there actually is one), then it's in my own best interest the book it. The faster I get out of that situation the better. When every individual acts in this manner though, people can be trampled to death. The overall death toll will be higher, but the odds on survival rest on those who run, not those who calmly exit. Indeed those who walk out (the best for the group if everyone did it) are the most likely to be trampled. You can TRY to take the high road and walk, but the reality is once the crowd is running you're not stopping them, and you're only hurting yourself by not running along with them.

Come on look at the photos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856354)

Everything looks nice and clean, they even got nice uniforms... No reason to complain.

Re:Come on look at the photos (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | about 4 years ago | (#31856404)

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2782/4454969320_a34f2800c8.jpg [flickr.com]

Photo caption
"Exhausted workers taking a break by The National Labor Committee.
These teenagers work for the KYE factory in China, which manufactures computer mice and webcams for Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Samsung, Best Buy, Foxconn, Acer, Logitech, and other US companies. The factory violates every labor law in China, with grueling, long hours at an exhausting work pace. KYE recruits hundreds of "work study students" 16 and 17 years of age, who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week".

Re:Come on look at the photos (1)

CALI-BANG (14756) | about 4 years ago | (#31856448)

Caption is misleading.

during work break, most workers, on most offices take a nap. what you are you going to do after you have taken snacks/meals? dance?

Re:Come on look at the photos (2, Insightful)

hjf (703092) | about 4 years ago | (#31856480)

A picture doesn't tell me how many hours they've worked, or how old are them. Also, we don't know if the sleeping pics were staged. Investigation? Yes. Jumping to conclusions? No.

What? (1)

Jawn98685 (687784) | about 4 years ago | (#31856356)

I see pictures. I see many pictures. All contain images of smiling, happy workers, joyously engaging in their labor. What is problem?

Good work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856372)

They make damn fine mice! I use an intellimouse II that's at least 6 years old and I love it.

Well natch MS is looking into it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856374)

Microsoft said it is taking the claims seriously and has 'commenced an investigation.'

65 cents an hour is WAY too much! What, is Microsoft made of money or something??

Re:Well natch MS is looking into it (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#31856530)

It would be really helpful to put this in perspective. In some parts of India, $1 will pay for cheap accommodation and food for a day. In other parts, it will just about get you a cup of tea. This works out to just under $10/day, which seems a pitiful amount compared to prices where I live, but how does it compare to prices there? Are they able to save enough to go to university after a couple of years, are they barely able to afford food, or is it somewhere in the middle?

Re:Well natch MS is looking into it (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 4 years ago | (#31856722)

They did currency conversion so I would assume prices would compare to US prices for goods, otherwise the currency conversion would be pointless and a useless figure, right?

Re:Well natch MS is looking into it (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#31856808)

If it's anything like the other sweatshop accusations for multinational companies (for example, Nike), they're probably making a bit more than the prevailing wage for the area. Even if the owners don't pass on the profits, they have to insure that Microsoft gets their mice on time (they probably lose considerable money, if a shipment is late or of poor quality). That means a need for a more reliable and perhaps skilled workforce and hence, a somewhat higher level of pay.

It is simply not profitable for them to care. (3, Insightful)

sethstorm (512897) | about 4 years ago | (#31856408)


"The National Labor Committee offers an in-depth look into working conditions in Chinese sweatshops producing hardware (mice, etc.) for Microsoft, complete with pictures. Apparently, so called 'work study students,' 16 and 17 years of age, work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week

It's simply not profitable to have people who aren't afraid of their job and/or their life. Third World countries deliver both fears handily.


Microsoft said it is taking the claims seriously and has 'commenced an investigation.'"

Said investigation will be focused on how they can prevent such things from coming to light in the future. People will be bribed, families will go in/out of favor, etc. No real change will be made outside of moving it to another equally bad of a country/location.

66 cent compared to what? (4, Insightful)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | about 4 years ago | (#31856410)

In my opinion saying they "only" make 66 cent an hour means nothing without a reference. How much can you buy with 66 cent in China?

Re:66 cent compared to what? (-1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 4 years ago | (#31856456)

Same thing you can buy with 66 in the US I can imagine, since that is the whole reason they do the currency conversion, so you get a sense for how much they get paid. That's barely enough for a cheap candy bar, for the non-Americans out there (the good bars cost 85c to US$1.00 or more)

Re:66 cent compared to what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856538)

So 66 cents in North Carolina buys you the same amount of gasoline as in Virginia? Now apply that to countries on opposite sides of the world. Geography and tax laws affect price levels.

