By on June 20, 2008

toyotadormsandbus.jpgFirst of all, the National Labor Committee says that less than 15 percent of its money comes from labor unions. So this is not a United Auto Workers' front organization. Second, in a phone call [below] Director Charles Kernaghan was clear that Toyota's Japanese factories adhere to the country's labor laws (even though you may be surprised to learn that ToMoCo's been on a two-tier wage system for decades). Kernaghan's beef is with the automaker's suppliers. "Toyota's much admired 'Just in Time' auto parts supply chain is riddled with sweatshop abuse," he insists. "Including the trafficking of foreign guest workers, mostly from China and Vietnam to Japan. They're stripped of their passports and often forced to work– including at subcontract plants supplying Toyota– 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while being paid less than half the legal minimum wage. Guest workers who complain about abusive conditions are deported." The organization's report is low on stats, big on anecdotes and focused on pious Prius celebs. And yet, it's a point we've brought up before. International automakers'– and their customers'– willingness to turn a blind eye to their suppliers' working conditions is a black eye for the business– albeit one cleverly covered by makeup. 

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14 Comments on “National Labor Committee Alleges Toyota Supplier Sweatshops...”

  • avatar

    See, now if the UAW had expanded it’s reach into the Japanese auto supply system, this wouldn’t be happening, I tell you what.

  • avatar


    Yeah, because then all the jobs would be getting shipped to China or Vietnam instead.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    If things are as bad as it says they are the UAW should get its butt over to Japan and start signing up Toyota workers.

  • avatar

    Any info on Honda?

  • avatar

    Listening to the guy and reading from the National Labor Committee website, I think he’s very credible. I hope this committee or the UAW can get the ear of some of the celebs who drive the Prius and pull Toyota’s chain big time. This crap should not happen.

  • avatar

    The worst part is that this will be forgotten when compared to what will eventually come to light about working conditions in the Chinese auto industry.

    But back to Japan: if these suppliers are being up-front about the terms to these guest workers and is not forcing them to be shipped out to Japan, this is being made to sound a lot worse than it is. It’s only human trafficking if these people are deliberately being deceived and exploited against their will. Disadvantages of non-citizens living in Japan are nothing new, and not specific to automakers, or even labor. It’s very possible these workers are aware of the terms, but it still provides an opportunity unavailable at home. Also, those guest workers who don’t like it get “deported”. Does that just mean they get sent back home?

    Am I giving too much benefit of the doubt?

  • avatar

    seoultrain asked, “Am I giving too much benefit of the doubt?” No, you’re just guilty of the sin of not swallowing whole the allegations and questionable logic of a special interest group. The National Labor Committee says nothing on their website about their funding, but their supporters and “friends” (check MySpace) make it clear the NLC is the voice of unions and various leftists. Which is fine by me, as long as they don’t hide it. My problem is they call abominable working conditions at suppliers, especially in Third World countries, “abuses committed BY [my emphasis] U.S. companies producing goods in the developing world.” Is the U.S. solely responsible for everything bad?

  • avatar

    Somewhere a middle ground needs to be reached. Historically, before unionized labor, workers were treated like disposable humans. Anything to maximize productivity with the least amount of compensation. Hey it takes a lot of cash to live the life of an industrialist. In the post Walter Ruther days, the pendulum swung hard the other way, with labor calling the shots. Predictably, quality and productivity hit the crapper, which eventually undermined consumer confidence in the union made product. Today, workmanship flaws are way down, and reliability is up, but the union needs to be more flexible with the work rules. Where wages should be set is the tough one. The ‘global” economy has been great for $50 Chinese DVD players, but it has wreaked havoc on middle income Americans. The future looks pretty bleak for those who are fifty years old and grew up in a “Ford” family. The cold callous cry of “retrain” is pretty pathetic. Work a full week (at a new, lower wage), raise your two kids, and go to school at night for 5 years, all at middle age. Most of today’s spoiled 20 year olds couldn’t handle that.

  • avatar

    Not seeing what the problem is here……

  • avatar

    Other companies also follow this practice in Japan not only Toyota suppliers. Japanese government estimates 10% of their population will be foreign born in the upcoming years. Due to low population growth and many young Japanese not wanting to work in factories
    Japan has to increase their importing of foreign workers.

    This is not “new” it is well known. They should send a ship for some Mexicans. Japan has a large Brazilian guest worker population. National Labor Committee should go to Japan and interview the Brazilian workers.

  • avatar

    Is the U.S. solely responsible for everything bad?

    Yes. I call it the ‘six-degrees of America’ theory. This theory states that every bad thing in the world can be traced back to the American government, an American company, or Americans themselves in six steps or less.

  • avatar

    Great article. Just when I think this site is unfairly biased to foreign brands you go and do this…… AND COMPLETELY REDEEM YOURSELVES!! Good job.

  • avatar

    “Workers of the world unite”, somebody, who many consider a moron, called Karl Marx said some time ago. Can someone explain to me where exactly is this slogan wrong?

  • avatar

    I’m glad TTAC took some time to analyze this before just haphazardly reporting it as other websites have done. On those sites I have posted my same critique… “low on stats, big on anecdotes” The evidence is very shaky. Furthermore TTAC poits out that this is not about Toyota, but about suppliers. So this is even a bigger problem with this article. Everyone is guilty of all of these shady corporate practices.

    I did a little research into just the Myanmar allegation. NLC found one Toyota supplier (partly owned by Toyota) that does business with Myanmar. But so do Daewoo (GM), Siemens (parts for MBZ, Porsche and BMW), Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Tata, Chevron, Maersk (who ships cars for, well, who dont they ship cars for??). But Toyotas are driven by celebrities. See the connection.

    As for labor issues, again this is an industry wide problem. Building cars in China, Mexico, how do you think those labor conditions are?

    No, this piece was pure propaganda. I’m pro-union, anti-corporation. My values are aligned quite closely with what NLC supports. But these PR, celeb-driven pieces disgust me. They’re no better than Access Hollywood, Perez Hilton, local news during sweeps week, the Enquirer, and all the other sensationalistic “journalism” that passes for real news.

    You want to know whats going on, rent “The Corporation.”

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