Samsung Abusing Workers in China

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 12, 2012

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Samsung can’t seem to do anything right lately. First Samsung suffered a stunning defeat in U.S. courts at the hands of Apple.  Now, Samsung is accused of severe physical and other abuse of Chinese workers, plus sex discrimination after posting a recruitment poster for female workers without communicable diseases.

China Labor Watch (CLW), a non-profit group formed to assess and evaluate labor conditions in U.S. manufacturing companies in China, announced that Samsung sought female-only workers in violation of Chinese law, posting a photograph of Samsung’s hiring poster which clearly advertises for female workers between the ages of 18 and 23, among other requirements.

The group cited China’s Labor Law, article 12, which states that laborers “shall not be discriminated against in employment, regardless of their ethnic community, race, sex, or religious belief” and article 3 of the Employment Promotion Law which prohibits the refusal to hire a worker “on the basis that he/she is a carrier of an infectious pathogen.”

We’ve all heard the horror stories of Nike sweatshops in China and other countries. If sweatshops in China and elsewhere didn’t effect sales of Nike footwear enough to make a significant difference in the way Nike does business, which is arguable, it is difficult to imagine that Samsung’s search for female workers in violation of Chinese law will effect sales of Samsung’s popular products, such as the Samsung Galaxy tablet, the product at the center of the Apple/Samsung patent disputes of late.

However, the reports of sex discrimination came just a day after a previous CLW report citing what CLW called “severe labor abuses,” including forced overtime work of over 100 hours per month, standing while working for 11 and 12 hours at a time, underage workers, “severe” age and gender discrimination, abuse of student and labor dispatch workers, a lack of worker safety, and “severe” verbal and physical abuse in Samsung’s manufacturing plants in China.

While U.S. consumers so far seem far more concerned about patent disputes between Samsung and Apple, Samsung has apparently taken notice of the fact that CLW is broadcasting their alleged wrongdoing in China, and has promised a review to ferret out violations of the law in its overseas plants.

If Nike and Apple are any example, Samsung may only need to pay lip service to proper treatment of workers in China. Abuses at Chinese factories are plentiful, and companies like Nike, Apple, and others are often chastised for their behavior in China without any real consequences in the U.S.

Like Nike and Apple, Samsung is a corporation, an entity designed for the sole purpose of making money. Whether Samsung decides to come clean and follow minimum labor standards in the countries that host its manufacturing plants may ultimately be determined by whether Samsung views the abuse as having a potential to bruise its reputation, and ultimately, its bottom line.

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