Re:66 cent compared to what? (3, Insightful)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | about 4 years ago | (#31856564)

I think we can be pretty sure that 66 cents gets you a lot more in China than it does in the US.

To make a comparison, you might make $30k a year, which is respectable in most areas of the US. But trying coming on holiday to Norway, your money is worth very little. You will shell out $16 for a .5l beer in Oslo.

Re:66 cent compared to what? (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#31856576)

Nonsense. Purchasing power varies massively across the world. Even in international chains like Starbucks charge a lot more for the same thing in different countries. When you're talking about locally produced food and goods it's a much bigger difference. The cost of food is closely related to the amount the people farming are paid, which is a lot lower in most of Africa or China than it is in the EU or USA, for example. And that's ignoring the fact that the Chinese government intentionally keeps the Yuan devalued against the US Dollar to promote exports, meaning that the purchasing power of the Yuan in China is higher than the exchange rate would lead you to believe.

Re:66 cent compared to what? (4, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#31856582)

In China you can eat a good meal for $0.50
In America you can barely afford a Candy Bar for $0.50

Re:66 cent compared to what? (2, Interesting)

dskzero (960168) | about 4 years ago | (#31856598)

Not necesarily. A chocolate bar here in Venezuela can cost 3 BsF, which is around 50c. (Of course, there is this whole deal with the exchange control, but that's another thing altogether). And packs of cigarrete cost15 BsF, which is slightly more than two dollars. 66c an hour is around 5 BsF: more or less minimum wage in Venezuela. That could mean that the whole enchilada isn't really all that alarming. Not good, but hardly different than most other companies.

Re:66 cent compared to what? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856494)

OMG!!111!!!! I did not thawt of that. Yer rite. Chinese kids don't need nun of that fancy buk lernin' and stuf, and 65 cents and hour is 2 gud fer them. There lucky they git anything.

Asshole.

Re:66 cent compared to what? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 years ago | (#31856600)

How much can you buy with 66 cent in China?

For 33 cents you can hire someone to do your work for you.

33 cents profit for you . . . per hour!

. . . and the 33 cent guy hires someone for 16.5 cents . . .

You can see now why China's economy is booming!

Re:66 cent compared to what? (1)

Blue Warlord (854914) | about 4 years ago | (#31856642)

Easy, use the BigMac index: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mac_Index [wikipedia.org] According to wikipedia, one Big Mac in February 2009 costs $1.83, in the People's Republic of China. Hence, does 66 cents would give you roughly 1/3 of a burger per hour .... In other words, not a lot.

Re:66 cent compared to what? (1)

Targon (17348) | about 4 years ago | (#31856816)

That doesn't work since a Big Mac isn't considered the "normal" food over there. Then again, the price over here has gone up by so much that there isn't much point to going to McDonalds when you can get better food for less.

Re:66 cent compared to what? (4, Insightful)

billius (1188143) | about 4 years ago | (#31856794)

I'm not an economist, but according to Wolfram Alpha the GDP per capita for China is 3290 USD [wolframalpha.com] . Figuring 15 hours a day * $.065 per hour* 6 days a week * 52 weeks in a year = $3042 a year, so about 92% of the GDP per capita. Like any big country, I'm sure the cost of living varies quite a bit from region to region (for example a Big Mac in China costs about $1.83 [woopidoo.com] , meaning it takes about 3 hours to have enough to buy one) and working 15 hours a day definitely sucks, but at least on the surface the pay doesn't seem that bad. Anyone with more knowledge of economics have an opinion on the matter?

at the age of 16... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | about 4 years ago | (#31856420)

...I'd love to have earnt 65 cents an hour, scaled up to what the CoL is in my country, in an intense job to earn me quick money when I'm not studying. For me, working 15 hours a day is pretty standard, and I'll do it often providing (i) I enjoy the work; or (ii) it's for a limited amount of time.

It's a way of life, not a temporary arrangement (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about 4 years ago | (#31856474)

It's not what they're being paid, it's how it's being done. They have laws that mandate paid overtime, but it'd be suicidal to ask for it. At least in the US, you'll survive long enough to make it to court and make your case to an impartial judge.

Unlike the US, China (and many other Third World countries) make it a point to instill a certain fear in the worker's life. That's how they make the hardware so cheaply. That's also why it's not a temporary arrangement, but a permanent way of life.

