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Romney Admits to Owning Sweatshop

This is really an incredible video of Mitt Romney, apparently speaking at a private fundraising dinner, talking about buying a factory in China. After finding out that the workers at the factory lived in terrible conditions, he casually accepted the seller’s claim that people actually liked that and wanted it in China.

He doesn’t say a word about trying to improve working conditions at the factory. He doesn’t say anything about perhaps doubting the story he was told, or even caring whether it was true or not. He was going to make lots of money from this deal and if was made on the backs of young women working in a sweatshop, no problem. It doesn’t even occur to him that there might be a moral issue at stake, nor does it seem to occur to anyone in his audience.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

Comments

  1. andrewjohnston says

    Did they ever confirm the authenticity of this video? Last I heard, it was still dubious.

  2. says

    Did they ever confirm the authenticity of this video? Last I heard, it was still dubious.

    Haven’t watched the video, since I have to keep quiet at the moment. Now I’m curious. The “confession” sounds plausible, but I can imagine some overzealous Romney hater getting creative with editing to make Romney look worse, even though Romney provides plenty of his own authentic rope.

    Of course, I’ve also seen plenty of wingnuts complain about how statements were edited or otherwise taken out of context, even when no context could justify the horrible things they said.

  3. slc1 says

    Not to defend Romney in any way, shape, form, or regard but do any of the CEOs who ship their production to China give a flying fuck about the working conditions at the factories there? The late Steven Jobs apparently didn’t.

  4. says

    @slc1, #4:

    Oh, they care. They care very much indeed. They monitor working conditions very closely, and if there are signs of improvement that might cost money, they either stamp it out or relocate to another area where the peasants are glad to build $2000 laptops for 25c each.

  5. says

    slc1: you’re probably right to imply that Romney is not the only CEO not to give a shit about working conditions in China. But this would still be a good talking-point to bash not only Romney, but Republicans and their entire ideology of using foreign slave-labor to put those uppity commie American workers in their pla — oops, sorry, I meant CREATE MORE JOBS by making consumer goods cheaper.

  6. says

    Not to defend Romney in any way, shape, form, or regard but do any of the CEOs who ship their production to China give a flying fuck about the working conditions at the factories there?

    They don’t, but then, they’re also not running for President.

  7. says

    @#7 Ed Brayton:

    From what I understand, yes. This video was originally posted by someone pretending to be Rachel Maddow. Soon afterwards Rachel Maddow, I believe on Twitter, stated that she had nothing to do with the video. Since the source lied about their identity people have been skeptical about it’s veracity.

  8. says

    But during his time at bain they shipped jobs to other countries, presumably so they could spend less money (lower wages, poorer conditions, etc). it seems really hard to believe that he has no involvement in sweatshops at all, and if nothing else the video should prompt questions to that end. I’m eager to see if its real though.

  9. d cwilson says

    Can’t watch the video now (work PC blocks all video feeds). If it turns out to be selectively edited, liberals need to denounce it quickly. No need to stoop to Breitbart’s level.

  10. slc1 says

    Re shockna @ #9

    True, but, in fairness, at the time, Romney wasn’t running for president either. However, I agree that, as a potential president, it is not to his credit.

  11. dingojack says

    SLC – so morality depends on the office one intends to hold does it?
    If I intend to be a stooge in Sector 1G I’m totally allowed to be completely unethical, if I’m running for a higher position however…
    Dingo

  12. jaranath says

    I can believe that the video could be genuine as shown. But there’s actually very little context. I would love to hear the several minutes preceding and following this clip.

    It’s not clear he’s speaking approvingly about this…I think the comment at the end that he attributes to a Bain partner is especially odd. What is he actually talking about sharing? Between that and the opening comment where he also mentions “95% set up”, I think this may be intended as a story about how fortunate we Americans are vs. the average Chinese laborer. But that doesn’t let him off the hook, it just rubs his nose in his own role in that factory. He still could have said something later along the lines of “we totally need to change that!” but does that really seem likely? The tone-deafness of using this anecdote about HIS factory to talk about how good we’ve got it is very much in character.

  13. grumpyoldfart says

    Bosses everywhere have that attitude. During my many decades in the Australian workforce, I often saw bosses taking their friends (or potential investors) on a guided tour, and occasionally overheard their conversations.
    `

    “Gee that looks like a dirty job”
    “Oh, they love it. Happy as pigs in shit they are.”
    `

    “Isn’t it dangerous using that piece of equipment.”
    “Oh, they love it. Tough as nails, these guys.”
    `

    “Don’t they have any shelter from the rain.”
    “Oh they love it. Saves them having a shower when they knock off.

  14. iangould says

    Chinese wages have been growing at double digit compounding rates for more than a decade, if the evil multinational corporations are trying to prevent that, they’re doing a really shitty job of it.

