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The Actual Brazil World Cup Scandal Isn’t About Thongs

6:21 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Demonstrators in Recife, Brazil, fill the streets in the mass protests that erupted across the country last June in response to massive spending to host the World Cup. Controversies have continued over the construction. (Semilla Luz / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Originally published at In These Times

The 2014 Brazil World Cup made big headlines again this week after a controversial Adidas promotional campaign that the country’s tourist board says suggests that Brazil is a lascivious pit of sexual debauchery. As part of the elite club of mega-sporting event host nations, the “emerging” economic powerhouse of Brazil is understandably concerned about its public image and was quick to condemn the thong-shaped t-shirt logos. But officials of this rising star of Latin America seem noticeably less concerned about a touchier scandal buried beneath the pageantry: systematic human rights abuses and labor exploitation.

In recent months, several workers have died on construction sites for stadiums and other huge infrastructure projects designed to accommodate this summer’s football extravaganza, and in the lead-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In early February, Portuguese technician Antônio José Pita Martins died in a crane accident while working on the construction of the Arena da Amazônia football stadium in the steamy city of Manaus, the largest metropolis in the Amazon basin. The death came after two other construction worker fatalities in the same area in December: Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira, 22, plunged 115 feet to his death from the stadium rooftop. Around the same time, another worker at a nearby convention center site died of a heart attack, reportedly linked to overwork, since workers were being pressed to keep up with the scheduled construction timetable. In November, two others were killed when a crane fell at the Corinthians arena in São Paulo, which will host the World Cup’s opening match.

The fatalities, as well as other labor disputes, have led to work stoppages and threats of strikes, which have further disrupted the already-behind-schedule construction timetable and exacerbated the deadline pressure from the World Cup governing authority FIFA. The possibility of another strike was raised earlier this month after the death of Martins. Read the rest of this entry →

Apple’s Two Faces: Power Gaps Between Brazil and China Foxconn Workers

5:42 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Cross-posted from In These Times.

Activists pass out literature detailing Apple's connection to Foxconn. (MakeITFair)

Apple presides over a global technology empire, but the economic landscapes it shapes around the world are strangely uneven. With its hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide, Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn works very differently in two hemispheres of the Global South.

The think tank Economic Policy Institute recently hosted a forum to discuss a tale of two Foxconns: between Foxconn and Apple workers in China and Brazil, the contrast is as crisp as a touchscreen icon.

According to EPI, Chinese workers at Foxconn in Shenzhen earn less than US $290 per month, while in Brazil the basic monthly wage is about twice that. A maximum work week for Chinese workers, in theory (though employers regularly violate labor laws), can be up to 60 to 70 hours per week, with five days vacation after a year. Work weeks for Brazilian employees are capped at 44 hours, with 30 days of paid vacation, plus other perks like a profit-sharing deal for workers.

Clearly, some of the differences can be attributed to regional economic disparities, but Brazil and China are often seen as twin examples of “emerging economies.” So why would employees of the same company fare so differently?
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