Bob Higgins

Foxconn: Take This Job and Shove Me Off the Roof

Posted in Humor, Labor Health and Safety, Politics by Bob Higgins on January 11, 2012
Foxconn worker suicides

They love their jobs, it shows in their smiling faces.

Do you enjoy reading on your Kindle or wasting time on your Xbox 360? Are you browsing with your iPad or yakking on your iPhone?

When you bought them were you happy with the price?

There may be some hidden costs being paid by the people who make these products.

Foxconn, a manufacturer of circuit boards for a long list of consumer electronics companies including Apple, Microsoft and Amazon is having a bit of a problem in the human resources department. Reports are that on January 2 about three hundred workers in a Foxconn mega factory in Wuhan, China threatened to hurl themselves from the roof of a building in a mass suicide over poor pay and working conditions.

On Jan. 2, over 300 employees at a Foxconn plant in Wuhan, China threatened to throw themselves off a building in a mass suicide. Foxconn makes Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony products. These workers manufacture Xbox 360s.  Kotaku

This isn’t the first time for labor relations problems at Foxconn. Fourteen workers opted for the not so golden departure without a parachute in 2010 which should have indicated that the company had bigger problems than crowded lunchrooms.

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer said at the time, “Foxconn has been an important partner of ours and remains an important partner. I trust them as a responsible company to continue to evolve their process and work relationships. That is something we remain committed to—the safe and ethical treatment of people who build our products. That’s a core value of our company.” Kotaku

Foxconn’s factories have been described in a report by 20 Chinese universities as “labor camps” and “concentration camps:

The company was described in the report as a “concentration camp of workers in the 21st century,” and all the employees are “imprisoned” in the “company empire” in order to serve the manufacturing rule of  “just-in-time production.”

The students are “kidnapped” to work overtime for the company that takes advantage of a lack of laws and regulations to maximize its profits, according to the report. TeleCom Asia

Concern for the suicides caused Foxconn to install suicide prevention netting on buildings at some of its factories and higher wages were promised to the workers who were forced to sign agreements not to sue the company if they harmed themselves or committed suicide.

The higher wages didn’t materialize however hence the recent action and threatened mass suicide.

American workers should sit up and take notice.

When the circuit board factory that you that you work in installs suicide netting around the perimeter of the building to prevent employees from leaping to their deaths you probably have a weak union.

With the dismantling of labor unions, the attacks on the NLRB, continued deregulation of business and the rampant growth of corporate control of government there may soon be a net beneath your office or shop window.

I suppose a smart entreprene­ur would draft a business plan and get an SBA loan to start a company called “Suicide Prevention Nets R Us” and get in on the ground floor of what may become a growth industry.

Bob Higgins

Related stories and sources:
Microsoft Investigates ‘Mass Suicide Threat
300 Chinese Foxconn Workers ‘Threaten Mass Suicide’ At XBox Plant, Reports Claim

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Population? Stack’em Up, The More The Merrier

Posted in Environment, Labor Health and Safety, Politics by Bob Higgins on July 20, 2011
Slum in Jakarta swamp

Slums built on swamp land near a garbage dump in East Cipinang, Jakarta Indonesia. Picture taken by Jonathan McIntosh, 2004

I arrived on the scene in 1944 when there were just over 2 billion people on this planet. According to infoplease.com we reached the 2 billion milestone in 1927 and passed 3 billion in 1950 so I’m approximating, after all, we’re not splitting a dinner check.

From what I read, we’re on the cusp of passing the 7 billion milestone in October of this year. (The lucky 7 billionth child gets free sandwiches from Subway for a full thirty days – less shipping and handling.)

What this means, aside from the brutally depressing fact that I am likely older than 5 billion people, or 65% of the population, I don’t know, but I’m fairly certain that continued growth at this rate will not usher in a golden age of plenty, abundant crops at lower prices, free rides for the kiddies, a wild explosion in the number of carpool lanes and cleaner air and water.

Not so, according to a column, “Population Boom” at the Boston Globe this morning. The writer set me off with his subhead, “More people leads to more prosperity.” That sounds like a slogan from the turn of the century Robber Barons celebrating the new industrial age, the rapid influx of cheap immigrant labor, and higher rents for fire trap tenement buildings.

The ability of technology and industrial society to conjure ways to feed, clothe, shelter and keep an ever growing, more densely concentrated population on a planet with diminishing resources from slitting each other’s throats is  not discussed in the article. I think I’d avoid it as well.

If we’ve learned nothing from the mayhem of the last century with its constant conflict over resources, its terrible wars, droughts, famines, epidemics and economic depressions we should have learned that more people at the party will not reduce the noise level and no amount of religious or ideological wishful thinking will make it so.

We are on the brink of destroying the world’s oceans and waterways with the byproducts of the lifestyles we’ve developed since the dawn of the industrial age. We face the very real threat of  massive water shortages, a more immediate threat of running out of the fuel that has driven this growth and the likelihood that our air will be so filled with pollutants from our own activities that it will require chewing rather than breathing.