  15. aluchko says

    I don’t see that big an issue. He says they’re working for a pittance, but clearly not by Chinese standards if that many people want to work there, and note these are adults, not children, so coercion isn’t an issue. They could improve the working conditions, but in that case they’d probably be able to employ fewer workers, and is that really a net increase in welfare? These workers clearly believe that working in this factory is better than the alternative and I don’t like the idea that giving them that option is a bad thing.

  16. Michael Heath says

    slc1 writes:

    Not to defend Romney in any way, shape, form, or regard but do any of the CEOs who ship their production to China give a flying fuck about the working conditions at the factories there? The late Steven Jobs apparently didn’t.

    As someone who traveled to China on several occasions to support the purchase and mentor the managers of factories there the answer in the tech sector is an unqualified yes. In addition China is enjoying a massive increase in its middle class and therefore living conditions precisely because of their manufacturing growth.

    Sometimes some aspect of working or living conditions aren’t what one would like using modern-day western standards to compare, with the exception of food where all the companies I visited fed their employees healthier than we do (a nice variety of fresh produce); however the marginal improvement for those in such conditions was significant and provided a tangible path to a better future.

    I also saw progress in both working and environmental conditions occur at warp speed relative to such progress in developed countries like Germany, the U.K., and yes, the U.S. From factories dumping chemicals out the alley in the early-1990s to several years later having their own water treatment and clean power generation on-site; along with rigorous processes to dispense with chemical waste and often – minimize or even eradicate the need for such chemicals. This is largely due to U.S. and Western European companies who do care slc1.

  17. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #20

    I am afraid that ole Heath got snookered by being given a tour of selected factories that have been set up to impress credulous and naive folks like him that everything in China is hunky dory. The fact is that conditions and wages for workers in the overwhelming majority of Chinese factories are abysmal and their anti-pollution efforts are ludicrous. I certainly hope that ole Heath followed the advice of the US State Department and refrained from drinking tap water during his visits.

    For instance, China is now the world’s leading producer of CO(2) via their coal powered power plants, which they are building at a furious rate. But of course, the Chinese Government need only point to Congressional fucktards like Joe Barton, James Inhofe, and Dan Burton to deny global warming.

  18. bmiller says

    slc1: Would love to see the conditions in the Israeli occupied territories or the Gaza. Oops…Israeli economic and military policies effectively preclude any real economy from existing there.

  19. Michael Heath says

    slc1 writes:

    I am afraid that ole Heath got snookered by being given a tour of selected factories that have been set up to impress credulous and naive folks like him that everything in China is hunky dory.

    Your inability to comprehend that which you wish weren’t true, to deny it and act as if you never confronted that which challenges your preconceived beliefs can be as bad as a YEC. What part of what of I previously wrote don’t you get:

    . . . to support the purchase and mentor the managers of factories there the answer in the tech sector is an unqualified yes.

    I wasn’t doing tours. We purchased these factories and I either flew-in for several days or had my people go in to mentor the managers of these factories. I was not referring to tours, I specifically noted we were on the ground working. In addition to that given I directed purchasing activities was that we also did audits of suppliers, not mere tours, but extensive multi-day investigations of specific processes. One does not develop a world-class supply base by getting snookered on tours. Your ignorance and arrogance can really be stunning. But since it’s inconvenient for you to believe otherwise, I’m sure you’ll continue to have a strawman understanding of what is actually happening in China.

  20. aluchko says

    @slc1
    “For instance, China is now the world’s leading producer of CO(2) via their coal powered power plants, which they are building at a furious rate. But of course, the Chinese Government need only point to Congressional fucktards like Joe Barton, James Inhofe, and Dan Burton to deny global warming.”

    Completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, also misleading since China is actually very worried about AGW, but they’re also very worried about economic development and coal power is still dirt cheap.

  21. Michael Heath says

    aluchko,

    slc1 is prone to changing the goal posts as he does here, and/or deploying some other rhetorical dodge rather than concede an assertion of his found wanting (to put it mildly).

  22. slc1 says

    Re bmiller @ #22

    Mr. bmiller raises a legitimate issue. Unfortunately, the denizens currently running the Gaza strip aren’t interested in economic development. They are only interested in annoying Israel by firing qassems across the fence separating the two sides, sending homicide bombers to blow up pizza parlors, and kidnapping the occasional Israeli soldier. Perhaps some day when they decide that economic development is a good idea, they might cease and desist from their current activities.

  23. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #23

    to support the purchase and mentor the managers of factories there the answer in the tech sector is an unqualified yes.

    Gee, ole Heath was participating in the off-shoring of jobs to China, just like his hero, the late Steven Jobs. Why am I not surprised. He’s has consistently supported such a policy ever since I’ve been reading his talkbacks on this blog.

  24. says

    These workers clearly believe that working in this factory is better than the alternative and I don’t like the idea that giving them that option is a bad thing.

    The choices are to starve or to work for pittance. There is no option. Owners of these factories do know this, and exploit this.

