Keyboard assembly line at Meitai
Workers of Meitai Plastics & Electronics in Dongguan City, Guangdong, China had been threatening to walk off the job for the last few months claiming inhumane conditions at the factory. Last week, several hundred workers stormed out of the factory and marched across the street to the new Double Happiness plant shouting slogans such as "75 cents an hour gives us more power" and "Stickin' with cooked chicken keeps our fingers on the clickin''". Meitai, who produces keyboards for Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Microsoft and IBM, has been in cahoots over the recent opening of the Double Happiness factory which is manufacturing miniaturized keyboards for it's new line of handheld virtual fashion games modeled after Project Runway.
Meitai claims Double Happiness is secretly bribing their workers with phony benefits such as three nutritious meals per day, a 70-hour work week, cushioned work benches and hot showers in the dormitories. Workers interviewed on the street say the benefits are true. A young female worker, who asked to remain anonymous, complained about Meitai's excruciating long hours and relentless assembly line. "At Meitai, I work over 81 hours a week including 34 hours of obligatory overtime. I sit on a backless hard stool inserting 3,250 keys an hour for a total of 35,750 keys during each 'official' 11-hour daily shift. The tiny keyboards at Double Happiness are half the size and all workers get a foam pillow and a real chair."
Another worker racing across the street touted the Double Happiness meal plan. "At Meitai we only have 15 minutes to eat watery rice gruel that tastes bad and is hard to swallow. On Friday, we get a small chicken leg and foot as our special meal. Double Happiness serves a chicken sandwich and Coca-Cola at every meal and gives us a full 20 minutes to eat. "
Other benefits mentioned by workers en route to Double Happiness were ventilated work spaces to accommodate the hot, humid climate, $.11 pay raises with no hidden deductions such as room and board administrative fees, and the ability to leave factory/dormitory compound after work hours on Friday nights.
The walk-out generated so much publicity in the Chinese media that it was picked up by Sean Hannity on Fox News.
Mario's toxic score
Nintendo's official mascot, Mario, disputed claims by activist organization Greenpeace regarding the high level of toxic chemicals used in their most popular computer video game the Wii. With over 50 million units sold worldwide and over $1.47 billion USD in total sales for February 2009 alone, Nintendo's Wii proves that shedding excess pounds (Wii Fit) and mastering the counter punch (Street Fighter IV) are still a high priority in our recession-wracked economy.
In the report called "Playing Dirty", Greenpeace accused Mario of using hazardous chemicals in game console components. "Mario might be a hero when it comes to energy usage and power saving, but his Wii is not green".
Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata denounced the allegations during his keynote speech at the recent Game Developers Conference. "Nintendo is a major player in the race for greener solutions in the computer video game industry. We want our customers to turn on their games without turning off their conscience."
The new design uses less polyvinyl chloride (PVC plastic) and no beryllium alloys in electrical contacts. At the main manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China, assembly line workers complained less of respiratory problems, rashes, hormone imbalances and deformed births.
Other green efforts announced by major game console manufacturers were bromine-free printed wiring boards (PWB) in Sony's PS3 and lower usage of brominated materials in housing materials in Microsoft's XBox 360.
John Shegerian is king of the e-waste hill
While the banks go bust, the electronics recycling industry is booming, generating thousands of jobs worldwide. In the United States, UNICOR, a government corporation run by the Federal Prison Industries, uses captive prison labor in the dismantling of e-waste. Generating over $10 million in sales in 2008, UNICOR has recycled over 185 million pounds of electronics in the past five years. Employing over 850 inmates in the rehabilitation program, inmate laborers are paid 25 cents to $1.25 an hour to pound computer monitors with hammers to retrieve lead and burn computer circuit boards with acid to remove precious metals such as gold and copper.
CEO John Shegerian of Electronics Recycling Inc also has a social mission. Shegerian, a former sex addict who successfully sought treatment in 2003, not only gives second chances to busted computers – but to former addicts and ex-cons. One-third of Shegerian's 200 full- and part-time employees are in ERI's "second chances" program, which includes ex-cons and former addicts. The company also claims not to dump e-waste in developing countries overseas like their competitor Waste Management Inc. whose CEO just received a $6.2 million pay package for 2008.
Across the globe, the Lyari District of Karachi, Pakistan is becoming a hotbed for electronics de-manufacturing. With more and more electronic waste being shipped from Europe and North America, a large majority of the city's unemployed as well as recent refugees from Afghanistan are finding their way into viable positions in electronic product disassembly, precious metal smelting and trading. These flexible positions require little or no overhead and can be performed with household chemicals such as ammonia or in your own backyard over a camp fire. For more information go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZYLlHiTnNw&feature=channel_page.
To keep up with industry trends, School of Perpetual Training will be offering a new webcam enabled training exercise for jobs in electronics recycling this fall.