The more the merrier may be a joyous concept to a mine owner looking for dirt cheap labor to strip away a mountaintop, and more people may mean prosperity and happy days for the few who benefit from the outstretched hands, parched throats and empty bellies of the impoverished but there comes a point when the party loses its glamor down in the hood.

While I can’t offer a solution to the problem of rapid population growth other than education and birth control, for the billion or so people who are already fighting for arable land and potable water, for adequate housing, light, heat, breathable air, a view of a horizon that includes gainful employment and human dignity, time is running out and the worship of expanding markets and easily exploitable labor is no help at all.

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Population? Stack’em Up, The More The Merrier

Related stories:

The Light Bulb That Broke The Camel’s Back?

Posted in Environment, Labor Health and Safety by Bob Higgins on July 17, 2011
The CFLs That Broke The Camel's Back?

The CFLs That Broke The Camel's Back?

Editor’s note: In response to “How many lawmakers does it take to…,” by Jeff Jacoby in today’s Boston Globe.

I switched to CFLs in 2006. With the exception of one bulb which broke when I clumsily knocked over a lamp, every CFL that I bought five years ago is still in use today.

They have provided light and a small but significant savings of energy and money. I haven’t bought an additional bulb in a couple of years.

We have accepted limits on the flow rate of our faucets and the flush rate of our toilets in the interest of conserving precious water. We’ve accepted fuel efficiency standards for our vehicles as a measure of reducing pollution and conservation of petroleum resources.

Much of society, of civilization, is concerned with placing limits on human activities, on behavior, on consumption of resources.

In the interest of protecting what we hold and use in common we place restrictions on the production of poisons, pollution, weapons, incendiaries and even noise.

Now, Jeff Jacoby tells us that the same people who rolled over for the Patriot act, illegal wiretaps, and public body cavity searches of small children and grandmothers are headed for the barricades over being deprived of the use of incandescent light bulbs?

We do not occupy this planet alone, the universe does not revolve around us, society is about setting limits, so grow up, get over it.

Yes, your freedom is threatened but will you complaisantly watch your elections rigged by corporate interests, your right to privacy voided,  your children violated, and go to the ramparts over light bulbs?

Bob Higgins

Corporate Personhood versus Democracy

[Editor’s note: The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United was the worst decision by the court since those of Dred Scott v. Sandford and Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, the latter of which establishe­d the ridiculous idea of corporate person-hoo­d in US law.  The origins of corporate person-hood are explored in the excellent essay linked below from William Myers.  Bob Higgins]

The Santa Clara Blues: Corporate Personhood versus Democracy

By William Meyers

What Corporate Personhood Is

Corporate Personhood is a legal fiction. The choice of the word “person” arises from the way the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was worded and from earlier legal usage of the word person. A corporation is an artificial entity, created by the granting of a charter by a government that grants such charters. Corporation in this essay will be confined to businesses run for profit that have been granted corporate charters by the States of the United States. The Federal Government of the United States usually does not grant corporate charters to businesses (exceptions include the Post Office and Amtrak).

Corporations are artificial entities owned by stockholders, who may be humans or other corporations. They are required by law to have officers and a board of directors (in small corporations these may all be the same people). In effect the corporation is a collective of individuals with a special legal status and privileges not given to ordinary unincorporated businesses or groups of individuals.

Obviously a corporation is itself no more a person (though it is owned and staffed by persons) than a locomotive or a mob. So why, in the USA, is a corporation considered to be a person under law?

Corporate personhood is the idea (legal fiction, currently with force of law) that corporations have inalienable rights (sometimes called constitutional rights) just like real, natural, human persons.

That this idea has the force of law both resulted from the power and wealth of the class of people who owned corporations, and resulted in their even greater power and wealth. Corporate constitutional rights effectively invert the relationship between the government and the corporations. Recognized as persons, corporations lose much of their status as subjects of the government. Although artificial creations of their owners and the governments, as legal persons they have a degree of immunity to government supervision. Endowed with the court-recognized right to influence both elections and the law-making process, corporations now dominate not just the U. S. economy, but the government itself.

Read more The Santa Clara Blues: Corporate Personhood versus Democracy by William Meyers.

“On Wisconsin,” Sarah Palin Calls for Sacrifice From Working People

Posted in Financial Crime, Labor Health and Safety, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on February 19, 2011
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Workers of the World UniteSarah Palin, is calling for sacrifice on the part of the working people of Wisconsin.

That was my first laugh this morning, a derisive laugh but many days start that way for news junkies. So much of what I read and see over morning coffee drives a growing cynicism and an anger that smolders beneath the surface and slowly grows.

The issues driving the crowds of people in Cairo and Tunis, in Benghazi and Bahrain are the same as those smoldering and now threatening to rise in flames in Wisconsin.