Re:It's a way of life, not a temporary arrangement (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | about 4 years ago | (#31856566)

Yes, the lack of worker movement leading to unions/tribunals/etc in China (irony...) is a problem. As is the fact that a teen worries about the cost of marriage and supporting his parents' farm. Although there are many jobs which youths have to do in the West which come with poor live-in conditions, and tower blocks of state housing in Europe resemble such dormitories in their liveability.

Quote was missing the end (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856426)

Microsoft said it is taking the claims seriously and has 'commenced an investigation into how they are being paid such an extraordianry amount, when clearly they would accept 40 cents or even lower.'

Knock-offs (1, Flamebait)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | about 4 years ago | (#31856436)

I GUARANTEE you those are not MS-brand mice. They also make Louis Vitton purses and Chanel sunglasses in the same factory.

The Asians LOVE America but do not want to pay for the over-priced stuff when they can copy and make it themselves. There's a huge market over there for knock-offs. Do a Google [google.com] search for Chinese fake products.

Re:Knock-offs (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 4 years ago | (#31856472)

Um, Microsoft contracts out manufacturing to them. The second link in the summary has pictures of the boxes and mice. Even if you don't RTFA can you at least LATFPictures?

Re:Knock-offs (1)

sheph (955019) | about 4 years ago | (#31856500)

There's a huge market here in the U.S. for the knockoffs as well. Go to Ebay and search for darn near anything and you'll find someone in China selling it for about 1/3 of what you'd pay here for it.

Re:Knock-offs (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#31856558)

There's a huge market here in the U.S. for the knockoffs as well. Go to Ebay and search for darn near anything and you'll find someone in China selling it for about 1/3 of what you'd pay here for it.

And it'll last 1/6 as long as the real product would have.....

Re:Knock-offs (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | about 4 years ago | (#31856636)

Both statements are true (except about the 1/3 part...it's much less). There's no shortage of women here who can't wait for the next "Purse Party" so they can get their $75 Coach purse that would normally cost them $600 (if you're paying 1/3 the cost then you're getting ripped off). And the women who sell this shit are making a KILLING. Then again, get caught and it's federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison time.

Business practise (1)

TDyl (862130) | about 4 years ago | (#31856454)

I find it so hard to believe that all these entities "will investigate" when these claims are made; are they so oblivious of the facts of employment in the areas in hich they choose to have their products made, or are they just downright lying scum, trying to reduce cost margins and increase sales?

Yes, call me naive, but I cannot believe the bastards when profits, share-holders and bottom-lines get in the way of ethics. We in the technology sector have such a powerful presence that we can force change and improve the lives of hundreds of millions around the planet - we should be doing that as a matter of first instance, not retro-actively.

Investigation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856460)

They've probably ``commenced an investigation'' on how to migrate the rest of their business to these sweatshops as well.

I know this is bad. (1)

Higaran (835598) | about 4 years ago | (#31856462)

Now I kind of feel ripped off that I paid $80 for a MS gameing mouse last year. I do however still think that MS makes the best keyboard and mice out there, their the only ones I use. I understand that they are makeing nothing compared to us here in the us, but how does thier wages compare to other factories in china, I highly doubt that anyone would be working there if it was really that bad for the area.

Re:I know this is bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856508)

Considering your level of English proficiency, I wonder if you're one of those labourers.

Re:I know this is bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856586)

No, he appears to be just an average American gamer, stupid to the core.

Re:I know this is bad. (1)

COMON$ (806135) | about 4 years ago | (#31856630)

Sorry buddy, Logitech all the way, sure they are pricey but damn you cant get another mouse that is half as good as the MX series anywhere.

Re:I know this is bad. (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 4 years ago | (#31856682)

Wow... I don't know where to start here. I know, I'll make a list!

  1. You complain about the price of your mouse despite the fact the article was trying to make the OPPOSITE point... prices are LOW and it is because of this cheap labor MS and other companies use! Using proper working conditions and treating workers like human beings would raise the cost of products.
  2. You claim MS makes the best keyboard and mice, and in the same breath admit you have no way to know that because you don't use other brands, at least it seems not recently.
  3. The article doesn't really mention this but AFAIK this is a pretty common situation in Asian factories. The currency conversion to US money though is meant to show how the wages line up... imagine yourself living on their wages.
  4. "Really that bad" is a relative term. Compared to western nations, the working conditions are horrible, inexcusable, and illegal. Over there it may very well be common and even inescapable. The poorer you are the worse jobs you HAVE to keep, since you have no savings or other people with good jobs or savings to fall back on.