  25. Michael Heath says

    slc1 writes:

    Gee, ole Heath was participating in the off-shoring of jobs to China, just like his hero, the late Steven Jobs. Why am I not surprised.

    Your inability to perceive what others have done yet create a false reality of what you think they did continues to know no bounds, not to mention your eagerness to change the goal posts.

    The company I mostly worked with which had global operations had 1400 employees when I started with them, all in the U.S. By the time I left they had about 23,000 employees, about 8,000 of which were in the U.S. In addition companies can’t unilaterally decide where to build their products. Government policies often require companies to build certain products in certain regions or else suffer fatally high tariffs, e.g. cost sensitive products destined for Western European markets are most cost effectively built in Eastern Europe, not Mexico, Canada, or the U.S. In addition OEMs often dictate where their product will be built by their supply base, which often entails OEM marketing strategies which has them hoping to penetrate those countries where they wish to sell by labeling the country of origin for such products as being built in that same country or region, China being a prime example.

  26. Michael Heath says

    holytape writes:

    These workers clearly believe that working in this factory is better than the alternative and I don’t like the idea that giving them that option is a bad thing.

    The choices are to starve or to work for pittance. There is no option. Owners of these factories do know this, and exploit this.

    The market largely dictates prices, not the owners of factories. If those owners can’t hit cost targets the market dictates through certain pricing signals, others will supplant them. I actually spent a large amount of my time for a number of years helping to transfer business from non-viable factories to viable ones, or helping weak factories become competitive. The more viable factories win by even cheaper labor, less labor-intensive designs, more automation, better management, or some combination of the previous.

  27. dingojack says

    Michael – holytape said “The choices are to starve or to work for pittance. There is no option. Owners of these factories do know this, and exploit this”.

    To which you responded (in part): “The market largely dictates prices, not the owners of factories”. “The more viable factories win by even cheaper labor, less labor-intensive designs, more automation, better management, or some combination of the previous”.

    HUH?

    Holytape was talking about the options for workers, not the poor down-trodden factory owners.
    The pitiful hard-pressed factory owner* has to down-size, pay his workers pittance and fly-in ever more middle-managers (which is what holytape said) all because it’s the fault of that pesky market!
    Spoken like a true libertarian: No care, no responsibility!
    @@
    Dingo
    —–
    * They must sob their hearts out before picking up their $2000+ weekly pay packets and tooling off to the gated suburbs and their well-built, 3 bed-room, 2 storey hovels with AC and all mod cons and a nice sized backyard (complete with swimming pool) – Oh I’ll have to stop now – I can’t see for the tears I’m shedding for those terribly badly done by factory owners.

  28. aluchko says

    @dingojack

    Give the workers some credit. You think if the owner offers them a starvation wage they’ll just work and starve? If they lose the job they’ll lay down and die? What is the rest of the country that doesn’t work at a western factory doing?

    Sure a few will end up on the streets, that happens here too, but most will find other work, they’ll go to farms, street vending, shops, maybe another factory, the jobs probably won’t be as good but they’ll still be jobs.

    I’m not a libertarian but I really dislike the attitude you display which feels like a sort of paternalism. Because the job and working conditions are so far below what you’d expect you don’t believe these workers are making a rational choice in taking them, so you argue the jobs shouldn’t exist in the first place so they don’t have the option of taking them.

  29. dingojack says

    What else will they do? – Farming (if they haven’t been flooded out by a big environmental disaster of a dam, or if their land can actually grow anything thanks to all the poisonous crap that’s been dumped in and onto it). So yes, starving is what they do if they can’t work in a factory and they can’t farm.
    (It’s not ‘paternalism’, it’s actual history).
    Dingo

  30. aluchko says

    @dingojack

    Again, the entire country isn’t one big factory, clearly all the rest of those people are managing to stay alive so apparently starving isn’t the only option.

    And you’re conflating industrial pollution and worker compensation, which are different issues. I’m more sympathetic to arguments against polluting factories, but that’s not the issue at stake here.

  31. dingojack says

    Life in rural China can be marginal at best, having a large family is popular (officially, now the one-child policy has been reversed) to counter-act high child mortality (and morbidity). Pollution is a major problem even at distance from towns and their factories, and with little recourse they just have to put up with it.
    Sort like ‘the Closures’ and subsequent ‘Industrial Revolution’ in Europe 170 years ago. (It may improve, as it did in Europe due to public pressure – but for now it’s pretty awful, from my reading*).
    Dingo
    —-
    * I am absolutely no expert.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] the foreign).  He gripes about losing jobs overseas and of the USA borrowing money from China when he owns a sweatshop there.  He has always shown that he’ll morph to become whatever is most politically expedient, and [...]

  2. [...] compete on women’s issues.9:35pm – Romney talking about China again.  1.  He has owned a sweatshop there.  2.  Bain is moving jobs overseas to China.I’m already moving toward tipsy.9:31pm – [...]

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