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Microsoft supplier in China Forces Teenagers to Work 15-hour Shifts Under Sweatshop Conditions

April 13, 2010  |  Share

The National Labor Committee is releasing an in-depth report, "China's Youth Meet Microsoft:  KYE factory in China produces for Microsoft and other U.S. Companies."

Over the course of a three-year investigation of the KYE factory in Dongguan, China, unprecedented photos were smuggled out of the factory, of exhausted teenagers, seen slumping over asleep on their assembly line during break time.

* KYE recruits hundreds (up to 1,000) "work-study" students 16 and 17 years of age, who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week making webcams, mice and other computer peripherals.  Some of the workers appear to be just 14 or 15 years old.  A typical shift is from 7:45 a.m. to 10:55 p.m.  Most of the students work for three months, but some stay longer.

* Along with the students, KYE prefers to hire only women 18 to 25 years old, who are considered easier to discipline and control.

* Workers report that before the recession, they were at the factory 97 hours a week, while working 80 ½ hours.  In 2009, workers were at the factory 83 hours a week, while toiling 68 hours. 

* Workers are paid 65 cents an hour, which falls to a take-home wage of 52 cents an hour after deductions for factory food.

* Workers have to report early, unpaid, for military-like drills.  Management controls every second of their lives.

* The work pace is grueling as workers race to complete their mandatory goal of 2000 Microsoft mice per shift.  During the long summer, factory temperatures reach 86 degrees and the workers are drenched in sweat.

* Security guards sexually harass the young women.  Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music or going to the bathroom during working hours.  Freedom of movement is restricted and workers can only leave the factory compound during regulated hours.

* Fourteen workers share each primitive, dirty dorm room, sleeping on narrow bunk beds.  To "shower" workers fetch hot water in a small plastic bucket for a sponge bath.  Workers report that the food is awful.

KYE management claims factory conditions are excellent, and that they are in full compliance with China's labor laws.  But the young women describe the factory as a prison, where everyone who can flees within six months.  It is almost impossible to find a worker who has been at the factory for more than a year or two.  As usual, the codes of conduct for Microsoft, HP and the Electronics Industry Council have zero impact.

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