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269 comments

Chinese work conditions (4, Funny)

seanadams.com (463190) | about 8 years ago | (#15600903)

ECS uses the "Grape System" to remind their employees not to slack off. For each day, there is a grape. Green means they had a perfect day, with no problems with work or otherwise. If an employee slacks off or shows up late for work, they get a red grape.

And I toil for what?!? Not so much as a raisin!

Re:Chinese work conditions (3, Funny)

Herkum01 (592704) | about 8 years ago | (#15600946)

I love thier last comment about the workers, "I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories". There is not a bit of biase there I tell ya!

Re:Chinese work conditions (3, Insightful)

Sinbios (852437) | about 8 years ago | (#15600957)

Monetary value and living expenses are also quite different in China, so there's really no comparison there...

Re:Chinese work conditions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601294)

>>Monetary value and living expenses are also quite different in China, so there's really no comparison there...

Sure, but how do you feed a family with a grape per day?
Even a good sized one wouldn't fill you up if you have to cut it in thirds or fourths for the wife and kids.

Personally I think the workers should get money for spending a day making motherboards.

Re:Chinese work conditions (1)

zaphod_es (613312) | about 8 years ago | (#15601340)

> They are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories How long can China carry on like this without a communist revolution?

Dupe (5, Informative)

Ramble (940291) | about 8 years ago | (#15600947)

Bit-Tech did this over a week ago.

http://www.bit-tech.net/bits/2006/06/16/ecs_shen_z hen_factory_tours/1.html [bit-tech.net]

Re:Dupe (1)

HardCase (14757) | about 8 years ago | (#15601337)

And they did a better job of it, too. A much better article.

-h-

Cool (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15600950)

So this is like the manufacturing equivalent of a human body making shit?

ECS sucks ass, I hope the factory catches fire and they all die.

- Proud owner of an ECS/PCChips piece-of-shit motherboard

Was this article written by the Chinese? (4, Insightful)

x_man (63452) | about 8 years ago | (#15600963)

I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.

Yes, how dare those union workers try to get things like livable wages, child labor laws and health insurance. What were those silly Americans thinking?

X

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (2, Funny)

WilliamSChips (793741) | about 8 years ago | (#15600971)

You have committed thoughtcrime. Unions doubleplusungood. -Republican Administration

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15600975)

Lets also not forget 12 hour work day

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (2, Funny)

thejam (655457) | about 8 years ago | (#15600979)

Here, here! I nearly lost my lunch at the suggestion that taking lower wages for longer hours and with a public ridicule "grape" system is somehow more efficient? For whom? Your therapist?

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601054)

Where, where?

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (5, Interesting)

contrapunctus (907549) | about 8 years ago | (#15600999)

I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.
Yes, how dare those union workers try to get things like livable wages, child labor laws and health insurance. What were those silly Americans thinking?
There was a show on PBS last friday about GM paying off workers to quit. One instance was a janitor (in a union) making nearly twice as much as me. I'm a college professor. Why did I go to school for so long?

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (4, Funny)

goofyheadedpunk (807517) | about 8 years ago | (#15601081)

So you didn't have to be a janitor?

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (2, Insightful)

contrapunctus (907549) | about 8 years ago | (#15601121)

It was a little bit of a rhetorical question but yes everybody's answer is right.
It still bothers me though.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601091)

To educate people? There are plenty of other jobs you could have taken if money were the most important thing in your life. Whore springs to mind.

"Twice as much as I" btw, Mr. College Professor.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (1)

Yokaze (70883) | about 8 years ago | (#15601101)

> Why did I go to school for so long?

For an intellectually more challenging job with more freedom? Actually, they'd have to pay me twice as much as now, if I'd have to do a similar tedious job as a janitor.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (2, Interesting)

Skidge (316075) | about 8 years ago | (#15601109)

Why did I go to school for so long?

I know I'd rather be doing academic work in a field I'm interested in than punching a clock to clean tobacco spit out of trashcans or to clean up after someone's explosive diarrhea, especially if you get paid enough as a professor to live relatively comfortably.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601234)

I dunno. Me, if someone pays me decently enough *and* I can go home and not take work with me, I'm there. Between my 9 to 5 and my consulting business, I make a good living, but it's hectic and stressful. I can't ever *leave* work because I can login remotely and I have an evil cellphone. The only part of a low-stress, minimal responsibility part I hate are the pricks who think that, because you don't make as much as they do, they're somehow better.

I just want to make enough to do two chicks at once.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (1)

loraksus (171574) | about 8 years ago | (#15601137)

I don't know if teaching was your ultimate goal, but did you seriously expect that you would make a lot of money in education? Sure, if / when you get tenure, it isn't that bad, but adjunct and non-tenured professors have to put up with a lot of bullshit for little pay and no benefits (I'm not even going to mention k-12). As far as I know, this has been the case for the last 150+ years, so it can hardly be considered a surprise.

BTW, It seems that the majority of math teachers at the college / uni level are bitter that they spent so many years in school before they "discovered" their career options are basically limited to teaching for $40,000 a year.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (1)

gorehog (534288) | about 8 years ago | (#15601351)

Hm...maybe you should join a Teachers Union? Professors are the labor of the college system after all.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (3, Insightful)

lowlight852 (984908) | about 8 years ago | (#15601001)

Yeah! Let the unionized janitor make $20 USD per hour mobbing garbage while his company loses millions every year, eventually going bankrupt! The simple fact that he is alive and can walk and breathe gives him the RIGHT!

