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Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry Paperback – June 28, 2006
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"[A] poignant expose of the environmental, public health and labor rights abuses of an industry that has come to symbolize progress and prosperity in the public eye. This broad anthology identifies the dark underbelly of the electronics revolution and seeks to ignite discussions between labor, environmentalist and human rights activists about how to address industry misconduct...a well-rounded understanding of challenges and struggles in the global electronics industry." Multinational Monitor "This is an excellent book. It is rare to see environment and labor issues brought together in a seamless fashion. This is an important contribution to the discussion of globalization and its effects--and to the understanding of the grassroots movements that have emerged in response."--Charles Levenstein, University of Massachusetts, Lowell "Challenging the Chip is ... an important work in chronicling the evolution of grassroots activism, corporate denial, and eventually, in some cases, corporate responsibility in the electronics industry." S E Journal "The editors have assembled an impressive collection of articles from leading academics and activists...Challenging the Chip judiciously uses photos, tables, charts, and diagrams with detailed explanations. In addition, the book is well documented with useful appendices." Multicultural Review "With twenty-five chapters, much of the value of this volume lies in the encyclopedic overview it provides of conditions in electronics manufacturing around the world...There are fascinating details strewn throughout the book...There is a valuable list of web resources and relevant organizations...The editors provide useful introductions to the volume and each section...but the strength of the book lies in the richness and variety of the empirical material rather than in any overarching explanations or insights. This book is an important intervention in significant public debate." Contemporary Sociology July 2007 "This sweeping, ambitious, highly substantive panorama of environmental outrages perpetrated by the electronics industry and its handmaiden governments and inspectorates is nothing if not concrete, literal, rich, and entirely convincing...Challenging the Chip is a valuable resource document, a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the substance of environmental changemaking in the 21st century." Environmental Politics August 2007 "Challenging the Chip is the story of those who valiantly fight to make the production of microchips a humane process and the products of chips safe for the environment... each of the essays provides valuable insight into one or more aspects of the chip industry... Challenging the Chip will be part of an effort to place the struggles of electronics workers front and center in the fight for social justice... It is certainly a must-read for any labor activist concerned with organizing the cutting edge of worldwide production: global electronics." Labor Studies Journal "Challenging the Chip is certainly the most comprehensive review of the social, health and environmental consequences of the electronics industry to date and provides a critical platform for developing new theoretical and empirical research on the political economy and ecology of the industry. The plethora of topics explored also highlights the multiplicity of disciplines that can contribute to debates about the chip industry, including the social sciences, public health, and environmental sciences. A most impressive feature of the book is the way in which it developed out of a collaborative partnership of intellectuals and activists with a shared vision of sustainability and justice. Overall, the book will be of interest to students of social science, environmental science, science and technology studies, political ecology, and anybody using a computer to read this book review." Electronic Green Journal
From the Publisher
A revealing look at the dark side of the technology industry --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The editors merit praise. The book contains over 25 articles but contains no weak material. The writers seem to have expressed a high degree of collegiality by voluntarily subjecting their work to extensive peer review, criticism and revision. The result is a remarkably even and high-quality series of essays that are characterized by ample research, insight and analysis. The editors also supply excellent introductions and expertly frame the key issues that are discussed in each section of the book.
The first section is titled, 'Global Electronics'. Seven articles describe how the production and distribution of electronics are organized on a global scale. We learn that multinational corporations tend to avoid social responsibility by exploiting workers in poor nations with either lax or non-enforced labor and environmental laws such as China, India, Thailand and more recently, countries in Eastern Europe. Oftentimes, the most vulnerable workers are subjected to subsistence wage relations without union representation and exposure to occupational health hazards without protection or compensation when illness ensues. This grim reality is in stark contrast to the manipulated media images that are projected to consumers by the relatively small number of major corporations who control the supply chains that tie these far-flung operations together.
The second section is 'Environmental Justice and Labor Rights'. Nine articles written by local activists and scholars drill in-depth into environmental and labor issues at the local level. We learn that the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition first brought widespread attention to the e-waste problem and the widespread use of toxic chemicals in the semiconductor manufacturing process, subsequently blowing the lid off the self-serving but deceptive image of this supposedly 'clean' industry. Other noteworthy stories include how IBM hid data from workers about known cancer risks at their factories; the activist community of Silicon Glen in Scotland and its struggle to protect worker health; the deleterious effects of the NAFTA agreement on pollution and degraded working conditions in Mexico; worker struggle and environmental exploitation in Taiwan; and more. Among many insights offered, these articles suggest that profitability is built upon a strategy of state protection that allows the industry to shed responsibility and externalize many unwanted costs onto others.
The final section is on the topic of 'Electronic Waste and Extended Producer Responsibility'. Eight articles discuss the factors driving the increase in e-waste and how the costs of disposal are increasingly borne by the poor. The authors inform us that while nations within the EU and Japan have taken steps to regulate e-waste and thereby encourage smarter product design and recycling programs, the U.S. has lagged far behind, often preferring to dump its garbage in landfills or export to poor countries where obsolete equipment is dismantled under hazardous conditions. However, the inspiring story about the 'toxic dude' campaign organized against Dell illustrates that public pressure can succeed in changing the behavior of some U.S. corporations, however modestly.
I highly recommend this insightful and timely book to activists, students and everyone else interested in learning more about an increasingly urgent problem.
Other chapters look at factories in Thailand, eastern Europe and India. The working conditions can sometimes be harsh, with many petty rules that severely circumscribe workers. Strikes have often resulted at the worst factories.
Overall, the book is a thoughtful counterpoint to IT's public image.