Bil Browning

Toyota Prius: Human trafficking saves the environment

Filed By Bil Browning | July 01, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: bad corporations, human rights abuses, progressive companies, Toyota

Since Alex discovered Bolthouse Farm's connection to far rightwing donations lately, it's piqued my interest in other company's behind the scenes abuses. I caught this clip about Toyota on GRITtv the other day and thought I'd throw it out here for Projectors to watch.

What other "good guy" corporations do you know that aren't quite as good as their public relations team have promoted them to be? Maybe we should compile a list...

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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 1, 2008 8:27 PM

Wow, Bil, thanks for posting this!

I'm really sad and disgusted. Since the 1980's, the credo "Greed is good," has become supreme throughout the world. I don't know how the CEO's of these companies sleep at night, I really don't. Who'd have ever thought that Henry Ford--the antithesis of a progressive! yet who believed in paying his workers enough that they could afford the cars they built--would look enlightened by today's standards?!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 2, 2008 5:40 AM

Ever since the British introduced opium into China that they grew in India (and before) someone has exploited someone else in trade.

Well, I may get my head chewed off, but having spent three decades in domestic and import sales leads me to need to make a few points. These do not excuse Toyota, but may help to explain why some of these conditions exist. I would add that I had my first union card at age 16 and my second at age 18 working on the railroad.

From this interview I learn that, at any given time 300 thousand people (more or less) are in Japan working at a Toyota factory (or parts supplier) at sub minimum wages when compared to the Japanese prevailing wage. Firstly, what conditions in their home countries lead them to accept these jobs?

Answer, it is much better than they can get at home. As well Japanese internal law permits it, and they can go back home early if they want to. At a later point the gentleman says ten thousand workers are there which is impossible if 70-93 thousand people annually are given a three year temporary workers visa by the Japanese. The Japanese minimum wage is low, but we are also talking about a very expensive country to live in and a small number of people in relation to a country of over 128 million.

Second, this hazy connection to Myanmar, would the people earning a pittance in those factories, in a crummy country, be better off materially without any job? How much do OTHER PEOPLE have to suffer so that WE can feel good, about the conditions in which THEY would work, IF they could find employment THAT THEY WILL NOT HAVE?

Third, very sorry about the young man who was a third generation Toyota employee literally dieing at his desk. These two workers rights advocates are not doctors and young men die suddenly every day from a variety of causes. The Japanese all put in long hours, it is an unhealthy cultural condition. Japanese companies I have worked for over the decades have an unending level of zeal to make their business successful. I am not saying that this is right, but it is their way, and this young man had two generations ahead of him who agreed with it.

So Toyota plants are locating where they can get the most value out of available labor in the United States? What a dumb idea! Their salary offered is 50% higher than the mean salary in their region and each state legislature in question fought to get Toyota there because of the improvements Toyota would bring to their economies. How oppressive of Toyota to only offer 50% higher than the mean wage.

So they are not paying Detroit union wages in Alabama, but No ONE ELSE is getting Detroit wages in Alabama anyway. Michigan also has to think smarter and Ford & GM were poor stewards of their employees when they greedily built tank sized, high profit vehicles that other greedy Americans preferred to own as long as gas was cheap. And the unions? They were greedy too.

We could attempt to have complete and utter fairness for all workers, (it would not be) but how are we going to police this? What worldwide bureaucracy is going to subvert multiple national sovereignties, determine cost of living by country, perform the inspections, and extrapolate what the workers should be paid in Italy, China, Japan, Alabama etc.? How much would a pair of shoes cost, or food, cars and clothing if some unseen hand got to control costs instead of the relative market?

I do not own stock in Toyota Motors, but the success of that company not only funds it's growth and more employment, it is a major component in many a pension fund Americans on fixed incomes depend upon.

Is it kind?, no of course not. Is there any way to change it?, doubtful. I am unaware of Japan participating in an embargo against Myanmar, but then again, France and England have investments all over Cuba. I feel particularly sad about the plight of the bottom two billion people on this planet, but I can assure you they do not know who are Huffington, Pitt or DeCaprio.

Sorry for the length of this, but I found a lot to disagree with.

Interesting video. Is there a car company out there that doesn't do things like that?

Unless you purchase your cars new, this is meaningless. Of course, there aren't very many Priuses on the used car market. I laugh when union people do the whole "I drive an Amurrican car", when they bought it used anyway - their purchase benefited the same guy my car purchase benefited - the local car dealer.

Korean cars are popular nowadays, and are good buys. But South Korean workers are also paid sweatshop wages. American cars have parts of Mexican, Korean, Chinese, Singaporean, and other national origins. Those parts are made by people who aren't getting paid very well, at best. You'll find them in cars of all brands, including Ford, GM, and Chrysler.