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (4, Interesting)

ettlz (639203) | about 8 years ago | (#15601023)

As a Brit, I really cannot understand the crazy phobia (some) Americans have about unions and socialism. "Ooer! Reds!" Let's not forget these movements arose out of injustice. OK, so they got out of hand in the UK in the 1970s, but things are generally stable nowadays and we're not [yet] slaves to The Party. Many other west-European states have systems with a socialist slant, and they're not doing too bad either. Is socialism a dirty word, automatically equated with communism or something? Is it un-American to disclaim the class system, and ensure that one's neighbours do not starve or suffer ill-health?

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601136)

Unfortunately, for many americans, the answer is yes. But I suspect that the question was rhetorical.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 8 years ago | (#15601168)

As a Brit, I really cannot understand the crazy phobia (some) Americans have about unions and socialism.

It's not a "crazy phobia" when the union is so out of control that domestic industries can no longer compete with foreign ones. This, incidentally, is why Ford and (especially) GM are getting their asses handed to them by foreign companies: Toyota, Honda, Hyundai etc. are building factories here that employ Americans at low, non-union wages, while Ford and GM are closing factories because they're drowning in pension payments to their unionized workers. The union is so powerful -- too powerful -- that it's actually driving jobs away and hurting both the economy and the workers themselves.

On the other hand, the tech sector could use a bit of unionization, to protect workers from outsourcing and H1-Bs. So really, it's a question of balance.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (2, Interesting)

Znork (31774) | about 8 years ago | (#15601383)

"so out of control that domestic industries can no longer compete"

As you're handing out the criticism, dont forget to mention the other side of the coin. How about 'intellectual property legislation so out of control that domestic workers can no longer compete'.

Unions arent alone in driving spiralling costs. Rent-seeking is rife in the whole economy.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601451)

What crap. It is because Ford and especially GM do not invest enough in R&D to create up to date vehicles that are fuel efficient and well designed.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601453)

> It's not a "crazy phobia" when the union is so out of control that domestic industries can no longer compete with foreign ones.

And you think that the 10% to 20% value that shareholders extract from companies every year have no impact on their ability to compete ?

Capitalist corporation are also inherently less apt to compete, because of that permanent blood drain.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (1)

Associate (317603) | about 8 years ago | (#15601328)

Because most Americans can't make the distinction between Socialism the Government Model and Socialism the Political Party. And those that do know the difference think the latter's goal is to set up the former. In a nation where individualism is everything, you'll find greater resistance.

Re:Was this article written by the Chinese? (4, Insightful)

coldmist (154493) | about 8 years ago | (#15601399)

Yes, socialism is a dirty word, since it and communism have the same end goal, just different means of getting there.

The problem with Unions, IMHO, is that they concentrate power, which in turn gets corrupted. Once a factory goes union, is there an option to "opt-out"? Do I have the "freedom" to not be union while my co-worker is? Since there isn't, that power tends to corruption. A classic example is teachers unions. The teachers are paid from property taxes (here in the US anyway), which they then pay Union dues. Then, if a lawsuit comes up, the state uses more tax money to handle a lawsuit which is being defended by money that came from taxes in the first place. The system just feeds itself.

As a final point, you said "Is it un-American to disclaim the class system, and ensure that one's neighbours do not starve or suffer ill-health?"

Well, the difference is we (speaking broadly here) would rather deal with a starving neighbor on a personal level through personal generosity and donations/gifts than to have the money taken by us through taxes, and then paid out to other people that might or might not deserve it or use it wisely. If I knew that an honest neighbor was starving to death, I would go to the store, by $100 worth of groceries for example, and give them to them. However, I would not do the same for a neighbor that is a drunk and is wasting his money on booze. What happens in socialized welfare is the government does not/can not make a distinction between the two and take $300 from me (the government programs are expensive to administer, right) and give $100 cash to each of my neighbors.

See the reports about the money that went to Hurricane Katrina victims. See this article for a quick example: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la- na-fema15jun15,0,1306432.story?coll=la-home-headli nes [latimes.com]

Ultimately, it boils down to the individual being responsible for ones own actions, having both the ability to succeed (like Bill Gates) and the possiblity of failure. You can't have one without the other. In a Union (at a factory level) or socialism/communism (a national level), a safety net is erected to prevent failure. The same mechanism also stunts success.

What unions are getting... (2, Informative)

Illbay (700081) | about 8 years ago | (#15601032)

...is much, much smaller [64.233.187.104] .

Re:What unions are getting... (1)

mattkime (8466) | about 8 years ago | (#15601165)

Unions are traditionally strong in manufacturing jobs which have been moving overseas.

(which isn't to say that unions don't have other problems)

Unions (5, Insightful)

tinrobot (314936) | about 8 years ago | (#15600977)

even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.

Not to get on too much of a rant... but we can thank unions for a lot of things... like weekends off and decent salaries. Without unions, we'd still be working seven days a week in sweatshops.

Sadly, China has no unions, so they do have sweatshops and low wages. I'd argue that China's workers would be better off if they did form unions.

(and... before everyone here starts moaning about their employers, yes, I know many of you do work very long work weeks in the tech business. I've worked for several startups myself)

Re:Unions (3, Funny)

pete-classic (75983) | about 8 years ago | (#15601005)

China is still Communist, right? So the workers control the means of production. So who the hell is the union going to fight?