Child labour by western standards, perhaps (1, Flamebait)

Mouldy (1322581) | about 4 years ago | (#31856464)

But they don't consider 15-17 year olds children in China (I don't pretend to know about Chinese law - just putting the idea out there). Also, if $0.65/hour is just enough to live on - so be it. Factory workers here (UK) are paid 'just enough to live on' too. $0.65 isn't a lot by western standards, but if it can shelter, feed and clothe them over there, it's enough for them. Considering that factory has employees - it's most likely the best work those people can get in that area. If Microsoft & others decided to pack up and stop 'exploiting' - where would all those workers go? Probably to some other factory that pays even less.

Re:Child labour by western standards, perhaps (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#31856646)

Factory workers here (UK) are paid 'just enough to live on' too.

Note that in the UK, minimum wage for people aged 16-18 is only £3.57, as opposed to £5.80 for people aged 22 or over. A lot more than $0.65, but not necessarily when you factor in the cost of living difference.

Re:Child labour by western standards, perhaps (4, Informative)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about 4 years ago | (#31856800)

Reading the article, the main thrust of it doesn't seem to be the fact that they're using 16-year-olds, though there is a part about 14-15 year-olds as well. The problem is mostly the way the factory is being run.

The workers – mostly women aged 18 to 25 – work from 7:45 a.m. to 10:55 p.m. They eat horrid meals from the factory cafeterias. They have no bathroom breaks during their shifts, and must clean the toilets as discipline, according to the NLC.

They sleep in factory dormitories, 14 workers to a room. They must buy their own mattresses and bedding, or else sleep on 28-inch-wide plywood boards. They "shower" with a sponge and a bucket. And many of the workers, because they're young women, are regularly sexually harassed, the NLC alleges.

Solution (5, Insightful)

Alarindris (1253418) | about 4 years ago | (#31856498)

Take away their pay and call them 'interns'.

Re:Solution (2, Informative)

thijsh (910751) | about 4 years ago | (#31856784)

Don't they have thousands of 'interns' like that building the luxureous Dubai for instance?
Contrary to what most people believe the worldwide total of exploited people you can categorize under the label 'slave' is more than before the abolition of slavery... Slavery and human trade is booming business and an order or magnitude more widespread than in 'slavery times'.

Not a surprise (2, Insightful)

Akido37 (1473009) | about 4 years ago | (#31856560)

Every time news like this comes out, the Western companies act all shocked. OF COURSE they're working in crappy conditions for low pay - how else do they make products so cheaply?

In summary: "I'm SHOCKED to find gambling going on in this casino!!"

Re:Not a surprise (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 4 years ago | (#31856574)

I think that as well, those companies are not stupid they do everything they can get away with, once things like that become public they play the shocked ones...
Nothing new here, worked since the outsourcing of manufacturing has started.

Re:Not a surprise (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 4 years ago | (#31856606)

Problem is for certain commodity items you cannot even avoid such things, show me one mouse manufacturer who does not outsource production or does not go to the cheapest bidder. Hell Logitech for instance was one of the last to outsource from Europe to Asia, but in the end they were forced to do so as well.
The same goes for almost all computer parts :-(
With food you at least can buy organic or fair trade, with computer parts there is almost no chance.

Scary timing... (1)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | about 4 years ago | (#31856614)

I clicked onto this article from my RSS feed after "window shopping" mice at ebuyer. I was even looking at a Microsoft one; looking at the prices you wouldn't think they were made in sweatshops.

what are you going to do to change it? (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | about 4 years ago | (#31856628)

Surprise people, but this is what's behind the "Made in China" sticker on all that crap you buy. Think about it next time you throw out your old cellphone, upgrade your comp, or buy an iPad. If there wasn't a demand, there wouldn't be a market.

Sweatshop? Only by your standard (5, Informative)

jsse (254124) | about 4 years ago | (#31856638)

I'm not here to pro-Microsoft, but....

65 cents x 15 hours x 24 days (people work 6 days a week there) = US$234 ~= RMB1,614.00

The wage is much more than the average of the workers there. The starting salary of a factory worker is no more than US$100/mth, an experienced worker (>2 yrs exp) might not be able to ask for more than US$200/mth.

Also, from what I've seen in the article, the working environment is MUCH better than any other factories I've ever seen in China.

