by Paul Garver
Who says that Mitt Romney’s private equity investments never created jobs? We now have proof that one of those investments has created thousands of jobs.
But before we rush to elect Romney as U.S. President based on his record in job creation, we might inquire what kind of jobs these were, where they are, and what jobs were lost as a result of his investment.
Romney boasted to his donors in his speech to his donors in Boca Raton:
“When I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there. It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23…. And they work in these huge factories, they made various small appliances. And as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with little bathrooms at the end of maybe 10 rooms. And the rooms they have 12 girls per room. Three bunk beds on top of each other…. And around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire and guard towers.”
Thanks to a detailed investigative report by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, we now know that Romney’s wholly-controlled private equity Brookside Fund (an associate of Bain Capital) invested $23 million from April 1998 through August 2000 in the Global Tech Appliances factory in the Galaxy Industrial Area in Dongguan, China. The factory then produced and still produces small electrical appliances almost exclusively for the U.S. market (Sun Beam, Hamilton Beach, Mr. Coffee, Proctor Silex, Revlon and Vidal Sassoon).
In 1998-2000 those 20,000 young Chinese girls earned between 24 cents and 31 cents an hour. The American workers in the electrical appliances industry whom they displaced would have earned between $12.51 and $13.23 an hour. Mr. Romney’s private equity investment helped create tens of thousands of poorly paid sweatshop jobs in China and thereby displaced thousands of modestly paid jobs under decent conditions that American workers had once held.
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, directed by Charles Kernaghan, has just investigated current conditions at the Global-Tech Appliances factory in Dongguan. Low pay, brutal working conditions, excessive overtime hours of work, and filthy crowded dorm rooms remain unchanged. Mitt Romney, whose initial visit to the factory in 1998 left such a strong impression on him that he spoke of it fourteen years later, had evidently made no effort whatsoever to improve conditions at the factory in which he invested $23 million.
Read the entire report. Below the line I have sampled a few photos and excerpts, all available from the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights under a Creative Commons license. If you were planning to sit out this presidential election, you might want to reconsider whether the USA can abide a President as morally callous and/or oblivious as Mitt Romney at its helm.
As of September 2012, the normal work week including obligatory overtime was 87.5 to 94.5 hours per week. Workers were routinely at the factory 101.5 to 108.5 hours per week, including the only work breaks of an hour for lunch and dinner eac
Student interns, sitting on backless stools hunched over the assembly line, must clean 3,920 circuit boards in 14 hours, completing the same operation every 13 seconds non-stop.
After the endless grueling days of repetitive monotonous labor, workers have a few hours to sleep and wash themselves and their clothes. Unfortunately the dorm rooms remain exactly as Romney described. 12 bunk beds to a filthy and cluttered room, only a few tiny bathrooms where workers and students wash in buckets next to the toilets. It takes a long time for all the workers to bathe and wash their clothes before they can fall asleep. since there are only two small ceiling fans and no air conditioning in the dorms, it is hard to fall asleep in Dongguan’s hot steamy Pearl River Delta weather.
During the summer 800 of the 4155 workers are 16 year old “student interns”, who work the same grueling hours but do not receive any overtime premiums in their pay.Student interns say that their schools and teachers tricked them into working there:
Now we know this place is hell. We can’t leave. Otherwise we’ll have trouble getting our high school diplomas. And we won’t get paid for our work. The schools, teachers, and factories are together drinking our blood. We dare not tell our parents about this. My parents love me so much. If they knew I suffered like this here every day, they would be heartbroken.
When workers leave before the end of the month, they receive no pay for the entire month worked previously. This is why they stay in hell beyond endurance, not because of the high fences and guards that surround the plant (which Romney believed so blithely were to keep out job seekers).
Enough! This is the factory today that Romney went to China to invest in during his private equity days. He noted the miserable conditions but did nothing to improve them. Is this the future of job creation we want for the USA or for China? If so, elect Mitt Romney