-Peter

Re:Unions (1)

ettlz (639203) | about 8 years ago | (#15601041)

China is still Communist, right?
Only in name. All that "communist"/"the people's" rubbish appears to be little more than goodspeak to avert a bloody uprising. The correct term, I believe, is "oppressive wannabe-capitalist hegemony".

Re:Unions (2, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | about 8 years ago | (#15601171)

Perhaps you'd like to see China end up like the former USSR, with the mafia running the show, no accounting for weapons of mass distruction, and no economy? Bad enough with 300 million... how about 1.5 billion?

Re:Unions (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601044)

China is still Communist, right?

Wrong. China is a fascist oligarchy which is no closer to communism than America is. In fact, less so. Many workers in China's buliding industry are not paid at all until their (possibly years long) project is over, and the rural regions have been decimated by the withdrawl of all education and health services. Violent uprisings in China, by China's own figures, reached 87000 last year and have increased steadily by more than 10% per year for some time.

China is on the edge of exploding into civil war and what I think would seem strange to Americans is that when it comes the people doing the rebelling will probably be fighting to establish communism, which they've been raised to believe in because it was a good way to control them but have never experienced.

Re:Unions (1)

students (763488) | about 8 years ago | (#15601147)

More info please. If China is really on the edge of civil war, the American propaganda machine would not let the Chinese propaganda machine keep it a secret.

Re:Unions (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601363)

More info please. If China is really on the edge of civil war, the American propaganda machine would not let the Chinese propaganda machine keep it a secret.

A good place to start is Antony Thomas' film "Tank Man" [pbs.org] about the famous film of the guy who blocked the tanks' advance into Tienanmen Square.

The American propaganda machine is confused by huge amounts of money to be made out of China's slave labour. That's good for capitalism, just as it was under the Nazi's when Hitler's Germany was the only European country where US investment increased (and at the incredible rate of 48% over just a few years) so a solution has to be found which allows China to be "most favoured trading nation" but official disapproval of communism still expressed.

The solution settled on seems to be to pretend that the Chinese government "has seen the light" and is introducing capitalism. This can be painted as a victory for western values while the reality that the vast majority of China is still available for work at what might as well be zero pay can be used to make massive profits for multi-nationals who are "in" with the Oligarchs who rule it.

The new middle classes in China are shiney and bright but they are a tiny minority in a vast sea of repressed people on the edge of starvation with a life expectancy which is actually decreasing. They look good in documentaries about the upcomming Chinese Olympics and suchlike but their real purpose is to make a west-friendly face for investment and political photo-ops.

Re:Unions (1)

unitron (5733) | about 8 years ago | (#15601184)

"China is on the edge of exploding into civil war and ... when it comes the people doing the rebelling will probably be fighting to establish communism..."

Which means that we will be subjected to a bunch of crooked idiots expecting us to help out on the side of the fascist old farts that have been tyrannizing them all these years.

Re:Unions (4, Informative)

thelost (808451) | about 8 years ago | (#15601042)

hardly surprising considering the whole article reads like a paid for advertisement and actually goes into little/no detail about the manufacturing process.

Re:Unions (-1, Troll)

llZENll (545605) | about 8 years ago | (#15601075)

"but we can thank unions for a lot of things"

If these motherboards were made in the USA by union workers they would probably cost $1000 - $3000 instead of $30-$100. Would you rather pay $1000 for your whole computer or $10000? It clearly states in the article that workers can work 8 hours if they wish, but most work 12 hours. Also most of the workers are women, who are considered a 2nd class human in China, the fact that they are allowed to work at all is a big step for them.

Re:Unions (1)

DAldredge (2353) | about 8 years ago | (#15601102)

Can you support those numbers or did you just make them up?

You pulled those numbers out of thin air. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601241)

How much labor do you think goes into a motherboard? It's measured in minutes even in China where labor is very cheap. Did you notice the pick and place robots? Those would be the machines being fed with reels of components. If you had visions of workers hand soldering components onto boards; well sorry to disappoint you.

There are other reasons besides wages that the Chinese can manufacture cheaper than we can and they mostly have to do with them being better capitalists. The tax situation is actually better there than it is here! As noted in the article, the Chinese can make a point of cutting out a bunch of red tape if they want to.

Re:Unions (5, Insightful)

NanoGriever (592781) | about 8 years ago | (#15601245)

>Also most of the workers are women, who are considered a 2nd class human in China,
>the fact that they are allowed to work at all is a big step for them.

You obviously don't know much about China and you just make stuff up.
Chinese women have been working hard for years. How and where you got
that idea is totally beyond me. May be you've mistaken China for some
countries in the middle east?

Re:Unions (1)

cskrat (921721) | about 8 years ago | (#15601285)

Based on their numbers. If 1000 employees can make 800,000 boards per month and each employee averages $30,000 per year (a salary point that would attract many US production workers) then the cost of labor per board is about $3.13 each.

While I realize that the base salary is not the same as the total cost of compensation, the situation is nowhere near as dire as even your lower estimate of $1000 per board. If you were to figure %90 labor cost in the $1000 estimate (since we are talking purely about the work conditions at ECS and not the component suppliers that they use), that would translate to $8.6 million per year per employee if current production levels were maintained.

Re:Unions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601315)

If these motherboards were made in the USA by union workers they would probably cost $1000 - $3000 instead of $30-$100. Would you rather pay $1000 for your whole computer or $10000?
I'd rather that complete morons like yourself not make up numbers to support their stupid positions. And you really must be a complete moron if you can't immediately recognize why a $30 motherboard made in China would not cost $1000 if it were made in the USA.

