Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry

Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry

Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry

Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry


Challenging the Chip is the first comprehensive examination of the impacts of electronics manufacturing on workers and local environments around the world. The essays in this volume contribute to a collaborative international discourse of citizens, workers, health professionals, academics, labour leaders, environmental activists, and others with the common goal of developing alternative visions for the regulation and sustainable development of manufacturing, assembly/disassembly, and waste disposal in the global electronics industry.Contributors from Asia, North America, Europe, and Latin America provide multidimensional perspectives on the science and the politics of environmental and social justice, documenting the efforts of community and labour activists, government agencies, and others in introducing more sustainable systems of production to one of the world's largest manufacturing industries.


Jim Hightower

Take cars. After Henry Ford began mass production, it took only a flash in time for these four-wheeled chunks of technology to wholly transform our landscape, environment, economy, culture, psychology, and … well, pretty much our whole world. For better or worse, cars created freeways, shopping malls, McDonald’s, drive-in banking—even the Beach Boys!

The true story of the automobile, however, is not about the immutable march of technology, but about the ordinary folks who have battled the barons of industry over the years to humanize and democratize the tramp-tramptramp of technological forces. I think of the bloodied but unbowed workers in Flint, Michigan, for example. They launched a heroic sit-down strike in 1937 for better pay and fair treatment, leading not only to the creation of the United Auto Workers, but also to a new power relationship between bosses and workers, advancing middle-class possibilities for all Americans. I think, too, of the scientists, environmentalists, and other grassroots activists who fought—and are still fighting—for cleaner, safer, and more fuel-efficient automobiles (including pushing for advanced auto technology that requires no gasoline, no oil subsidies, and no more oil wars).

Such grassroots rebels, willing to confront authority and challenge the status quo, are the essence of America’s democratic spirit—and we need that rebellious spirit more than ever. a new wave of technology is sweeping the land. It is embodied in the tiny chips (and the computers they power) that are radically and rapidly transforming our world—and, like the automobile, not always for the better.

I must admit that I’m just as hooked as the next person on the plethora of high-tech doo-dads. While I’m personally a bit of a techno-phobe (I don’t even have a doorbell at home, for example), my little business is totally wired. I’m a Luddite with a Web Site (, and there is no doubt in my mind about the value of technology.

I do have serious doubts, however, about the values of many of the top executives who are profiting so enormously from this high-tech explosion. Over the years I have repeatedly been left whopper-jawed by the self-serving short-sightedness of the high-tech barons who have managed to inflict the staggering amounts of pollution, worker health problems, and overall worker abuse so well chronicled in Challenging the Chip. It seems to me that the idealistic techno-nerds who provided so much of the inspiration for this industry have been pushed aside by the bottom-liners and greed mongers who are riding the revolution into the billionaires club, while production workers are forced to work two or three jobs to put food on the table for their families . . .

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