Friday, October 13, 2006
China is arguably one of the most repressive and unfree places on Earth, yet American corporations don't mind that so long as they can get away with treating the workers at their Chinese plants like slaves. But now that China's leadership is actually considering doing something to help its workers earn living wages, these same American corporations aren't liking it one little bit:
China is planning to adopt a new law that seeks to crack down on sweatshops and protect workers’ rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time since it introduced market forces in the 1980’s. Liu Cheng, a professor who is advising the government, says the new law will hold companies accountable. The move, which underscores the government’s growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here. [...] Some of the world’s big companies have expressed concern that the new rules would revive some aspects of socialism and borrow too heavily from labor laws in union-friendly countries like France and Germany. The Chinese government proposal, for example, would make it more difficult to lay off workers, a condition that some companies contend would be so onerous that they might slow their investments in China. “This is really two steps backward after three steps forward,” said Kenneth Tung, Asia-Pacific director of legal affairs at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Hong Kong and a legal adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce here. [...] State-controlled unions here have not wielded much power in the past, but after years of reports of worker abuse, the government seems determined to give its union new powers to negotiate worker contracts, safety protection and workplace ground rules. Hoping to head off some of the rules, representatives of some American companies are waging an intense lobbying campaign to persuade the Chinese government to revise or abandon the proposed law. The skirmish has pitted the American Chamber of Commerce — which represents corporations including Dell, Ford, General Electric, Microsoft and Nike — against labor activists and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the Communist Party’s official union organization. The workers’ advocates say that the proposed labor rules — and more important, enforcement powers — are long overdue, and they accuse the American businesses of favoring a system that has led to widespread labor abuse. On Friday, Global Labor Strategies, a group that supports labor rights policies, is expected to release a report in New York and Boston denouncing American corporations for opposing legislation that would give Chinese workers stronger rights. “You have big corporations opposing basically modest reforms,” said Tim Costello, an official of the group and a longtime labor union advocate. “This flies in the face of the idea that globalization and corporations will raise standards around the world.” China’s Labor Ministry declined to comment Thursday, saying the law is still in the drafting stages. Several American corporations also declined to comment on the case, saying it was a delicate matter and referring calls to the American Chamber of Commerce.Why is China contemplating this? To head off the specter of social unrest, and because -- unlike the foreign businesses that have set up shop there -- some people in the Chinese leadership may actually possess glimmerings of a conscience:
Under China’s “iron rice bowl” system of the 1950’s and 60’s, all workers were protected by the government or by state-owned companies, which often supplied housing and local health coverage. But by the 1980’s, when the old Maoist model had given way to economic restructuring and the beginning of an emphasis on market forces, China began eliminating many of those protections — giving rise to mass layoffs, unemployment, huge gaps in income and pervasive labor abuse. The worst off have been migrant workers, most of them exiles from the poorest provinces who travel far from home to live in cramped company dormitories while working long hours under poor conditions. Migrant workers in virtually every city complain about abuses like having their pay withheld or being forced to work without a contract. “I don’t know about the labor law,” said Zhang Yin, an 18-year-old migrant who washes dishes in Shanghai. “During the three months I’ve been here, my boss has delayed the salary payment twice. I want to quit.” Having grown increasingly concerned about the nation’s widening income gap and fearing social unrest, officials in Beijing now seem determined to improve worker protection. In recent years, more and more factory workers have gone to court or taken to the streets to protest poor working conditions and overdue pay. “The government is concerned because social turmoil can happen at any moment,” says Liu Cheng, a professor of law at Shanghai Normal University and an adviser to the authorities on drafting the proposed law. “The government stresses social stability, so it needs to solve existing problems in the society.”How concerned are China's leaders? Enough to ask for their people's input -- and to take it seriously:
In a surprisingly democratic move, China asked for public comment on the draft law last spring and received more than 190,000 responses, mostly from labor activists. The American Chamber of Commerce sent in a lengthy response with objections to the proposals. The European Chamber of Commerce also responded. The law would impose heavy fines on companies that do not comply. And the state-controlled union — the only legal union in China — would gain greater power through new collective-bargaining rights or pursuing worker grievances and establishing work rules. One provision in the proposed law reads, “Labor unions or employee representatives have the right, following bargaining conducted on an equal basis, to execute with employers collective contracts on such matters as labor compensation, working hours, rest, leave, work safety and hygiene, insurance, benefits, etc.” If approved and strictly enforced, specialists say the new laws would strikingly alter the country’s vast labor market and significantly push up the wages of everyday workers. “If you really abide by the Chinese labor laws,” said Anita Chan, an expert on labor issues in this country and a visiting fellow at the Australian National University, “migrant-worker wages would go up by 50 percent or more.”
"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
Patch Tuesday, my Aunt Fannie.
Patch Tuesday, my Aunt Fannie.
I am a security geek by profession. The job I've been doing for the last two years is tracking vulnerabilities. Which inevitably leads to tracking exploits as well.
Remember just four years ago, when we were hearing about the "cyberterror" that Osama's fantasy hacker army were about to unleash on a helpless America?
Well, it's here, but, like most of the pot, it, too, is home-grown. Since the crooks have gained the upper hand, which happened sometime before the justly famous WMF vulnerability that made the papers in the first week of January, "Microsoft Tuesday" has been followed by '0-Day Wednesday", or, at the latest, "0-Day Thursday".
Every. Single. Month.
This month was no exception.
PS: It's all just an eeeevil librul conspiracy to further the March of the Penguins. Rush told me so, and he would never, ever lie. LOL.
And with Vista, they'll add a whole new layer of security by taking possession of your computer to make sure you aren't running pirate software. Meanwhile, someone will be screenscraping your financials.
More blogs about politics.