Re:Unions (2, Informative)

wbean (222522) | about 8 years ago | (#15601083)

I think it's more complicated than this. Employers respond to the environment around them. They must offer pay/working conditions thar are good enough in comparison to the other alternatives to allow them to attract employees. They must NOT offer pay/working conditions that are so good that they drive up costs to the point where the firm can't function. It's hard to generalize but most employers that I know would like to be able to offer good pay and conditions. Often they simply don't feel able - I know, this isn't universally true but it's probably more true than most people believe.

The conditions in China are vastly different from the conditions here. If an employer in China - whether on his/her own or led by a union - offered Western pay/conditions they would quickly be driven out of business. They simply couldn't compete. On the other hand, the pay/conditions that are being offered are enough better than life on the farm that millions of people flock to the new jobs every year. China has a tremendous balancing act to perform. They have to keep pay down enough to create the huge number of new jobs that they need to absorb all the people leaving the farm. At the same time they have to build imfrastructure, tackle their environmental problems and raise living conditions enough to avoid unrest. Not an enviable task. I doubt that unions would be much help at this stage.

Re:Unions (3, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | about 8 years ago | (#15601097)

Actually, Unions came into the picutre after the pay scale in factories went up. We really have Henry Ford to thank for high pay in factories, mostly because he couldn't keep people in his factories until he raised the pay scale... although one could argue that the high turnover was more due to the lousy working conditions than the low pay, but the pay seemed to work. It should be pointed out that most of his employees were sons of farmers (who weren't used to factory work), and craftsmen who put a much higher emphasis on quality workmanship over production output. Ford management was much more interested in output and price. In fact, Ford (the company) wanted a poorly built vehicle so to encourage more purchases (one of the first cases of planned obsolescence).

We have Unions to thank for 8 hour work day (although it seems to have dissapeared over the past few years), bathroom breaks, and realistic expectations on production (at least in factories). Once the pay scale went up in Ford's factories, the output jumped up, since there was a better pool available. However, Ford and Wall St. expected the output to continue to increase year over year, and so the line was sped up. At one point the workers were not permitted to leave the line for any reason. This led to the famous piss cans, and ultimately to a strike, a union, and some really disturbing communist artwork.

I'm really not suprised that people look at China and see "sweatshops" while totally ignoring the poverty level in the countryside. Perhaps they would like to see China have a second revolution to democracy, just like the former USSR? Yep, that would be much better than a measured attempt to introduce capitalist reforms to a broken system. At least Mexico might be better off.

Scary... (5, Interesting)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | about 8 years ago | (#15600986)

All of these motherboard factory tours (there have been a few) are pretty scary. We see the really cool equipment, and get to hear the tests each piece of hardware goes through, and then we hear about how their employees do really repetitive tasks, for low wages, with tough ("military-style"), if not abusive, bosses, in an insulting environment (the "grape system"?! What are they, kindergarteners?!?!). Sure, they're efficient, and the product is relatively cheap, but do we want to support the ways these companies treat their workers, even if it's "okay" with the workers?

Re:Scary... (1, Redundant)

seanadams.com (463190) | about 8 years ago | (#15601009)

Sure, they're efficient, and the product is relatively cheap, but do we want to support the ways these companies treat their workers, even if it's "okay" with the workers?

Have you considered the alternative?

Re:Scary... (2, Insightful)

timjdot (638909) | about 8 years ago | (#15601027)

That's par for the course in manufacturing. Clearly the author never worked in a board plant in the USA - a few decades ago there were many. Interns and hourly Manpower workers did the repetitive tasks. The company where I worked tried automation and had a tour by Bush I - or maybe it was Reagan - about how great that was but in the end variances cannot be handled well by robots/machines and only certain tasks could be automated (wave solder, surface mount, moving parts from one line to another).
From the looks of it these are young adults very similar to the college students and part-time folks who used to do the work in the USA for about 2x minimum wage.

Assembly and manufacturing are not as glamorous as some seem to expect. A challenging QA task nonetheless. Odd to see little to no advancement over what was being done two decades ago. Just moved to a lower cost/lower net tax load locale.

TimJowers
P.S> There was no union in the plant where I worked. And, of course, the work eventually was offshored. I think the remnant now defines new processes when new products are to be run and then the bulk is done in Mexico, Tiawan, or such.

Re:Scary... (1)

slashkitty (21637) | about 8 years ago | (#15601053)

compared to what I saw with other factories in china, this one seems pretty clean and safe.

The factory where they make Disney books [youtube.com] is much more scary.

Re:Scary... (2, Insightful)

mattkime (8466) | about 8 years ago | (#15601063)

>>but do we want to support the ways these companies treat their workers, even if it's "okay" with the workers?

The success of walmart would imply a resounding "Yes!"

Re:Scary... (1)

vinay.ys (976057) | about 8 years ago | (#15601268)

and the likes of Nike and Reebok and all the great American multinationals

Re:Scary... (1)

Monkelectric (546685) | about 8 years ago | (#15601320)

Walmarts success is really the result of wage compression due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. The problem is wage compression is a self reinforcing cycle. Someone outsources, their goods are cheaper but the consumers now have less earning power to buy said goods, which puts more pressure on business to outsource. 30 years later, there are hadrly ANY manufacturing jobs.

It also puts pressure on upstream businesses. Consumers don't have the money to pay for aything but the cheapest goods/services. A buddy of mine does about the same job I do but makes 40% less. The reason? He works for Net Zero whose product costs 10$ a month -- they cant afford to pay their employees well. I work in the semiconductor industry and our products cost a fortune and at least for now are difficult to out source.

