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Cheated Shoe Workers Strike, Shut Down Chinese Factories

Cheated Shoe Workers Strike, Shut Down Chinese Factories

Forget walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Why not just imagine what it’s like to be one of the people who literally makes your shoes? Evidently, the conditions are rough: an estimated 30,000 shoe factory workers are currently on strike in China.

For the past two weeks, workers at Yue Yuen, the largest sneaker manufacturer in the world, have gone on strike, effectively shutting down at least seven of the company’s ten Chinese factories. The strike could have a massive economic impact considering that Yue Yuen produces shoes for Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Reebok, Timberland and Asics, among others. Since the beginning of 2013, Yue Yuen has manufactured more than 300 million pairs of shoes.

The main dispute seems to center around social security benefits that the company is obligated to pay for, but has instead secretly cut costs by not actually doing so. Strikers have also demanded that the company provide the meals and housing that they were promised. Generally, workers in these factories are housed in on-site dormitories, but Yue Yuen’s employees allege that they are not actually receiving these accommodations for free.

Details on the strike are far from plentiful given what appears to be suppression by the local government and media. Tidbits and photos have emerged on social media, however, providing clues. The Associated Press also tracked down one striking employee, Cui Tiangang, who was willing to speak on the record.

Tiangang, who normally glues the rubber soles on shoes, said he was compelled to participate in the labor strike after an on-the-job injury proved Yue Yuen’s willful negligence. Though Tiangang had expected to receive medical care through his workplace, he learned the hard way that the company had not actually been paying for the legally mandated insurance that would have covered him.

Despite the fact that the company has been caught breaking the government’s own lax rules, authorities seem to have automatically sided with big business on this issue. Hundreds of police officers have surrounded the factories holding riot gear to intimidate the strikers.

Although labor strikes are becoming increasingly common in China thanks to notoriously poor conditions, the current shoe factory actions are considered the largest in some time. Retirement savings – or more specifically the lack there of – has become an especially contentious issue. In recent years, Chinese workers have objected to working long hours for decades and still not having sufficient funds to retire in their old age.

Sadly, Yue Yuen is hardly alone in stiffing their workers of required insurance benefits. China Labor Watch, an independent group that investigates labor violations, has found more than 400 factories in the country that don’t pay for the insurance and retirement benefits they are required to purchase.

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113 comments

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12:24PM PDT on Jul 16, 2014

The rich get richer and rule...

11:02PM PDT on Apr 24, 2014

The way to go!!

6:01AM PDT on Apr 24, 2014

Good for them.

2:26PM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

It would appear that nothing changed in China despite the Revolution (s) the masses are still at the mercy of the priveleged few wherever you live and whatever the regime you live in.

11:16AM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

Power to the people

11:16AM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

Power to the people

10:10AM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

What a Godawful country China is! The record on animal rights has to be one of the worst in the world, now we hear about the appalling treatment of its people! Only one way to stop this - stop buying anything Chinese, until they get their act together!

8:02AM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

GOOD FOR THEM...NOW EAT THE DUST NIKE AND WHOEVER ELSE FAILS TO TREAT THEIR EMPLOYEES RIGHT AND PAY THEM AN HONEST DAYS WAGES!

7:26AM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

China is a nasty place.
The more I read about their human rights abuses, their lack of any animal welfare laws, their massive pollution, the less Chinese products I buy.
I recommend people make more of their buying decisions after reading the "Made in..." labels attached to products. I know I do, and I am actually amazed how little I've purchased over the past few years that was made in China. It's doable and it supports your local economy!

7:18AM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

Captain Obvious told me "Cheated Chinese shoe workers - Wow, who'd ever believe that?"

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