Below, a snip from his most recent piece on the phenomenon of "bloody factories" in China, which he argues is a far greater problem than Foxconn.
Matthews interviews a labor advocate and self-taught "barefoot lawyer" for migrant workers who have experienced workplace injuries; the man takes him on "a tour that even Daisey couldn’t have dreamed up."
We traveled through hardscrabble sections of Dongguan’s Tangxia Town, a factory town near the coast in Guangdong. He introduced me to a worker fired for organizing a union, a man denied overtime payments and a woman whose symptoms mirrored those of the Wintek workers. The notes about her on his printed spreadsheet were: “leg can’t move.”
That woman is Shi Yuping, a mother of two with short black hair, capris and flip-flops. Shi is in her late thirties but looks much older. We sat at a picnic table outside a convenience store as Shi told her story. Her husband Jiang Ancai stood nearby and listened.
Shi worked for a Hong Kong-owned plastics factory. The factory used a chemical as toxic as n-hexane to clean plastic parts. Shi fell ill during a trip home to Henan province to see her mother and her children (many migrant workers send children to stay with grandparents so the parents can both work). She received no compensation and no reimbursement for her 20-day hospital stay. “She called the company to ask for continuation of the leave,” Wang explained. Instead, she was fired. The factory held two months of salary, money that Wang was suing to recover. Shi suffered degenerative nerve damage and can no longer work. When she got up to leave the picnic table her left leg went lame. She had trouble even getting into her flip-flops.
Shi did not work for a supplier of a high-profile brand, like Apple. There was no coverage of her case in the English-language media.
Image, courtesy pulitzercenter.org: Zhang Zhiru (seated), a "barefoot lawyer," meets with workers. The younger man (l) was suing his former employer for wrongful dismissal. His case didn't look promising: the factory was illegal. Li Zuping (r) lost part of two fingers while cleaning a factory machine. Image by Jocelyn Baun. China 2011
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Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.