Re:Scary... (1)

l33t gambler (739436) | about 8 years ago | (#15601407)

And why isn't this innsight in more of those motherboard factory tours? As every
other consumer I have responsibility for what I buy, but it seems I am part of very few that is actually clearly aware of that every time I choose a product.

If people would spend less time on religion and more time interested in planet earth and things like these (when I say planet earth I mean everything also humans), the world might get better. Sure, 99.9% of such caring may all be rediculously futile and a waste of time, but with power comes responsibility, and in time we might get extremely effective of stopping evil companies.

Tommy Hilfiger busted again for use of slave workers in Mae Sot
http://nrk.no/programmer/tv/fbi/3296787.html [nrk.no]
http://jooh.no/root/text/Tommy_Hilfiger/email_to_h ilfiger.txt [jooh.no]

Maybe I should start a religion and hammer these few words into the cheep so they would think about it in their daily acts. For now I'll post the parents simple and insightful sentences here and there. Someday a company might start up and stamp their products "built in fair work conditions" and enough brainwashed people will actually buy them and the rest is history.

For now buy Intels lead-free NICs.
http://www.intel.com/network/connectivity/products /pro1000gt_desktop_adapter.htm [intel.com]

Some anti-idealists may say don't stress about it but don't listen to them. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

Slanted? (4, Insightful)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | about 8 years ago | (#15600993)

I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.

They make it sound like a good thing! Unions get little credit (even in China) for the 40 hour work week, paid time off, or time off at all.

Re:Slanted? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601145)

You have to see it from the other side too. At United Parcel Service I saw firsthand how evil both sides are. I remember managers telling supervisors to do things that were just plain wrong. For example, packages would move down a conveyor belt at a particular speed. The guys at the end of the belt would need to wait an extra 3-5 minutes before packages started arriving to be loaded. For this reason, supervisors were told to stagger the start times of the back employees 5-10 minutes later to save a few dollars each day. This was so patently ridiculous but it was policy. Policy that was not always told to the employees. The reasoning was that they needed to be in their work area before start time and be prepared to load when packages arrived. In other words, work for free setting up for the first ten minutes because that's our policy.

How about the union (Teamsters)? I visited a facility once dressed in a suit and tie (I was in IT). My job was to show employees how to work a bar code scanner for a new tracking system. As I was talking to the employee two large guys (also in suits) arrived and stood on either side of me. I picked up a Next Day Air letter to show how to scan (I thought they were managers checking my training procedure). Nope, soon as I touched the letter one guy shouts out, "What the fuck you doing? You're not supposed to touch packages." He tells me that he can shut down the entire facility in a second and that I shouldn't be touching packages. He's shouting two inches from my face. At this point the facility manager comes by and starts talking with the union guys to smooth things over.

Management and unions (at least the ones at UPS) are just a bunch of pricks looking for money. They're both evil. The problem is that you let one group get the upper hand and it may be even worse (look at the current political parties in the US for a similar thing).

Re:Slanted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601325)

I'm sorry, but that's obvious bullshit.

Re:Slanted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601417)

Nope.. The management story is from the Ft. Lauderdale facility in 1998. The Teamsters story is from the Naples, FL facility around 1999. For obvious reasons I can't print my name but if you're the inquisitive sort you can research it yourself.

Re:Slanted? (2, Informative)

loraksus (171574) | about 8 years ago | (#15601217)

To say nothing of workplace health and safety standards. I'll put money down that 25%+ of those employees will have some kind of cancer before they turn 50 and 40% will be dead before they turn 60. Some of the chemicals used are pretty nasty shit.
The "company store / housing" thing is also popular in China - the factory mandates that you live in their dorms and eat their food - even they are overpriced (hundreds of percent) and substandard. The article claims that the housing is "included" although you can take that a couple different ways.

Women at PCB factory (0, Troll)

ingo23 (848315) | about 8 years ago | (#15601026)

If you're wondering why it seems that these motherboard companies only hire women... well... let's just say things are different in China.

Let's just say that women tend to be more accurate and concentrate better on this kind of jobs.

Oh, wait, that means that women can do some jobs better than men? Preposterous!

Re:Women at PCB factory (1)

ettlz (639203) | about 8 years ago | (#15601073)

In the recent iSweatShop ruckus, it was suggested that women make the iPods as they are less likely to walf off with them.

Re:Women at PCB factory (1)

EMacAonghusa (929754) | about 8 years ago | (#15601311)

In my experience these assembly areas are quite mixed sex. Plus I don't think anyone has the chance to walk off with one, security is extremely tight in these sort of places (metal detectors etc), very hard to get past security with anything (I know the company who makes iPod).

ECS at Frys (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601033)

I work a Fry's Electronics. The rurmor at my store is is that ECS is owned by Fry's. I have never seen or heard anything to validate or disprove that, so take it with a grain of salt.
Anywho, regardless of ownership, ECS products are the favorite things to sell at Fry's. From the ECS motherboards to their Great Quality branded computers and notebooks.

As an employee in the service department (and thus, responisble for repairing computers when they fail) I can tell you the anything made by ECS is complete dirt. The GQ computers are not too bad, but I have never seen so many DOA motherboards in my life. We had a customer buy a mobo/cpu combo last week and his board was DOA. We ended up going though SIX (yes "6") more boards before we found one that would actually work.