The widening gulf between those who hold all the wealth in our various societies, those who manipulate the strings of power and the mass of people who produce that wealth with their sweat and labor, has widened to a point that has become intolerable even among the normally complaisant. (more…)

BP’s Bob Dudley and His Latest Big Lying Whine

Posted in Environment, History, Labor Health and Safety, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on October 25, 2010
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BP's Brown Pelican

The "Brown" Pelican, BP's New Logo

Bob Dudley, the BP head suit who was chosen to replace former BP head suit Tony “Hapless” Hayward is now whining piteously that the media and BP’s oil industry rivals helped to create a “climate of fear” last summer when BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico creating a giant, months long gusher of crude oil, crippling the ecology and the economy of much of the Gulf coast.

I feel his pain, it’s a terrible thing that poor little Bob Dudley was forced to face a climate of fear after the incompetence and negligence of the BP executive suite led to the violent deaths of eleven workers on the ill fated drilling platform and the largest environmental disaster in US history. How awful it must have been for Bob Dudley to face that climate of fear. (more…)

Disappearing Oil and Gulf Seafood: Passing the Sniff Test

Posted in Environment, Labor Health and Safety, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 6, 2010

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For the last several days I’ve watched and read a steady stream of media coverage on the miraculous disappearance of more than a hundred million gallons of oil from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank on April 20 killing 11 workers the NOAA estimates that 206 million gallons of “light sweet crude” spewed  from BP’s Macondo well field, fouling the waters of the Gulf,  shutting down much of the commerce of the surrounding region and creating a giant toxic bouillabaisse in which now swim whatever critters managed to survive poisoning, suffocation,  or being roasted alive.

Click on the Image for Full Size and NOAA Report

The Feds now say, as reported by the NYT, that 76% of the mess has either been picked up on the beaches, skimmed from the surface, captured by the containment process or burned off.  (I suppose breathing this stuff in the air as particulates is “perfectly safe.”)

At the risk of seeming a “Chicken Little” I’d like to point out that even if the reports of this “great disappearing” are true what is left  is something on the order of 50 million gallons of crud in the Gulf or about the same as 5 Exxon Valdez spills.

So, while BP, the Government and our happy-go-lucky news media are fighting for places on the “where did all the oil go” bandwagon I see no cause for celebration.

I completely understand that everyone in the area wants to look out their windows and see people thronging to the beaches and fighting for restaurant reservations. They naturally “want their lives back, ” and deservedly so, but because I have long experience (due to my status as a “geezer”) listening to lies from government, lies from business and lies from the media, I’m not buying it just yet. (more…)

Crandall Canyon, The King of the Mountain , The Fox in the Coop

Posted in Environment, Labor Health and Safety, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 22, 2007

A rumble a loud crack, like thunder, rocks, dirt and chocking dust rain down.
A rock fall is imminent. So what is a miner to do?
“You run for your life,” said Tim Miller, who toiled in Kentucky’s mines for more than two decades.

… The goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Of course the goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Coal is filthy. It destroys ecosystems to dig it up. It kills the people who work around it. Coal plants throw particulates in the air and causes respiratory ailments. They throw mercury in the water and cause birth defects. They throw CO2 into the atmosphere and cause global warming. The coal industry corrupts the political process. It lies to the public about global warming, and mine safety, and coal reserves, and everything else. It leeches money and opportunity out of the states where it is based.
The only reason we think of coal as “cheap” is that we don’t tally all those costs in the debit column.
From David Roberts Coal is the enemy of the human race…

During the winter of my fourteenth year I had a part time job. Every morning I would get up at 5 o”clock and walk up the hill to the ancient brick home of an elderly widow where I would descend to the dimly lit basement and remove the previous day’s supply of clinkers from the firebox of an equally ancient and frightening looking furnace, shovel in a supply of fresh coal and get a good fire roaring. That was it, home to shower and head to school. She payed me two dollars a day and in 1958 when a gallon of gas was a quarter, that was a good sum of money. That is also the sum total of my life’s experience with coal.

David Roberts wrote the brief but engaging piece quoted above earlier in the summer at Huff Post, he wrote his rant in reference to a coal industry mogul who for several months had been preaching to anyone who would listen about the evils that congress, in league with environmentalists, were plotting to perpetrate on the coal industry. I had heard the name of the subject of his rant before but at the time I didn’t recognize it.

It wasn’t until two weeks ago when a mine in central Utah’s Emery County in Crandall Canyon, one of the deepest coal mines in the country collapsed, burying six miners 1500 to 1800 feet below the surface and 3 1/2 miles from the entrance point, that the name and the reason the it rang a bell popped back into my mind.

Robert Murray. The name was familiar because I had read a Washington Post article about his testimony before a congressional committee in the spring in which he took congress to task over the Clean Air Act of 1990 and declaimed on the perils of listening to the purveyors of Global warming science, which he has since referred to as “global goofiness.” (as quoted below in the New York Sun)

(more…)