Still, I agree that the working hours are too long, but I'm sure the workers there are more than willing to work more than you'd ask for, given high-paid.

God damn it Slashdot, I *like* MS hardware (2, Funny)

NevarMore (248971) | about 4 years ago | (#31856720)

Can we just please let this one slide and go pick on Apple?

I like my Microsoft mice and keyboards. They're actually pretty decent, don't make me hate them too.

Re:God damn it Slashdot, I *like* MS hardware (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#31856746)

Can we just please let this one slide and go pick on Apple?

No, but Apple is also evil [pcworld.com] .

I like my Microsoft mice and keyboards. They're actually pretty decent, don't make me hate them too.

I find that they suck fucking ass. The wireless ones have inferior range to the Logitech products, and they do not have the MTBF, either. Microsoft's gamepads are the quickest to get sloppy; the analog sticks get twitchy and drifty LONG before Sony's, for example. Microsoft knows jack about hardware design. The shape of the mice is probably the most inexplicable thing. Make it fit my hand like a glove, so I have to move my whole arm to use it? This is stupid.

Re:God damn it Slashdot, I *like* MS hardware (1)

dskzero (960168) | about 4 years ago | (#31856802)

You must have some sort of weird anatomy. I find that their keyboards and mice are top of the line. (Dunno about wireless, i don't like them)

I'm particulary impressed by their keyboards. They are extremely comfortable and silent.

Re:God damn it Slashdot, I *like* MS hardware (1)

thijsh (910751) | about 4 years ago | (#31856810)

Buy Logitech instead... exact same crap built in the exact same factory by the exact same Chinese workers... But as long as there are no photo's them being 'exploited' yet you're doubleplusfeelgood.

The Result of Maximizing Profits (1)

SplicerNYC (1782242) | about 4 years ago | (#31856742)

Not just Microsoft but every American company that ships manufacturing jobs overseas precisely because they know that people making slave wages put more money in the pockets of stockholders, board members and the CEO. The drive towards maximization of profits is a threat to the future of corporations because it replaces planning with obsession about the "now".

Nothing we haven't seen before - it's not that bad (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | about 4 years ago | (#31856764)

Occasionally stories like this come out, and most of the "sweatshops" look very similar to this. The conditions don't look that bad. They're not working in dirty factories with dangerous equipment. They get paid what is probably a low, but livable, salary. Most of them probably come from the countryside and have no other option for work, unless they want to stay on the farm. Remember the photos from an iPhone that came with some pictures the cute factory girls took of themselves? The factory was maybe a little bit nicer, but it looked extremely similar.

Compared to us in the west, this looks bad. However, a lot of people in the west would take these jobs with no problem if the pay is adjusted to the cost of living... because the conditions are really not that bad!

It's clearly not sustainable to keep these low-paying factory/assembly jobs in China, but for now, it's working out pretty well. We can buy computer peripherals for rather low prices, and in the process pay a little bit of money to poor Chinese kids who don't have the option to keep going to school or get a better job at the moment.

and...? (1)

Targon (17348) | about 4 years ago | (#31856772)

With the cost of living and such over there, that may very well be like getting paid $100/day here. For someone 16-17 years old without any work experience, that isn't all that bad. Of course, I don't know the true cost of living there, but people need to stop using the exchange rates in the wrong way. If the average daily pay for an adult is $1/day but that lets someone live an average standard of living for that country, that isn't really horrible. On the flip side, if the standard of living were to go up, that would be better as well. But still, someone putting together mice and keyboards should NOT make so much that they are considered very wealthy for where they live either. I don't agree with the 15 hour work day stuff, but if the level of pay is acceptable to the people doing the work, then the only thing we can really say is that the working CONDITIONS are what we should be looking at, where there should be good airflow and it should not be too hot or cold.

Even here in the USA, some people would be happy to work for $10/hour, while for other people, they would require much more than that. Just because a wage is too low for YOU does not mean that it is too low for everyone. The cost of living is a big part of that.

fuddles is greed/fear/ego based, (in)human? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31856796)

he keeps trying (to outshrewd the rest of the corepirate nazi illuminati), but in the end, as with everyone else, he's just one of us, & will be 'rewarde(a)d' as such, as the randoidian mindset turns to boiling mush. we all have those 'features'.

earlier today:
http://www.aos.wisc.edu/fireball/2010_04_14_fireball_loop_1024x768_long.gif

just look all around you including up towards the sky.

never a better time to consult with/trust in your creators.....

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