DO NOT BUY ECS PRODUCTS.

Re:ECS at Frys (2, Informative)

MsGeek (162936) | about 8 years ago | (#15601161)

Ex-Fry's worker over here. I doubt Fry's owns ECS. They're too cheap to do something like buy out a supplier.

ECS stuff is CRAP though. Absolute fsckn crap. As well as ECS, "Great Quality" and PC Chips, stay away from anything labeled Amptron. Same company. Same "Great Quality" meaning none.

Re:ECS at Frys (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601182)

As a frequent customer of Fry's I just like to add: Don't buy anything from Fry's, cheap or expensive. I *SWEAR* I have had more defective merchandise from there than all but one other store (A local place that used to be the big fish until Fry's came in). Ironically enough, all the ECS mobos I've gotten there have be dead reliable (I've had one fail, and that was due to running the CPU without a fan on it and incinerating the chip, which killed the mobo and PS.) In addition I had a client recieve a dead 875 motherboard, and ANTEC power supply a few months back (BOTH were bad, having tested them seperately using known good components.) In addition to which every other memory stick I've bought there has had to be returned due to bad chips.

Basically expect to spend two trips returning stuff out of every 4 or 5 trips you make to buy stuff there... oh and *NEVER* get a Fry's warranty on a computer, at least in the case of HP, not only are they faster direct, but you can get a full accidental damage warranty for the same price as fry's, and get it returned round trip in ~2 weeks, wereas returning via Fry's is quoted at taking '6-8 weeks, and we can provide a loaner, assuming you're willing to have a 1500 dollar charge held against your credit cards' :P

P.S. Longest lasting laptop I had was one of those GQ Centrino laptops, lasted me 2 years with no PCB failures (the only thing that's EVER gone wrong with a single laptop I've had, usually 3-6 months before the warranty is up). Only died due to a run-in with the glass I was drinking while it was on my lap... ouch.)
- A Fry's customer by necessity only.

Re:ECS at Frys (1)

loraksus (171574) | about 8 years ago | (#15601186)

We ended up going though SIX (yes "6") more boards before we found one that would actually work.

That's not really limited to ECS though - the rule for frys is that if you build a whole system, you're going back at least once to change a dead part. A good chunk of the shit on your shelf is defective and the return drones keep on tossing broken shit back on the shelf with those fucking stickers.

There is a reason people call the store "Fry'd"

BTW, "Great Quality" is an awesome name for quite possibly the worst quality products in computing history. Their CD-R's are especially great.

ECS Extreme (3, Funny)

llZENll (545605) | about 8 years ago | (#15601045)

"Once packaged, random boards are put through shock tests to make sure their lot will survive the shipping process. The number of boards that go through this testing procedure is higher for high end products such as ECS' "EXTREME" lineup."

So if you buy an EXTREME board and get pissed at your computer, you can throw it a little harder against the wall. Cool!

Cheap labor makes it all go (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 8 years ago | (#15601049)

Here's are pictures from a US manufacturer of PC boards. [qacincorporated.com] Notice how it's done. No long row of women putting in components; it's one guy standing around watching the machines do the work. Automated insertion machines put in the components, and transfer conveyors connect the machines. That's the way it should be.

Only the really low wages of China make labor-intensive manual assembly feasible. Even in Mexico, you'd use automated assembly. Assembly in Japan has been automated for decades. If the US imposed import duties on very-low-wage countries that equalized wage costs to even $1/hour, this excessive "offshoring" would stop.

Re:Cheap labor makes it all go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601149)

No robots because human labor is still cheaper in China. Plain economic reason.

Just like in America (2, Funny)

quokkapox (847798) | about 8 years ago | (#15601158)

Only the really low wages of China make labor-intensive manual assembly feasible.

It's great here in America, we have these "Wal*Mart" stores everywhere... the "employees" are automated here too. When they wear out (or get sick), new ones automatically sign up to take their place. You don't have to worry about repairing the broken employees (i.e. health care); there's a constant supply of new ones. I'm not sure what happens to the worn-out ones; I think the government has some sort of program for recycling them.

They stock the shelves better than robots could (usually), and some of them can even answer natural language queries (in english and spanish) about the location of inventory.

Re:Just like in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601210)

moral equivalence games = the last refuge of someone who can't come up with real arguments

(not that anyone expects better from the /. crowd)

Re:Just like in America (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 8 years ago | (#15601317)

I think the government has some sort of program for recycling them.

Tuesday is Soylent Green day...

What we take for granted thanks to automation (1)

jftitan (736933) | about 8 years ago | (#15601167)

Lets take a look at population... China has a much larger population than the US. China also has a higher unemployment/poverty level than the USA does.

I see the assembly line being filed with workers being paid low wages is better than 1/16th that because a assembly machine could replace all those jobs. Then that would increase the poverty/unemployment levels all over China. We have to realize in the US, we take automated systems for granted, we expect our 'stuff' to be made faster, cheaper, and more reliable. We pay more for equipment to perform those repetitive tasks so that we don't have to have people doing those tasks, and end up creating duds. However, thanks to automation, we lose jobs.

Again, China may have a 'militant' working conditions, low pay, and poor living conditions. But if China was to go completely automated, then what will their population do? The USA can get away with this because we have employment programs, and social networking for skilled people. People in the US have no problem in getting work (we tend to be lazy about it though) But China doesn't. People who live in poverty will always live in poverty, unless someone within the family breaks themselves in order to raise themselves up a notch in the social level.

