Today's Daily News and Commentary — September 17
The New York Times reports that nearly one in three migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry works under forced labor conditions, according to a report issued today by a factory-monitoring group commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor. The monitoring group Verité, which conducted a two year investigation, found that 32 percent of the country’s electronic manufacturing industry’s nearly 200,000 migrant workers were employed in forced situations because their passports had been taken away or because they were trying to pay back illegally high recruitment fees. Recruitment fees, fees paid by workers to secure a job at a factory, that amount to more than one months wages exceed legal and industry standards. According to the report, 92 percent of workers in the industry paid recruitment fees and 92 percent paid a fee that was more than one month’s wages. The report also found that 30 percent of foreign workers said they slept in a room with more than eight people, and 57 percent said they could not leave their job before their contract was finished because they would be charged an illegally high fine, lose their passport or be denounced to the authorities. These factories produce consumer products for many large electronic companies, including Samsung, Sony, and Apple.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a federal judge in Utah cited the Hobby Lobby decision in his order reversing a subpoena of a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). The subpoena, issued as part of a federal Department of Labor investigation, ordered the man to answer questions relating to alleged child and unpaid labor violations by corporations believed to be controlled by FLDS. Judge David Sam cited the recent SCOTUS decision in saying that the witness had a First Amendment right not to testify to questions offensive to his sincerely held religious beliefs. The subpoena sent to the FLDS man stems from the Department of Labor investigation into the 2012 nut harvest of a pecan ranch near Hurricane, Utah, during which the DOL believes children and other unpaid workers were ordered to help harvest nuts by Lyle Jeffs.
Workers in the Hammond, Indiana factory of Lear Corp., an auto part manufacturing company, will vote on a contract this week that will remove the current two-tier wage system in place at the factory, the Wall Street Journal reports. The two-tiered system, which allowed veteran workers to keep their pay while new hires earned about $10 an hour less, first gained acceptance from the United Auto Workers a decade ago when the parts industry was struggling, acceptance by the union was conditioned on job commitments by the company. Now that companies are healthy and consistently profitable, unions have negotiated diligently to cast off the tiered system that has resulted in wide wage disparity in their ranks, with far less coming home in the envelops of about two-thirds of the 760 hourly workers at the Hammond plant. Under the new proposed contract, new union hires would be paid the same as veterans. “The agreement shows that when workers stick together, we can win higher wages that help us support our families,” said Jaime Luna, president of UAW Local 2335 in a statement.