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Insourcing jobs; threatened mass suicides at Microsoft China plant

Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about two related stories. One, in CNNMoney, described an insourcing roundtable at the White House by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Guests included leaders from Ford, DuPont, Intel, Otis Elevators, Rolls Royce, and others. The second was in CNN and entitled “Microsoft probes mass suicide threat at China Plant.”

According to the first article, U.S. companies currently hold over $1 TRILLION IN PROFITS ABROAD (sorry to “shout”), and 85% of companies surveyed said that, by 2020, they expect the majority of their revenues to come from emerging economies.

Good. Maybe we should revoke the American citizenship of the executives of those companies and force them to go LIVE in those emerging economies that they love so much. Or do they just love to exploit the people there…?

I started talking about outsourcing and offshoring in the first month of this blog, back in September of 2007. In July of 2010, I asked the question, “Is business killing the economic recovery?” Looking back at that piece, it must have been a rhetorical question! 😉

In the first article, in which President Obama calls upon companies to insource jobs to Americans:

“I’m calling on those businesses that haven’t brought jobs back to take this opportunity to get the American people back to work,” Obama said in prepared remarks. “That’s how we’ll rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded — and a nation where those values live on.”

The Labor Department recently presented data that the manufacturing sector added 334,000 jobs in the last two years.

Yesterday, President Obama pledged to announce new tax proposals in the next few weeks. The new proposals “…would reward companies that choose to invest or bring back jobs to the United States, and eliminate tax advantages for companies moving jobs overseas.”

But overall, I expect mostly TALK from the Obama administration this election year. IF President Obama wins re-election, THEN I would hope for more action to bring back American jobs. If a Republican wins the Presidency, I would expect continued economic decline among the 99% and continued economic growth for the top 1% of income earners.

In the second article, Microsoft is reported to be investigating a report that workers at a Chinese plan that manufactures Xbox gaming systems have threatened mass suicide  in a pay dispute. Microsoft’s Hong Kong office issued a statement:

“Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue,” the statement said.

The Chinese contractor, Foxconn (which also produces electronic systems for Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, and Sony),  acknowledged in a statement Thursday that 150 workers had protested at its Wuhan factory on January 4. The incident arose from a decision to transfer all employees to an alternate production line. Even though the incident was resolved “successfully and peacefully,” 45 of the workers have since chosen to resign.

I suppose that, if someone forced me to work for Microsoft, I might consider suicide, myself. 😉 (Just kidding!)

Then, I started to think about the way workers are treated in Silicon Valley. Would threats of mass suicides be effective THERE? No. :-) Threats of mass murder, perhaps, :-) but threats of mass suicide would be ignored or swept under the rug.

Foxconn apparently offered disgruntled workers the option to transfer or resign, whereby they would receive “all salary and bonuses due, according to length of service,” said a Microsoft spokeswoman.

“After the protest, the majority of workers chose to return to work. A smaller portion of those employees elected to resign,” the statement said.

In October of 2010, Foxconn employed an estimated 800,000 people in China.

(Note added January 14, 2012: Inspections of supplier factories by Apple reveals the kinds of labor violations that might contribute to threats of mass suicides at other factories. Some “American” companies WISH that they could inflict these kinds of working conditions on American workers while offering them the same low wages as Chinese workers receive. The fact that they CANNOT is what led to the offshoring of the work in the first place, perpetuating the Great Recession and devastating the American economy.)

-Bill at

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