DISCLAIMER(All of this is my point of view of how the world works... none of this is actual investigation. I know plenty of people in China through ICQ, or IRC, and most of my experiences are 1st/2nd hand stories.)/DISCLAIMER

Re:Cheap labor makes it all go (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#15601215)

Its not just cheap labour, its also flexibility.

Whilst its possible to get all robotic assembly lines, in a factory with a number of varying products its simpler to train a human workforce than to maintain and program a line of robots to do the same (lots of short runs of x thousand units versus a factory built from the ground up with a certain product range)

Re:Cheap labor makes it all go (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 8 years ago | (#15601242)

If the US imposed import duties on very-low-wage countries that equalized wage costs to even $1/hour, this excessive "offshoring" would stop.
Is that a good thing? If the machines do most of the work, that means some human isn't getting paid for the work. Don't we want to pay people? Especially the poorest sorts of people in the world? Why aren't we thanking these manufacturers for giving these workers jobs, which are apparently better than any of the other opportunities which are available to them? I know it's not the Coziest Job In the World, but should they have to offer All the Luxuries of the West and a 2-week vacation to Hawaii every year before hiring anyone? Do you really think these people would be Amazingly Better Off if they were unemployed instead?

Re:Cheap labor makes it all go (1)

dogbowl (75870) | about 8 years ago | (#15601282)

A luddite on Slashdot?!? Now I've seen everything.

Re:Cheap labor makes it all go (1)

HardCase (14757) | about 8 years ago | (#15601377)

Through hole components can only be mechanically placed if the pick and place machine can physically process them. Not everything fits in a pick and place machine. The company I work for used to own a large contract manufacturing business. The answer to the problem of components that wouldn't fit the pick and place machines was easy - they didn't take the contract. The only case that I know of in which they did take the contract was to produce a motherboard that the company used in its own computer, and probably only because it would have been a little embarassing to contract out our motherboard to a third party. But they didn't make many of them - too bad, because at the time, it was the highest performance PC you could buy.

-h-

Re:Cheap labor makes it all go (1)

quo_vadis (889902) | about 8 years ago | (#15601406)

Those are PCB's with mostly SMD or throughole components. A motherboard has larger components that cant always be mounted with a robotic arm (try the IO ports, or the processor socket).

bad boards (4, Informative)

cdn-programmer (468978) | about 8 years ago | (#15601099)

bad boards - how to recognise and avoid them

http://www.redhill.net.au/b/b-bad.html [redhill.net.au]

This section, however, is not about the normal variation in quality and reliability between typical motherboards. It is about plain old-fashioned greed, and the cheap, shonky boards that sometimes result from it. Here then, is a short gallery of the cheap, the nasty, and the outright fraudulent.

To quote for the Red Hill web page:

PC Chips fake cache 486

Let's begin with the most famous of them all: the fake cache 486 boards that PC Chips produced in the mid-Nineties.


---------------

From the PCCHIPS website we find: http://www.pcchips.com.tw/PCCWeb/AboutCOMPANY/Abou tCOMPANY.aspx?MenuID=8&LanID=2 [pcchips.com.tw]

PCCHIPS has been a leading supplier of motherboards and PC peripherals since 1994. We are committed to provide products of superior value and exemplary customer service to our customers worldwide.

http://www.pcchips.com.tw/PCCWeb/Legal.aspx?MenuID =8&LanID=2 [pcchips.com.tw]

The materials ("Materials") contained in this web site are provided by Elitegroup Computer Systems Co., Ltd. ("ECS") ...

I think these quotes speak for themselves.

Re:bad boards (1)

MrP- (45616) | about 8 years ago | (#15601176)

Yep, PCChips = ECS

I have a PCChips M830 motherboard, which is exactly the same as the ECS K7S5A

It's a piece of shit. About once a month the CMOS clears (and no its not the battery, its a known bug in the board), it doesnt work with anything beyond a geforce2. It's incompatible with pretty much every piece of hardware.

You can read abou thow horrible ECS/PCChips boards are at The PCChips Lottery [fernuni-hagen.de]

Excellent link (1)

NevarMore (248971) | about 8 years ago | (#15601433)

The site the OP linked to is really neat.

Theres quite a bit of good PC computing history from a custom builder perspective. Translates well to the small shop or the lone self-service geek.

More importantly there is some good commentary on how a buisness and its customers should work together.

If I was in AU I'd be buying from RedHill.

Worker's Paradise (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 8 years ago | (#15601126)

The last page has the completely naive part about working conditions [hardcoreware.net] . The reviewer, Carl Nelson, has no way to know whether the redfaced employee was just embarassed at their bad day report being photographed, or whether there are severe punishments. China's mafia government executes people for software/content piracy, among other fascist means of keeping people in line with their "discipline". They routinely torture people for interfering with official government policy.

(FWIW, I'm not comparing China to the US or elsewhere, where there is also too much torture and executions, for whatever reason. There is no relativism that justifies torturing people, certainly not over economics.)

The first page has the claim that "Pretty soon every computer you buy is going to have an ECS motherboard in it!" Although that's probably just wrong, it shows how naive is the reviewer about the real world outside motherboard specs. If it were true, I'd be worried about a single company, a single factory (which can halt or be destroyed) representing a single point of failure for every computer in the world, or even (especially) in the US.

That article is about as analytical as a videogame review. That is, not at all, after being bought off by a free trip to the factory where their toys get made.

What are your sources? (2, Insightful)

mr_stinky_britches (926212) | about 8 years ago | (#15601360)

Can you provide references citing your claims about executing people for piracy, and torturing?

Your off-the-cuff claims and lack of cited references leads me to believe you have no idea what you are talking about..

Please prove me wrong, I hope you can..

Thanks

Evidence please (1)

AtomicBomb (173897) | about 8 years ago | (#15601410)

China's mafia government executes people for software/content piracy

Please provide any evidence to support this. FUD does not help a single bit.

ECS Everywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15601252)

"When GOLDEN ELITE is finally finished, they expect to be making over 2.5 million motherboards a month! Pretty soon every computer you buy is going to have an ECS motherboard in it!"

I hope that won't come true. I don't like buyin ECS because of the bad experiences I've had with them. But now... Those employees are working for raisins?

Inaccurate topic.. (1)

greylion3 (555507) | about 8 years ago | (#15601273)

..It should have been "Slapping a motherboard together and kicking it out the door, with little or no QA".
I have seen a good deal of dead or faulty mobo's from ECS (while fixing computers for students) - I'm glad I never bought one.

Been there, seen that (5, Interesting)

EMacAonghusa (929754) | about 8 years ago | (#15601278)

I've been to some of those factories in Shenzhen, been down around the manufacturing lines too. So here's a few general observations based on my own experiences - First thing that struck me is that this guy managed to get photos! The places I visited even our mobile phones were taken from us before we entered the manufacturing area, we'd be in deep shit with security if we pulled out a camera to take pictures. You'll also notice pictures of products there ... majour security breech in my opinion! - Secondly look what they're making, look at the cleanliness of the place. It's the reason many western countries are in trouble ... because in China they have the skills to make high-end products and they can do it cheaper and faster than the rest of us. Plus they are very highly motivated and their entire philospoy seems to be to get as much work from everywhere as they can, even if it means making a loss ... anything to take the work from us. That's why everything from the Playstation to mobile phones to the iPod is produced in China. - About working conditions ... China is one place you do NOT want to work. Workers do seem to be treated fairly well however they are not paid much, if they are not on specific shifts then they will work VERY long hours, even through holidays and very often through the whole weekend. Many of the places they live are really shit by western standards. Also, the working environment itself is often cramped. Much of the work is manual and there is little or no variation to it, so it's likely to make you brain dead after a while. Another thing that stinks is that you'll often find employees from Taiwan working there .. they will always be on a higher salary than the local Chinese, even if they are doing the very same job. Nice people though, they put up with a lot of shit.

component insertion (1)

MADnificent (982991) | about 8 years ago | (#15601332)

In western plants, women would be chosen for fine labour too. Like the insertion of the small components on the mainboard. They are quicker with their smaller hands, so they work more efficiently.

Go live in China then... (1)

zarozarozaro (756135) | about 8 years ago | (#15601343)

>I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.

If you don't like our bloated unions then go live in China where they don't have any. I'm sure you would prefer living in poverty like most Chinese people.

Huh? (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | about 8 years ago | (#15601348)

I think I now get why China is so much cheaper.

Look at the picture of the woman on page three. SHE'S WEARING FLIP FLOPS.

If OSHA saw that here, someone would be paying bigtime! Morons.

Re:Huh? (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | about 8 years ago | (#15601384)

Oh, and while I'm defending my country, you don't /need/ a goddamn "militaty-like lecture" in a 3-shift factory. I'm working in one for a summer job, and my day starts off "Hey, what's up. What machines am I running today?" and I CERTAINLY don't have to work in single-file lines.

Union Mafia bastards! (4, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 8 years ago | (#15601358)

Since everyone else here decided to skip all the boring talk about the technology involved and jump right into a flamewar, I hereby submit my contribution.

What a waste (1)

agent0range_ (472103) | about 8 years ago | (#15601394)

A year later, 2.5 million ECS motherboards will be in dumpsters around the world. Not because they are garbage, per se, but because they are "obsolete." Doesn't anyone stop and think about the expense (to this planet) of all these companies making all this crap?

Union bashing scab... (5, Insightful)

gorehog (534288) | about 8 years ago | (#15601419)

Some people may question the working conditions in China. Well, there's a lot to question about human rights in China, but I won't get into that rant here. I can say from what I've seen, that the employees at ECS are efficient and hard working, but I don't think they are put through abuse.
Followed by...
Employees can work an 8 hour shift if they want, but most opt to work a full 12 hour overtime shift.

Ever try working 5,6, or 7 12-hour shifts in one week? That's 60-82 hours in one week. Sevceral weeks in a row? And thats not considered abuse? What am I supposed to call it? Opportunity?

And then there's this tidbit...

There are several benefits and bonuses available for those who perform well, and housing is provided as part of their salary.

I'll take for granted that the reward system is voluntary by the employer so as to keep the workers "motivated" and "guessing" about what their work is actually "worth". I am also sure that the quality of housing is not in line with that of an American Union worker who puts in a 60-82 hour workweek. And, I'll bet that the housing cost is figured in as part of their pay. We used to do this to coal miners in the USA, where they would go live in a house they rented from the company they worked for and bought their groceries at the company store. It's one of the reasons that Appalachia is so isolated from the rest of the USA culturally. Because the coal mines were in such remote places they had no other opportunities and as a result got locked into a cycle of employed poverty for generation after generation.

And finally, I live in Poughkeepsie NY. Right near the heart of traditional IBM hq. We have chip fabrication ALL OVER this region with NO UNIONS involved. Where are the bloated union electronics factories he speaks of?

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